At first, it seemed to us like an unlikely partnership. This month, Horizon Fitness announced that it would become a national sponsor of Girls on the Run International (www.girlsontherun.org), a non-profit organization that encourages preteen girls to pursue a healthy lifestyle through running. Exercise equipment…running outdoors…what gives?
It turns out that Horizon Fitness had been looking for a non-profit to support, and company President Bob Whip had firsthand knowledge of the good work being done by Girls on the Run.
"My daughter was introduced to it in elementary school," he told SNEWS®. "I saw that she got a lot out of it and really enjoyed it."
Whip said his daughter's positive experience sparked him to take a close look at Girls on the Run, and he discovered that the organization was not only fast on the rise, but also making a real difference in communities. "I was surprised at how many people in our (Wisconsin) area were familiar with the organization," he said.
Though Horizon focuses on manufacturing equipment for indoor exercise, Whip said it makes sense for his company to support Girls on the Run. "We're looking at it from a bigger perspective of supporting active lifestyles. This not only helps girls become stronger young women, it's also something their parents can rally around," he said.
Based in Charlotte, N.C., Girls on the Run International has 140 chapters across the United States and Canada serving 40,000 girls ages 8 to 11. Each spring and fall, volunteer coaches lead 14-week programs that not only train girls to run, but also deal with healthy eating habits and social challenges. Each program culminates in a Wondergirl 5K run.
Whip added that he wanted to work with an organization in an early growth stage, rather than support another well-established non-profit that already has many sponsors. This way, Horizon is not just a small fish in a large pond, and it can make a more significant contribution. While Girls on the Run also has New Balance, Kellogg's and Goody Products as national sponsors, the non-profit is on a high growth curve and needs help in advancing its programs.
Horizon is not only providing support with cash, but also lending its marketing and research resources. "We have identified certain areas where they could use our help," said Whip. "One area is recruitment. Horizon is doing research to determine best practices within the Girls on the Run chapters and identifying ways to recruit volunteers." He said that Horizon might also reach out to health clubs whose clientele lead active lifestyles and might be interested in supporting Girls on the Run.
SNEWS® View: We think this is a great choice. We all know what the research has shown: Get kids active at a younger age and they're more likely to stay active. For kids, that doesn't likely mean indoor exercise but if they get hooked on the activity, then as an adult they're more likely -- with the adult demands of work, home and family -- to end up at least occasionally or at some point needing indoor equipment. We applaud Horizon for taking this step and know from personal experience what a great organization Girls on the Run is.