United Way of Southwest Michigan brought Girls on the Run to Berrien County in 2009 to combat some of the issues facing young girls today: negative body image, childhood obesity, negative media influences, bullying, and gossiping.

The program grew from 225 girls in the first year to 830 girls in 2015!

Girls on the Run is a perfect fit with United Way's goals in health, teaching girls to make a lifetime of healthy choices.  It's also getting parents involved.  In 2015, over 2,000 people participated in the Girls on the Run 5k at the Berrien County Youth Fairgrounds, making it one of the largest 5Ks in the county!  


Girls on the Run® is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

Meeting twice a week in small teams of 8-20 girls, we teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The 24-lesson curriculum is taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches and includes three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large.

Running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. Important social, psychological, and physical skills and abilities are developed and reinforced throughout the program. At each season's conclusion, the girls and their running buddies complete a 5k running event which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The result—making the seemingly impossible, possible, and teaching girls that they can.

Heart & Sole

Heart & Sole is Girls on the Run’s new program for middle school girls! Heart & Sole creates a positive, structured space for middle school girls to learn about themselves, explore new ideas, cultivate empathy, strengthen connections and develop life skills that will help them as they move through adolescence and beyond. 

The Heart & Sole curriculum is rich with themes girls can relate to, addressing the whole girl—body, brain, heart, spirit and social connection—and building important life skills such as team building, developing a support system, boundary setting, decision making, asking for and providing help, and more. 

This 10-week program is accessible to all girls regardless of athletic ability or fitness level and considers the range of ages and varied experiences of middle schoolers. Physical activity includes strength and conditioning appropriate for this age group. The season culminates with the Girls on the Run 5k, which is the celebratory event that underscores the confidence, competence, connection, character and caring they’ve been developing in the program and gives them a tangible sense of goal setting and achievement.

For information on becoming a sponsor, contact:

Sharon Polfus

Director of Business Revenue

269-982-1700 ext. 17


Berrien County Youth Fairgrounds Map (2016)

2016 5K Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

2016 5K BYCF Agenda & Direction