Girls on the Run Coordinator, Trailblazers founder
The rhythmic sounds of small footsteps on gravel is music to the ears of Jen Gallant.
For more than a decade she has been making a difference in the lives of kids across Whatcom County. “I began volunteering at the YMCA coaching my daughter’s Girls on the Run team” in 2005, Gallant said.
“My daughters were approaching the age when many girls start worrying far too much about fitting in and being accepted by their peers [and] I wanted them to have the opportunity to gain the tools that would help them successfully navigate those tough years.”
After three years, the YMCA hired her to run the entire program.
At the time, Girls on the Run was already a nationally renowned program. Today it is the largest running and mentoring program of its kind in the country and a fixture at the Bellingham YMCA.
Gallant has expanded and transformed the running programs at the YMCA. In 2014 she introduced her own program, Trailblazers. The program provides young boys the opportunity to get outdoors and use running as an outlet for development. Gallant saw the need in the community for young boys and thought, “You know, boys need an outlet too…especially today.”
In the beginning, she had 22 kids in the program. Today there are nearly 600 trail runners served in the Whatcom County school district.
Sun, rain, or torrential downpour — it doesn’t matter to Gallant, who, with a smile on her face, takes her kids out every week to run. The programs use running as a form of empowerment and tool for kids to realize their self-fulfillment and accomplishments. When you get out and you’re running, you kind of open up, Gallant explained, especially when you are exhausted, soaked to the bone, or cold.
“Running has taught me to work hard to attain goals. My favorite part of Girls on the Run and Trailblazers is teaching kids to set goals and take the necessary steps to reach them,” said Gallant.
In January, she proudly plans to run a half marathon with one of the 10-year-old Trailblazers. “This is a girl that loves to run. She has a goal to run the Lake Samish Half Marathon in January, so I said that I would do it with her.”
Gallant herself is an accomplished runner. She first started marathon running by chance in 2007 when a friend encouraged her. “I didn’t really run competitively in high school,” Gallant said. But just six months later she placed second in the Bellingham Bay Marathon and qualified for the Boston marathon — no easy task. She ran in it the following year, posting an impressive time of 3 hours, 25 minutes.
“I’ve been putting a lot of focus and energy into Girls on the Run and Trailblazers so I haven’t competed much in the last few years.”