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North Hills

Eden Hall teacher named Girls on the Run Coach of the Year

| Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 1:57 p.m.
Eden Hall Upper Elementary School teacher Mary Anne Sanders was nominated for the 2017 Girls on the Run Western Pa. Coach of the Year honor by Eden Hall student Celeste Stokan.
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Eden Hall Upper Elementary School teacher Mary Anne Sanders was nominated for the 2017 Girls on the Run Western Pa. Coach of the Year honor by Eden Hall student Celeste Stokan.

Eden Hall Upper Elementary School teacher Mary Anne Sanders wasn't even wearing athletic shoes the first time she was asked to help out with the Girls on the Run program at the school.

The school nurse came to her after school one day several years ago, however, and told her they had a girl who needed someone to run with after the adult who was supposed to accompany her on the practice 5K run didn't show up, so out Sanders went in her flats to run for the first time in years.

Last month, she was honored as the 2017 Girls on the Run Western Pa. Coach of the Year.

“I was just surprised,” said Sanders, 62. “And it was a student who nominated me, which was very nice.”

Girls on the Run is a national nonprofit organization that was founded locally in 2001 and is run through Magee-Women's Hospital of UPMC in Oakland. It's a 10-week after-school program for girls in third through eighth grade that culminates in running a 5K, and this fall the program at Eden Hall has more than 60 third-through fifth-graders who meet twice a week for 90 minutes. The running aspect is often secondary to the other benefits of the program, Sanders said.

“It's kind of a counseling program where girls build up self-confidence, make friends and learn strategies for dealing with problems,” she said.

This is the first year the program has presented a Coach of the Year award, and Sanders said she didn't even know it existed until she learned she'd won.

Amanda Webb, who headed up the award process, said they contacted girls who took part in the program in the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017 to seek nominees. Students could submit a drawing, video or essay about their nominees, Webb said, and Sanders was chosen from more than 50 initial nominees based on an essay by Eden Hall student Celeste Stokan.

“She wrote an essay and included a picture of her and Coach Sanders and it just stood out because she wrote about how Mary Anne made an impact on her, and that she wasn't so sure about doing the program because her friends weren't there, but Coach Sanders served as her friend,” Webb said.

One of the things Sanders enjoys about coaching is that it gives the teachers who are involved the chance to know the students outside of the classroom.

“If they have a problem, they know they can talk to us,” she said. “I remember last year Celeste was having a problem in math and she came and talked to me about it. The program is good preparation for running a 5K and teaching the importance of health and fitness, but most of the lessons are life lessons.”

Webb said that Girls on the Run is operated primarily by volunteers who are passionate about empowering young girls and teaching them to be the best they can be. She also pointed out that volunteers don't have to be runners.

“We say you can run, skip, hop, however you get across the finish line,” she said.

To learn more about getting involved with the program whether as a participant or a volunteer, visit the website at gotrmagee.org.

Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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