Girls on the Run local chapter ready to run

Suzie Banzer, No. 490, gets ready for one of her very first races in 1982. Banzer, now a Girls on the Run of West Sound coach, hopes to help young girls discover the joys of running.  - Contributed photo
Suzie Banzer, No. 490, gets ready for one of her very first races in 1982. Banzer, now a Girls on the Run of West Sound coach, hopes to help young girls discover the joys of running.
— image credit: Contributed photo

A new fitness group is about to take off running in Kitsap County.

Girls on the Run of West Sound, is the area’s newest running group focused on girls in third through fifth grades. It is a local chapter of a national non-profit organization focused on teaching life skills, including fitness through running.

“I knew there was a need in the community for this type of program,” said Rachel Bearbower, Girls on the Run of West Sound (formerly Kitsap County) executive director. “This program is about running, but it is so much more than that. It’s about empowering and building confidence and helping these girls really build skills that will set them up for later on in life.”

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,” states the Girls on the Run website.

The non-profit was founded in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina and has since expanded to more than 200-plus cities in the U.S.

Now, nearly two years and $7,500 later, Bearbower is ready to sign even more girls up before the March 1 deadline. The cost is $140 to participate, but scholarships are available, especially for those who meet the public schools standard of free and reduced lunch.

Fifty girls have signed up so far, but the group has plenty of room for others to join, Bearbower said.

For 12 weeks, a small team of girls will meet to go over curriculum and do a workout. At the end of the season, the girls will join in on the 5k Cougar Prowl CKHS Alumi Association event on June 7.

The meetings will focus on talking about specific topics that impact girls at a young age, like bullying, healthy eating and gossiping.

Gossiping, for example, is an important topic covered that’s easily demonstrated with a tube of toothpaste, said Bearbower, who started working with a Girls on the Run chapter in Boston.

For the demonstration, the girls pass along a paper plate that has toothpaste on it. Each girl attempts to shove the toothpaste back into the tube.

“The lesson is that once you say something, it’s out there, you can’t really take it away,” Bearbower said.

Ultimately, girls will have a safe place to talk with peers and adults who they can trust by being involved in activities together that positively reinforces healthy lifestyles.

The confidence building and running is only part of the reason Suzie Banzer decided to volunteer as a coach.

As someone who has been running since she was 8 years old, Banzer, now 42, said she is thrilled to become a coach for the Poulsbo chapter.

“I’m over-the-top excited, and I think that so many girls are gonna benefit,” she said.

Banzer said running is the very skill she learned that gave her confidence as a girl growing up. Her dad got her into the sport, and now she runs frequently to stay in shape.

“Running, it kind of always saved me,” she said. “It’s the health and the confidence of the mind.”

The word “can’t” was never allowed in her vocabulary growing up, she said. Her father kept a “can’t” jar that his children had to put a nickel in every time they said they couldn’t do something.

With that kind of wisdom that’s shaped her, Banzer is looking forward to helping instill confidence in young girls. As a mom and frequent volunteer in schools, churches and productions with children, Banzer said she’s looking forward to training children in a new realm.

“I’m so grateful Rachel brought it here,” Banzer said of the program. “They just got here, and they are growing by leaps and bounds.”

Currently, there are five meeting sites scheduled for the spring season. The Bremerton site is still seeking members to join.

Coaches are also needed as each site requires three to four mentors for the girls.

“I think this is a program that helps them find who they are at a very young age,” said Bearbower. “Let’s get some positive role models in front of these girls.”

For more information, visit or contact Rachel Bearbower at 360-621-9837.










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