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Run the GazelleGirl & Run to Make a Difference

The 2014 Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k organizers are setting the bar high, doubling racer numbers and increasing charitable dollars to earn the race its own PR.

About the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

The Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5k began in 2013 as the first women’s-only half marathon event in Michigan. The run, organized by Gazelle Sports, connects women through movement, achievement, celebration, friendship and fun. Proceeds from the event will benefit Kent County Girls on the Run, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), the YWCA, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s all organizations dedicated to empowering women of all ages. For more information on the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5k, visit


/Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

The benefits of signing up and running a foot race are tangible — you’ll have a personal goal to train for and in doing so you will gain in physical fitness, your mental attitude will improve and you’ll have a blast on race day. And guess what? If you choose to sign up and race the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k, your run will also help make a difference in the lives of women and girls in our Greater Grand Rapids community. 

The Grand Rapids’ Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k is one of the largest women-focused half marathons in the country.  2013 was the race’s inaugural year, boasting over 2000 runners running the half marathon distance. In its first year the Gazelle Girl raised nearly $50,000 for the area’s YWCA, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), and Kent County Girls on the Run. 

The outcomes from this first year event exceeded not only the expectations of the race committee, but of the Gazelle Girl’s partner charities. The 2013 charities were ecstatic to receive such generous proceeds from the race. “The organizers of Gazelle Girl were cautiously optimistic about the proceeds they would be able to share with their charity partners in their inaugural year,” recalled Kelli Langan, Director of Development of the YWCA. “So when they shared the news of the final tally, we were thrilled!” 

Just what did the YWCA do with such a generous donation?  “The YWCA will be directing the $16,500+ we received toward creation of a fitness space in our domestic violence shelter. The fitness space will be set aside for survivors, giving them a quiet corner alone as they begin taking the steps toward their new lives.” 

As for Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, a local nonprofit that helps coach women in the startup of a small business, “We received over $16,000 last year,” explained Bonnie Nawara of GROW. “We used this money to support our Business Wellness Checkup program.”  GROW’s Business Wellness Program helps women tweak and grow the health of their existing businesses, which in turn helps women realize their economic dreams of being a small business owner. 

For Kent County Girls on the Run, the 2013 donation helped make it possible for girls of all income levels to participate in their running club that’s geared to young girls in grades 3-8. “This means never saying ‘No’ to a girl because of her ability to pay,” said Burgess in a presentation to the Gazelle Girl race committee. “We have a sliding scale and we can help get them shoes and a shirt.” Kent County Girls on the Run will serve more than 2,500 girls this 2013/2014 race season. 

This spring, the Gazelle Girl plans to make the impact even bigger. The 2014 Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k organizers are setting the bar high, doubling racer numbers and increasing charitable dollars to earn the race its own PR.  The goal? Shooting for 4,000 runners for the half marathon and adding a fourth charity to their line-up- DA Blodgett’s Sisters in Support.

Event organizers attribute their fundrasing success for the charities to their lean race management approach, including having donated staff time and generous race underwriters. “This event is like no other,” said race co-director Bridgett Myers. “The focus is on community: a community of women runners and a community of making lives better for others.  We are honored to welcome the Sisters in Support program to this year’s event.”


“Sisters in Support plays a role in this mission by providing encouragement to young single mothers who are either pregnant or parenting,” explains Stephanie Sheler, D.A. Blodgett social worker. “Each mother receives support not only from her social worker, but also from a volunteer mentor. The volunteer serves as a role model as she helps the young mother focus on her goals regarding good parenting, healthy relationships, education and employment.”  

“The primary goal [of Sisters in Support] is to help these young women create healthy families where children thrive, so that abuse and neglect never happen,” says Sheler. She states that the funds from this year’s race will be directly invested to serve more single-parent families. “While the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon’s primary focus is physical health, their involvement with four outstanding charities demonstrates that they recognize to need to focus on other areas of women’s health: support, education, generational ties, relationships and more,” said Sheler. 

Langan of the YWCA reinforces these sentiments. She explains that community investments in programming that build girls and women from the ground up results in lasting positive and healthy lifestyles. “Anytime we can help a girl see her value and instill a sense of excitement about her future, we're inoculating her against a range of problems.  She's less likely to become a teenage mom or abuse drugs and alcohol.  She's more likely to stay in school and have healthier relationships,” said Langan.  

The Gazelle Girl investments are making a meaningful difference that will last a lifetime, believes Burgess of Kent County Girls on the Run. “Our girls are changing the way they view themselves,” she said. Because of running -- and because of programmatic investments from the Gazelle Girl race -- each runner girl starts “thinking of herself as an athlete.”

“We help these girls reach their goals. We focus on being joyful, healthy and confident,” said Burgess. “Everyone is going to finish, and this helps make it all possible.” 

Registration is now open for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k. Click HERE to register early -- race organizers believe the event will completely sell out well advance of the race in April. 

Disclosure: I am a runner and also a volunteer for the Gazelle Girl.

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