Strengthening Mind and Body

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024

Janet Todd, executive director of Girls on the Run North Bay, has the same goal for everyone who participates in the nonprofit’s programs: To develop the resilience to be their authentic selves in an inclusive and diverse space.

By presenting elementary and middle school students an evidence-based national curriculum that helps them to understand who they are, how they can make a difference, and the benefits of supportive friendship, the Northern California-based organization is providing girls with vital life skills that allow them to navigate the social pressures that chip away at preteens’ self-esteem. When the girls wrap up their eight weeks of after-school programming, they complete a 5K to further build their confidence and an impactful project to build community.

“We reinforce that as they’re growing physically stronger, they’re also building their inner strength and learning skills to help foster their mental health,” Todd says. 

The emphasis on social and emotional learning, and the pairing of a curriculum with physical activity, distinguishes Girls on the Run from other girl-focused programs. But the name of the nonprofit, which has over 160 councils nationwide, belies the fact that it teaches girls about far more than running. Participants learn communication skills that include important tools to navigate conflicts. ”We received great feedback from teachers and principals about how our girls show leadership, especially on regulating emotions,” says Maria Jacobo who is a teacher and Girls on the Run North Bay volunteer coach.  

The lives of over 2.25 million girls have been transformed through Girls on the Run councils so far. Independent, peer-reviewed studies have found that 97% of Girls on the Run participants learn critical life skills. And 85% of the girls made gains in characteristics such as confidence, compassion, and competence.

Helping Diverse Groups of Girls See Positive Representations of Themselves

Power of community impact. (photo by Fatima Sosa Ortiz, volunteer)

Founded in 2006, Girls on the Run North Bay has always actively recruited coaches that represent the girls. Patricia Terrones is a multilingual coach. She shared that the opportunity allowed her “to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself as a woman and a Latina.” 

“We want the girls to see that they’re represented and that all women can be leaders,” Todd says. “We have girls who are all races and ethnicities from all socioeconomic backgrounds coming to this welcoming space.” 

But recruiting volunteer coaches to mentor the girls has been challenging since the pandemic. Fundraising has also been difficult for the organization, which serves more than 1,500 participants in three counties every year. About 75% of families receive financial assistance to participate, and 66% of girls come from traditionally underrepresented racial-ethnic backgrounds.

With more funds, Todd says, Girls on the Run North Bay could serve even more girls from under-resourced communities. All girls need help to weather the loss of self-confidence and decrease in physical activity that too often coincide with puberty. 

“We still need help, not only for our girls to be strong and stand up for who they are, but we need to help our community and our world to see that girls can do anything,” Todd says.


Girls on the Run North Bay

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(707) 280-5664
Executive Director: Janet Todd


Girls on the Run reaches girls at a critical stage, strengthening their confidence at a time when society begins to tell them they can’t. Underscoring the important connection between physical and emotional health, our program addresses the whole girl when she needs it the most.

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