HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – In this Community Chat, WAVY Digital Desk Host Sarah Goode is learning more about Girls on the Run.

Hear about the organization from Mission Advancement Director Hayley Beckner and program director Emily Matisko. Watch the conversation in the video player on this page.

The afterschool program empowers girls through running. It also helps girls with life skills, such as developing confidence, reaching goals and gaining friendships. There program is international and has impacted more than 2 million girls since it began in 1996. The teams are for grades 3 to 5.

According to the Girls on the Run website, the organization has served more than 19,000 girls in the Hampton Roads area since 2006. Matisko said it was created by a group of parents in this area. Click here to view locations in Hampton Roads.

The organization is volunteer-based. They have a staff of eight people at Girls on the Run Hampton Roads. The rest are volunteers, from the coaches to those helping at events like the 5K.

“We inspire girls just to be healthy and joyful,” Beckner said. “And, we use a curriculum that our volunteers give to our girls and basically teach them confidence.

In the Hampton Roads program, different cities and counties participate, including Gates County in North Carolina.

Each team has two trained coaches that volunteer to work with the group of girls for the season, which lasts about twelve weeks. They have two practices per week – about 75 minutes for each practice. The girls work up to running a 5K.

The 5K has over 2,000 participants. Some participants cannot believe how many other girls their own age they get to run with. Beckner says, “It’s really incredible to tell these girls you’re in this program with girls all over in the same program. And, you’re going to get to meet them and run with them.”

Some girls are a little apprehensive when they begin training for 5K. They complete a practice 5K before the race and Matisko says girls are amazed by the accomplishment.

,”It’s a shock but can also be a really empowering experience as well because they complete it and they are like, ‘we just did that’,” she said.

The program is not only for girls with an interest in running. It is something that is open for all fitness levels.

“One phrase we always say to our girls, to your coaches, is keep moving forward,” Matisko said. “You know, however you reach the finish line, however you complete those laps, running, walking, a combination of both, jogging, skipping, whatever type of movement feels best for you.”

It is activity based, but it’s really the life skills that are the most important piece of the program.

Creating friendships is another cornerstone of the program.

“It’s a chance for them to make different connections,” Beckner said. “She offers the example of girls getting to meet each other from other grades. Something that is difficult in a bigger school. Community programs that are not school affiliated are also a great way for girls to interact with people they otherwise would not know.

Girls on the Run is hosting a summer camp called Camp GOTR, for rising 3rd to 5th grade girls. They are offering several week-long sessions starting June 19. Spots are still open for this year. Find more information and register at the link here.

There is a middle school program called “Heart & Sole” for 6th through 8th graders. This continues the work building confidence and growing life skills as girls make their way into teenage years.

Scholarships and financial aid

The organization uses a sliding-scale to work with families on what they can pay for the girls to be involved.

“If a family needs help we will absolutely work with them, any way for them to get their girl involved,” Beckner said.

Some schools pay the fee for girls to be involved, like in Newport News.

Their campaign raised more than $27,000 this spring season, which will go towards girls next season.

How you can get involved

If you want to sign up girls, coach, volunteer, or create a team, Matisko and Beckner say to reach out. You can also donate to the organization, and support girls joining.

Visit gotrhr.org to find more information and get involved.