June 1, 2022

LWCC Foundation Grant Helps Ensure a Healthier Future for Louisiana Girls

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The long-term health benefits of physical activity are no secret. Regular movement and exercise improve nearly every health condition. Yet, girls are not getting nearly enough. According to the World Health Organization, 85 percent of girls globally are not meeting the minimum daily recommendations for exercise, a factor that was quickly identified as increasing risk for the most severe cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, in Louisiana, 16 percent of adolescents are overweight. Between the two, it all adds up to vulnerable Louisiana youth with a poor outlook for future health.

The reasons behind the physical activity crisis plaguing our young girls are complex and layered. To begin, athletic opportunities for girls are growing but still lag significantly behind those available to boys. The gap is even worse in underserved communities where facilities, equipment, coaches, and other necessary resources can be difficult to secure. In addition, female athletes are neither portrayed nor celebrated in the same light as their male counterparts. While studies show that physical activity can equate to improved self-esteem, self-worth, and body esteem, traditionally expected gender roles still affect the desire of many girls to participate.

Girls on the Run, seeks to address all these issues, removing barriers that stand between powerful young girls and their potential. Founded in 1996, the nonprofit organization has spent decades seeking not only to encourage movement, but to provide a solid foundation of social emotional learning and critical life skills. Sure, there’s a 5k race involved, but that is just the cherry on top of a 10-week season that has already strengthened its participants both physically and mentally through a dedicated curriculum.

“We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident through a health-based curriculum that emphasizes running,” says Julieanne Lund, Executive Director of Girls on the Run, New Orleans.

In the New Orleans area, the Girls on the Run program has grown exponentially since its start in 2010. What began with 12 girls across two sites has expanded to 75 sites of full participation, all with the mission to enrich the lives and health of 3rd - 5th grade girls in Jefferson and Orleans parishes. To ensure that every girl who wants to participate can, the organization’s program fee operates on a sliding scale, allowing participants to only pay what they can afford. They also provide scholarship opportunities to cover some or all of the cost for many girls. This is where LWCC Foundation comes in.

As a recipient of $25,000 from the foundation’s Louisiana Well-Again: COVID-19 Response Package Phase 3 grants, Girls on the Run New Orleans can expand their health-based curriculum, adding more instructors, more sites, and offering more scholarship and financial aid opportunities. In turn, they can continue their work to secure a healthier future for one of our most vulnerable populations: underprivileged girls.

“Girls on the Run is for every girl,” noted Julieanne,“ regardless of school or background. Every girl needs critical life skills. When organizations like LWCC pair with our mission, we can get more girls involved.”

For Phase 3, the LWCC Foundation funded groups like Girls on the Run whose programs are addressing long-existing physical wellness vulnerabilities. These are the same vulnerabilities that made our state so susceptible to COVID-19. By supporting these organizations and their missions, we are investing in future generations that will be stronger, healthier, and less vulnerable to the health challenges that may come their way. It is all part of our commitment to being Louisiana Loyal.

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