Girls on the Run 5K puts exclamation mark on self-esteem

Olivia Veldink's blond hair, decorated with a sunflower, flew behind her in two neat pigtails collected with ribbons. With a red No. 1 pinned to her shirt, she sped along the trails and roads of Saturday's Girls on the Run 5K with the help of her mother, Mary Veldink, and Tracy Velasquez. The two Jenison women propelled the Pinewood Elementary School third-grader through the race in her lime-green wheelchair.
Tribune Staff
May 24, 2011

Olivia has ataxia telangiectasia, a rare genetic disease that impedes her motor skills. But a wheelchair wouldn’t stop her from participating in Girls on the Run, a nonprofit program that combines training for a running event with healthy living education to empower young girls.

“I just think the Girls on the Run program has such a good self-esteem part to it,” Mary said. “I thought it’s so important that (Olivia) hear that and know that even if she can’t run, she has friends that can help her.”

Olivia said she had a lot of fun training for the race and making new friends.

“She loved it,” said Mary, who has been a coach for the program for three years.

Girls on the Run of Ottawa and Allegan Counties celebrated the end of their season in two 5K runs. The first was on Friday for girls in southern Ottawa and Allegan counties. Saturday’s run was held at Grand Haven High School and included girls from Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Coopersville, Allendale, Jenison and Hudsonville schools.

— By Lydia Coutre

To read more of this story, see today’s print edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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