Sole Girls is back, and is expanding to serve even more Tri-Cities tween girls this fall.
The group gets girls aged eight to 12 together for weekly physical activity sessions, culminating in a 5-km run, as a way of empowering youth, building confidence and creating friendships in a non-competitive environment.
"We want to empower girls to love themselves, and connect them with awesome mentors and give them all the tools we can to keep them in sport and standing up to bullies," said founder Ashley Wiles. "We're really using physical activity as a space that's non-competitive and inclusive, they learn a lot about releasing their inner awesome."
A runner and triathlete, Wiles started Sole Girls in North Vancouver in 2013 to reach out to tweens going through a challenging time, both physically and mentally, particularly as they return to school.
"It can cause a lot of anxiety at this age, particularly for girls, they're dealing with a lot of friendship issues…fitting in and feeling good about who they are," Wiles said. "This program takes a different look at physical activity because at this age girls start to get a lot more competitive, not only with sports but also with jealousy. This is where it all starts, and it can expand into the teen years, even workplaces."
The physical activity component acts as a springboard to teach the girls about goal-setting and treating others, as well as themselves, with respect and compassion. Capping it off with a 5-km "fun run" helps reinforce their newfound confidence and puts them on a path to lifelong healthy habits.
Participants will work with mentors who are high school and university students, who are themselves learning important leadership skills.
"They're role models," Wiles said, noting one of the Coquitlam leaders is a cancer survivor and life coach. "It's seeing people being able to overcome their obstacles and being inspired to overcome their obstacles too."
There are three locations for the Sole Girls program in the Tri-Cities this fall:
• Coquitlam - Ranch Park elementary: Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. from Sept. 14 to Nov. 9
• Coquitlam - Parkland elementary: Mondays from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m. from Sept. 12 to Nov. 7
• Port Moody - Arts Centre: Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. from Sept. 17 to Nov. 12
For more information or to register, visit www.solegirls.org.