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Girls on The Run: Celebrating pacesetters, effecting change

This year’s concert features a stellar lineup of musicians including King, Laiken Williams, Britt Scott, Maggie Evans, and Susanna Kennedy

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For the past two years, local musician and promoter Kristin King has been at the forefront of an event aimed at benefiting an important organization. That organization is Girls On The Run, a nonprofit that inspires girls and teaches valuable life skills through a curriculum that involves running.

Since its inception in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1997, Girls On The Run has grown to have chapters in every state. The Board of the Savannah chapter includes King, who began the Pacesetters concert in an effort to benefit the organization. This year’s concert, taking place at 45 Bistro on Sun., August 11, features a stellar lineup of musicians including King, Laiken Williams, Britt Scott, Maggie Evans, and Susanna Kennedy.

Ahead of the event, we chatted with King about the importance of Girls On The Run and what to expect from the upcoming event.

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What is the Pacesetters concert all about?

King: This is the third annual concert, and the concept of a pacesetter is someone who would sponsor a girl for a season. 72 percent of our girls that participate in the program receive a scholarship of some sort—some are on full scholarship, and some are on partial. Parents have at least some type of buy in, so that we know they’re committed to making sure their girls are participating in the program.

This past season, we served almost 700 girls. We do a fall and a spring season. We’re in seven counties now. We started our chapter almost 13 years ago, but nationally it was founded in 1997. It’s such a great program. The national headquarters is developing, and we’ll soon be implementing an adaptive curriculum as well, so that we can have the program available to people with different types of disabilities. We also have material in Arabic, Korean—really the goal is to be so inclusive.

It’s not about being competitive; it’s about being part of a team and learning life-changing skills that carry them through development and into adulthood. I remember reading the lesson plans when I was coaching adults and thinking, “Gosh, I need to do this. I need to implement this into my life.”

What a great organization.

King: It’s been tested and proven that the girls are fundamentally changed in their attitude toward life, self confidence, and their ability to handle conflict and problem-solve in a healthy way. And then to incorporate the healthiness of just being active in general.

What will the event entail in terms of people sponsoring the girls involved in Girls On The Run?

King: So, I came up with this idea three years ago when I joined the board. I don’t work for a big company that can write matching checks and things like that, but I have a lot of great resources and friends that are very talented. I had this idea of doing an all-female concert. The first two years was done at Julie Wade’s house—she was our previous board president. It’s outgrown that space, so 45 Bistro offered to host it.

Guests will arrive and have full bar and appetizers from 5 until 6, and then they’ll transition into the atrium space with concert-style seating. Maggie Evans, Laiken Williams, and myself have been the core musicians each year, and this year we’re adding Britt Scott and Susanna Kennedy. I could not be more excited about it! All four of them have unique vocal styles and can do incredible harmonies together. There’s lots of different layering of instruments and voicings. We’re doing some fun covers—I think there’s something for everyone. Everything from that Peggy Lee song, “Woman,” to “No Diggity” [laughs].

Evans, Williams, King, Kennedy, Scott - PHOTO BY ANDREW VON GOELLNER
  • Photo by Andrew Von Goellner
  • Evans, Williams, King, Kennedy, Scott

Have you started working out stuff together? What’s that been like? It’s certainly an eclectic group of voices and musical styles!

King: Yeah! We had a rehearsal last Sunday and we’ll have one more on Thursday. We all have really cool ideas, and everyone brought songs to the table that we wanted to do. We made it our own. It’s really cool.

Why do you think it’s important to support an organization like this, and what prompted you to get involved?

King: Not having children of my own, it’s still very important for me to help our community in whatever way possible and develop our youth to be responsible and respectful. Youths who grow into being good stewards of our community and our world. I just think that for me, growing up, it was always important to my mom that every child has someone in their life that thinks they’re amazing and incredible.

For a lot of us, that’s our parents. But a lot of people don’t feel that way towards their parents. So I think it’s so important to see care and concern, and a general interest in your well-being, from someone other than just your parents if you’re fortunate to even have that. All of our coaches are volunteer coaches. It’s a commitment. It’s important for girls to see not just their teachers staying after school to help coach Girls On The Run, but someone who’s taking time out of their day because they’re important to them.

When I was coaching a few seasons ago, I came to practice and didn’t come in my running clothes so I had to go to the bathroom and change. One of the girls was like, “You look really nice! What were you doing?” I said, “I was at a meeting for my job.” She goes, “Your job isn’t coaching Girls On The Run?”

She really thought that it was my full-time job! [laughs]. That’s how important it is—she thought, “This is all you do.” It’s stuff like that that is so sweet. And you really do see, especially at our 5K at the end of the season, the diversity. That’s incredible.

But then also seeing family members participating—dads running with their daughters and cheering them on, and people in wheelchairs and walkers doing the race too. It’s not timed, and it’s not about competition and winning. It’s about doing your best and whatever that means for you.

I’ve heard stories from girls who’ve used a Girls On The Run lesson at home with their parents or their brother, in a situation that frustrated them. We’re proud that they handled it in a way that’s empowering.

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