Coach, Running Buddy, Site Liaison, and Team Adelaide Member Cyndie Pelto
Volunteers are the backbone of Girls on the Run, working tirelessly behind the scenes to help us run a successful program. To highlight their efforts, we are spotlighting a different Girls on the Run volunteer each month.
This month's volunteer is 7-time Coach, Oak Hills Elementary Site Liaison, Running Buddy, and Team Adelaide member Cyndie Pelto. Here are some of her thoughts on being a GOTR volunteer:
How did you first hear about Girls on the Run?
I read about a need for Running Buddies in a Run Oregon article that Kelly Barton wrote in 2011. I convinced my friends, Kristine and Jen, to do it with me. We were randomly assigned girls that needed buddies from Harrison Park. That was a game changer for me. Kristine and Jen have been buddies for my team ever since!
What motivated you to become a Girls on the Run volunteer?
I was a 3rd grade teacher before staying home with my kiddos, and loved everything about the program that I learned in my 2 short interactions with my buddy. After experiencing the program as a buddy, I knew my community elementary school would readily accept this program. We have a strong running community, and several running programs at our school. I was serving as the PTO president, and combined efforts with one of our 3rd grade teachers, Caryn Damore. We decided we could run 2 teams... and Oak Hills has successfully filled 2 teams ever since!
Do you have a favorite Girls on the Run story?
After 7 seasons of coaching Girls on the Run and Heart and Sole, I have many. I love each season for different reasons. I'm so proud of the many community service projects we've taken on (2 car washes! 2 Community Fun Runs!), and so proud of how we've celebrated with each other for various accomplishments (Caryn's going to BOSTON BABY!). I will also always remember how we've handled difficult situations with the girls, from the Boston Bombings to individual family heartbreaks like divorce and cancer diagnosis. One girl's comment to a discussion we were having about friendships stuck with me over the years. We were talking about how it's important to surround yourself with people who lift you up and are honest with you. We were also having our snack (pretzels and cheese sticks...a favorite) at the time. She commented, "Friends are like the salt on pretzels. Some stick, and some fall away." This same girl was sick for a few weeks before the final 5K that year. She showed up, and walked the entire 5K with her (very patient and understanding) buddy. Most of the crowds had left by then (when the GOTR 5K took place at the Starlight Run), and the finish line was being taken down. But our coaches, her parents, and several of her teammates were there ringing cowbells and cheering her across our finish line. I'm so thankful to the GOTR organization for jumping into the crazy world of race organizing so that we can properly celebrate each and every one of our girls...no matter when they finish!
What do you do when you are not volunteering for Girls on the Run?
I am a substitute teacher in the Beaverton School District, and professional volunteer. ;-) Chauffeur, cook, cheerleader, and counselor to my own 2 active children. And I like to run. For fun. With my own Running Buddies.
What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a Girls on the Run volunteer?
Don't wait. Give it a try! I started coaching WELL before my own daughter could participate in the program...thanks to my amazing neighbor who had a daughter participating on my team and who watched my daughter so I could coach. GOTR started out as MY thing. It was what I volunteered my time for that brought ME joy. I loved connecting with the girls and coaches. As a teacher, I loved getting to put on my teacher hat again, and dig deep into the discussions. But the curriculum is so easy to follow, you don't need to be a teacher to lead the girls! In my 5th coaching year, my daughter was finally old enough. She had watched me go to practice, listened to me talk about the girls and the program, and now she was SO excited to be a GOTR. That season was so special to me. It changed how I thought about the program... because now it was for HER. The best thing about GOTR is that there are so many different ways to become involved.Can't commit to coaching? No problem... Running Buddy is how many coaches start out. And now we need a huge team of people to help with our amazing 5K celebration!
Anything else you want to add?
I'm proud of how I am modeling for my kids the importance of giving back to the community. There are so many great organizations and ways to volunteer your time. Find the one that fits for you. GOTR is part of who I am. I love seeing my girls out in the community or at school and hearing "Hi Coach Cyndie!" The 3rd grade girls from my very first team are now entering their freshmen year of High School. I am confident that they are ready for anything thrown their way, and will continue to be leaders in their community and classrooms thanks to this program. My goal is to continue to work so that even more girls can experience this program. But we can't do it without a huge team of volunteers.