South Orange and Maplewood Girls on the Run arrived to Saturday's practice post Sandy in warm clothes and ready to run — a chance to get out of the house and return to a regular routine.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, many of the girls in our group experienced some home damage and are still without power and heat. But they all felt lucky the storm that devastated much of New Jersey somehow spared SOMA from the worst.
Since Saturday may have been their first chance to get together with classmates from Jefferson Elementary School, some girls spoke of friends and relatives along the Jersey Shore or in New York and what they saw on the news about Sandy's devastating effects.
Today's lesson about community strikes a chord because it's a topic many of them now understand more fully due to the storm.
"Does anyone know what a community is?" Coach Kamal asked our group of 8- to 10-year-olds training for a 5K later this month.
"It's a government," Ice Cream Imaan said. "Or a group of people who work together." (All the girls gave themselves a positive nickname at the program's start.)
"My mom told me it was a town," Super Sophie said.
"It's any group," Lovely Livvy said. "A town. A state. A country."
"Are we a community as Girls on the Run?" Coach Kamal asked.
"Yes!" everyone responded.
"What kind of community did we see after the storm?" Coach Kamal asked.
"The Red Cross helped get food and water to people," Magnificent Maxine said.
"PSE&G is working on power," Energetic Eve added.
"We opened our house to friends who needed a place with power, to charge phones and take a break," Nice Noori said.
"Exactly!" Coach Kamal exclaimed. "It's important we all chip in to help each other out."
To demonstrate the feeling of community, all the girls held hands and Coach Kamal asked everyone to count off as 1s and 2s. Then the 1s had to lean into the middle of the circle while the 2s leaned away to balance the circle. They all had to hold their arms outstreched and stay connected to ensure the circle didn't break.
"What makes it difficult to keep the circle together?" Coach Kamal asked.
"Some of us are different sizes and weights," Outstanding Oona said.
"What does this tell us about community?" Coach Kamal asked.
"We all have to work together to make sure our friends don't fall," Super Sophie said. "Like in a community, we all have to work together to keep each other up."
In the wake of Sandy's storm, those words couldn't be more true.
Click here for information on storm recovery, power restoration progress and how you can help.
To read more about our Girls on the Run group, click here for an introduction and here to learn how this program helps trample peer pressure in South Orange and Maplewood schools.
Girls on the Run is a program that empowers third- through fifth-graders to use running as a tool to build confidence, self-awareness and friends. Please leave a comment in the stream below to show your support for some of SOMA's youngest runners!