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Girls on the Run having desired impact at SEES
Claire Williams (from left), Sophia Horne and Taylor Swann circle the basketball court inside the South Effingham Elementary School gym Oct. 17. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON — A tiny, long-haired girl in an orange Texas Longhorns jersey was rendered virtually speechless when a microphone was put in her face. It didn't matter, though, because the tears in her eyes spoke volumes.

"The fact that she got up and spoke was amazing in and of itself," Principal Anna Barton said after an Oct. 17 Girls on the Run event in the South Effingham Elementary School (SEES) gym. "There were a couple of girls who stood up to speak that surprised me. I was very touched by the whole thing.

"It was beautiful."

With the help of coach Kayla Mullins, third-grader Lillian Miller and other girls expressed their appreciation for Girls on the Run, an after-school program that addresses physical inactivity, bullying, conflict, negative media messaging and other issues facing girls entering adolescence. It  is for girls in grades 3-8.

"People don't realize that it starts that young with girls — the peer pressure stuff and the cliques," Barton said. "There is a lot of pressure on young ladies."

Girls on the Run, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays at SEES, inspires girls to live life on their own terms. It also provides opportunity to make friends, which is the primary reason the girl in the Texas jersey —  who has no siblings — loves it.

"To me, (Girls on the Run) has made a world of difference with those girls — finding each other and having friends across grade levels," Barton said. "It's been a wonderful thing."

First District Congressman Buddy Carter was on hand for the Oct. 17 Girls on the Run meeting. He applauded the girls for their fitness level after watching them run around the gym floor multiple times.

"I am so excited that you get to be a part of this because this is the kind of program that we need more of," Carter said. "This helps you in several different ways."

Carter recited social, physical and psychological implications.

"The most important thing is that it helps you to build your character," he said. "It (also) helps you build your confidence and those are two things you are going to need as you move forward because it can be tough at times. ... If you've got confidence and you've got character, and you know the difference between right and wrong, then you can succeed.

"I am very impressed with everything y'all are doing here, especially (running) twenty-one times (around the gym floor). Wow!"

Girls on the Run has been serving Chatham, Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties since 1996. Mullins initiated the program at SEES last summer. 

“Everyone loves Girls on the Run," Mullins said. "The girls are having a blast, being physically active and learning amazing life skills. I wish there had been something like this when I was growing up.

"The South Effingham Elementary family has gotten behind this great program in support of the girls and school district leaders have been enormously supportive.”

Maria Center, executive director of Girls on the Run-Coastal Georgia and Lowcountry, was impressed with the SEES group.

"We hold you guys up as an example of what a Girls on the Run program should look like," Center said.

Center was touched by several girls' comments about the program, especially those by the one in the Texas jersey.

"It's amazing how confident you can be when you know people are in your corner," Center said. "Those kids and coaches have that little girl's back. She feels supported.

"This is what Girls on the Run is all about."

Guyton Elementary School is the only other school in Effingham County that has a Girls on the Run program.

"We are doing everything we can to get into other schools," said Tiffany Collins, the local Girls on the Run program director. 

Girls on the Run can also be used at churches and other organizations. 

"This is portable," Center said.

For more information on Girls on the Run or becoming a coach/volunteer, contact Collins at or call 912-486-5649.