GOTR Maplewood alumni Mary Margaret Clawson craved a sense of purpose this fall after months of pandemic restrictions. She reconnected with her first GOTR coach, Sydney Davis, the founder and executive director of GOTR NJ East, and volunteered to coach a virtual team.
"I didn't realize at the time what a privilege it was to go through the program when I was younger, and how much it shaped myself and my relationships,” Mary Margaret said. “So many people don't have that first foundation. Now I just want to help as many girls as possible to have the same chance."
Mary Margaret’s team of third and fourth graders meets online twice a week, along with two other volunteer coaches. “Our girls are full of energy and love to dance,” she said. “They have really meshed together as a group and it’s been fun to see how they are all still being active in their own space.”
One of the most meaningful lessons for Mary Margaret’s girls this fall has been the importance of positive self-talk. “We all need to remember that it’s okay to feel all these emotions and balance them out.”
Connection is key in every GOTR lesson, and coaches often share experiences from their own lives to demonstrate lessons for the girls. Especially during the stress of this challenging year, Mary Margaret said, it was easy for her and her friends to feel down on themselves.
“We are so good at cheering each other on, but not always ourselves.”
“Honestly, coaching has been just as good for me as it has been for the girls,” Mary Margaret said. “I hope I’m bringing value to the girls. I know they’re bringing it to me.”
Mary Margaret was one of the earliest participants in Girls on the Run’s program in Maplewood’s parks in 2003 and was considered a “poster child” for the growing program, recalled executive director Sydney Davis, who coached the early team. “She participated loyally every time we had a season, and her mom helped us recruit coaches and girls across town,” said Sydney. Maplewood was GOTR NJ East’s third town, after Millburn and Summit.
“Mary Margaret was so into the program, the running and the 5Ks, and she was always just an incredible force of energy and enthusiasm.”
Girls on the Run NJ East is celebrating 20 years of inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident. Since the early days when Mary Margaret participated in Maplewood, Girls on the Run NJ East has grown to serve 20,000 girls in Essex, Morris, Union, Mercer and Burlington counties.
Check back soon for more ways to celebrate GOTR NJ East’s 20th anniversary in 2021!