Thursday, May 24, 2012

Around Town: Moving forward with Girls on the Run

Around Town: Moving forward with Girls on the Run“La Cañada is a running town,” explained Leanne Mothershead.

I knew immediately what she meant.

We were seated outside the Foothill Boulevard Starbucks, Mothershead and I. No dogs. No husbands. Just the two of us.

Mothershead is a volunteer regional coordinator for Girls on the Run, a program that helps girls build self-esteem by training to run.

Mothershead is a Toronto native who moved to La Cañada in 2006. Her husband, John, is a La Cañadan and a 1984 graduate of Flintridge Prep.

When she arrived in La Cañada, Mothershead immediately sought out volunteer opportunities. She turned to, a free online service that matches volunteers with nonprofits and charitable endeavors.

“I am a runner,” Mothershead explained. “I looked for an organization that would match my passion.”

The first match offered was Girls on the Run, a charity that “encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.”

There are two programs offered by Girls on the Run — one for girls in the third through fifth grades, and one for middle-school girls. The sites are staffed by volunteers. One of the local volunteers is a student at La Cañada High. All of the volunteers, including the teens, receive training, background checks and CPR certifications.

As for the girls, there are no try outs. The program is non-competitive. The girls do not have to be athletes. The curriculum gets the girls conditioned through games and fun activities.

Each group of girls selects a volunteer project. Mothershead smiled as she handed me a flier for a May 24 bake sale organized by the Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School group, with all proceeds going to the Pasadena Humane Society.

As for her own athleticism, Mothershead took up running in 2006, the year she moved to La Cañada Flintridge.

“I had quit smoking,” said Mothershead. “One day, I went for a run and said, ‘Whoa! This is easier!' I haven't smoked since.”

The passion grew, and now Mothershead is an avid half- and occasional full-marathoner, but her main focus is to help girls develop self-esteem, positive body-image and physical conditioning.

Each 12-week session concludes with a practice 5K, followed by entry into a real 5K.

“The girls don’t have to run the 5K,” said Mothershead. “They can walk. They can skip. As long as they are moving forward.”

For more information on the local Girls on the Run, e-mail Mothershead at The Girls on the Run website is

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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