Run With It - Waterloo Regional Police Service Members Dedicate Their Time to Help Youth Through Running

They knew what they were doing was a good thing – a great thing, in fact.

But when they received a letter praising them for helping out a young girl, the organizers of Girls Can Run Group knew they were truly on to something special.

“The letter was from a woman whose granddaughter suffers from anxiety,” explained WRPS Constable Graham Hawkins. “She wrote that ‘the running program was an outlet for her (granddaughter) to build confidence and self-esteem.’

“That was the moment we all look for – knowing that we are truly helping somebody.”

The Girls Can Run Group is a non-profit organization that provides a free, non-competitive running environment to young girls aged 10 to 13. The program was launched in 2014, after Constable Hawkins, a 15-year-veteran with WRPS, realized something needed to be done to help young women who have experienced trauma. Constable Hawkins spent many years working within the Human Trafficking unit, where he came face-to-face with young women experiencing addiction issues, family violence, bullying, and exploitation.

“All of these things contribute to low self-esteem,” he said. “It makes them vulnerable to being exploited as they search for a way to be accepted, needed, and loved.”

Together with Marcia Wright, a WRPS Crime Analyst, and Angela Woods, a former WRPS Human Resource Benefits Assistant, they formed Girls Can Run Group, incorporating their love for running with their desire to help others.

The group meets at the Mill-Courtland Community Centre in Kitchener and, with the help of community members, the youth are taken through a variety of drills and exercises. They also talk about topics that are relevant to youth, including personal development.

“We love working with these young women and help promote confidence,” says Marcia Wright. “We love to help them become stronger individuals and positive role models in their community.”

The program runs for 10 weeks and begins in April. Youth are provided free brand new running shoes that are acquired through personal donations from WRPS members and residents from the community. At the end of the program, the youth get to take part in a race where they get to see all their hard work pay off.

Both Wright and Constable Hawkins agree that this program wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the dedicated coaches from the Waterloo Regional Police Service, who volunteer their time to help the youth involved.

“We are here to offer support and understanding,” Constable Hawkins said. “We aren’t here offering materialistic things, but things that matter for their future – self-confidence and the realization that they matter - that their future matters.”

Thank you to all the members who take part in this incredible program. You are a true example of what it means to go Above and Beyond. 




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