Fifteen local elementary school girls will participate Sunday in a 5K run, the culminating event of a 10-week training program.

But the running is only one aspect of the Girls on the Run program. The main goal is to build confidence and to teach them the importance of giving back to the community.

One team is composed of 15 girls from three different Kyrene elementary schools, Milenio, Colina and Esperanza. As part of their training, which consisted of 20 90-minute practices, they wrote cards for kids at Phoenix Children's Hospital and picked up trash around the community.

"We are teaching them to give back, to pay it forward," Shawna Christofis, one of the coaches, said. "The program is to encourage the girls, to build their confidence. The cool thing is I've had a conversation with every parent telling me they have seen improvement in their daughters' school work, their chores at home and nutrition."

The event on Sunday at Kiwanis Park in Tempe is the last event of the season and will be attended by groups from all over Maricopa County. Another session will begin in the spring and Christofis, along with co-coaches Kristin Dawson and Jennifer Ensley, look to continue the program within Kyrene and build upon it. They would like more parents to come forward to coach because right now, the guidelines for Girls on the Run state that there must be two coaches for every 15 girls.

"We had to turn eight girls away," Ensley said. "It was hard so we hope next year we can get another coach."

Ensley said that part of her job as a coach is communicating with the girls.

"Sometimes if we see that somebody is looking down, we will run with them and talk to them about their day," she said. "Running helps you."

It is $25 to register per girl and 100 percent of the proceeds goes back into the program to help girls who might not be able to afford it.

To find out more about Girls on the Run, visit the website,

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