Heydinger retiring from GOTR feeling inspired and filled
BRATTLEBORO — Nancy Heydinger's mom once had a dream that her daughter would be the mother of many.
As it turns out, it was right on the money.
In addition to her three children, Heydinger has been a mother-like figure to over 45,000 kids while working for the Girls on the Run program.
"I've been lucky to have seen the transformation of the lives of girls all around the state. I have drawers full of letters from girls and their parents, guardians, and grandparents telling me how the program has changed lives," said Heydinger. "My heart is full of memories of seeing the beaming faces of girls as they ran, walked, or skipped across the finish line. I've been at the finish line at every 5k, jumping up and down and cheering the girls in. I will miss seeing their sweaty and beaming faces!"
The program's executive director will retire at the end of the year.
Heydinger started GOTR at Vernon Elementary School in 2000, with a team of 15 girls that included her daughters Katy and Caroline, and then she brought the program to Academy School the following year. It has now spread to 152 total schools in Vermont.
"Girls on the Run was a family run operation for many years. My husband, Tom helped me to get started. After a few years, he had a vision to start our own 5k at Brattleboro Union High School. He made it happen, then made another one happen in Burlington, then another one in Rutland," noted Heydinger, adding that their three children have volunteered all over the state.
Even after she steps down from her position, Heydinger plans to stay involved with the organization through volunteering, coaching, and communicating with the staff.
"Twenty years ago, when I started GOTR, it was for my own daughters. I wanted to find a way to ensure that they would grow up loving themselves and feeling complete. I wanted them to celebrate and embrace their natural gifts, and to know that what they communicated was important, and I wanted them to know that they could make an important impact in their communities and in our world," Heydinger stated. "This is what led me to Girls on the Run. I had no idea that a movement was beginning to take form. Wow, it really is amazing. I will leave Girls on the Run Vermont at the end of 2019 feeling inspired and filled."
Girls on the Run is for girls in grades 3-8 and lasts for 10 weeks each year. It consists of dynamic discussions, activities, running games and a service project.
The program's annual Southern Vermont 5k took place at Brattleboro Union High School on Saturday, with roughly 1,000 participants and 40 area schools represented. There were 200 volunteers, including many members of BUHS sports teams. BUHS Principal Steven Perrin was the honorary starter, while Dover and Grafton GOTR coach Wendy Johnson was the honorary speaker.
"Watching girls (from the program) become women who are giving, confident, full of love, life and energy, who take good care of themselves, are compassionate and empathetic, and truly believe that the world is theirs to impact...this is my reward," said Heydinger, who will hand the baton off to new executive director Rachel Desautels in 2020.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.