Girls on the Run's 5K race at the Park District of Forest Park on Nov. 20, 2021. Milo Gittings

Dozens of girls raced around the Park District of Forest Park on Saturday, Nov. 20 to celebrate the nonprofit Girls on the Run and its sister organization, Heart & Sole.

Girls on the Run is a national organization dedicated to promoting healthy habits and building confidence in young girls through “physical activity and dynamic discussions to build social, emotional and physical skills in every girl.”

The Girls on the Run program is open to girls in third through fifth grade and are typically school based. In Forest Park District 91, Girls on the Run groups meet twice weekly with students from Grant White and Field Stevenson schools. Heart & Sole, open to sixth through eighth graders, operates similarly through Forest Park Middle School.

The Nov. 20 event was held in place of what is typically a 5K on the Chicago lakefront that brings together Girls on the Run participants from throughout the area. That race was canceled this year due to COVID-19 and the nonprofit offered a virtual 5K in its stead.

In Forest Park, organizers decided to hold their own in-person event, their first since 2019.

Jenny Barbahen, whose daughter advanced to the Heart & Sole program this year after previously participating in Girls on the Run, said the program has paid dividends.

“This really gets her motivated to get some exercise,” Barbahen said. “The coach in the middle school, Anna Carrera, is really fantastic, she really inspires the girls to keep going.”

More information on Girls on the Run is available at gotrchicago.org.