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Stephany White

Getting Outside The Box

photography by steve bracci

Stephany White was driving with her daughter Sarah when all of sudden, Sarah said, “It just clicked, Mom. I know why you’re doing Girls on the Run now.”

White, who is executive director of the local non-profit organization, asked her what she meant, and Sarah said, “Momma, for so long, you felt like you weren’t good enough and you don’t want any other girl to feel that way again.”

And White says, “She was exactly right.” At various times in her life she had dealt with self-esteem issues, what is sometimes referred to as “the girl box”—that closed-off feeling that says you’re not good enough, you’re not wearing the right clothes, you don’t have the right job and so on. “It traverses all ages,” says  White. “As women, we all have our own ‘girl box.’”

And White had seen Sarah struggling with similar issues. So while looking for a program for her daughter, she heard about Girls on the Run. A runner herself since her late teens—she has even participated in marathons—White was intrigued. And in 2009, she launched Girls on the Run of the CSRA as a local branch of the national organization.

Girls on the Run incorporates running with lessons that instill confidence and teach girls to make healthy life choices. Each 10-week season culminates in a celebratory 5K—often the first time some of these girls have ever run that far. “The whole point behind the program, I truly understand it because of marathons,” says White. “There have been many points in my life where I’ve said, ‘If I could run 26.2 miles, I can sure to goodness do whatever this is.”

One of her favorite memories is from the end of the very first season of Girls on the Run, seeing that first girl cross the finish line, beaming. “She came to me and said, ‘Miss Stephanie, am I the first?’ And I said, ‘Yes, baby, you’re the first.’ She really wanted to win...and she did her best. [I loved seeing] just the confidence and glow on her face.”

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