Erin Echelmeyer Volunteer Spotlight

Erin Echelmeyer

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m 27, St. Louis born and raised. I currently live in South City, and work at Gateway Regional Medical Center (GRMC) in Granite City as the Public Relations and Marketing Director. I’m a huge advocate for active lifestyles and have been an active runner for about 5 years, beginning with a journey to change my entire lifestyle. I was unhappy and unhealthy so I made some changes and running became my therapy – mentally and physically. I love running and have overcome many hurdles - physically and mentally to be able to continue doing what I love, no matter what. I just ran my third half marathon in October 2014 and am planning to jump in again for 2015, running a smaller race every month until then! I just recently adopted a stray rescue, pit terrier- Holly; and, I CANNOT wait until munchkin is ready to run some trails with me! My other favorite running buddy is our GSP, Brigsby. There’s no greater feeling than a trail run with a 4-legged fur baby. :)

Why did you choose to volunteer/get involved with GOTR-STL?

I’d heard that some Illinois teams were struggling to find assistant coaches so I got the clear from the boss and jumped in! My old boss was very involved in the program and loved it. I only knew about it on the surface at that point but thought it would be an absolutely awesome idea to get involved in a program combining two of my favorites – running and spending time with kiddos.

What is the most rewarding thing about Girls on the Run?

There is absolutely not enough words to describe the feeling when one of your girls crosses the finish line with a grin from ear to ear. I’ve coached at 4 different schools in town (Granite City) so far and have met so many amazing young ladies. Every season the feeling is there. It’s being a part of the “Oh my gosh I did it!!!” look in a girls’ eyes. It can’t be matched. I love seeing my girls come out of their shells as the season progresses. These girls work hard to train for the race, but also really embrace the lessons and work to understand how they truly play a role in their lives. Being a part of that process is beyond satisfying. Knowing that coaches around the area are all influencing lifestyle decisions these young ladies are making is motivational beyond belief.

How has GOTR-STL impacted your life?

It puts a smile on my face. I learn so much from each one of the girls I’ve gotten to know, not to mention the other coaches. This season one of our coaches, Coach Eric, is a superstar and our girls absolutely love him! He’s gone above and beyond to give the girls a great season. I’ve coached with some really awesome people in previous seasons and am grateful to have met them all. GOTR is just a feel-good program. Whether it’s the time running or time getting to know the girls and the lessons – GOTR just puts me in a good place. I love it and truly intend to remain involved in the program indefinitely.

Favorite memory?

One season, I had a third grader with a big sister on our team. She was absolutely precious and kind of shy at first. This girl showed up to practice every day with a bow in her hair, a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye. A couple practices in, we were running and she came over for a break sobbing. Immediately I assume the worst and am trying to figure out what’s wrong. She finally catches her breath and says “Coach Erin, I’m sad. I’m sad because running makes me think of my grandpa. We used to run together. And now he’s in heaven.” My heart melted and just broke for the sweet girl. We took a cool down lap so she could tell me all about her grandpa until she was back to all smiles. The day of the 5k, that same girl was petrified to run in the race. She was in tears at the starting line and clinging to her mother. I got down on her level and told her I would run by her side the entire time and would never ever let anything happen to her. She just lunged at me with open arms and was ready to go. She ran the race like a champ until we got “the Hill.” Poor thing was just wiped out, turned to me and said, “ I can’t do it.” I reassured her that she could certainly finish and would do so without a doubt. It got to the point where I ended up giving her a piggy back ride up the hill, around the corner to the “bubble bus.” She saw the finish line a few seconds later and immediately said, “Coach, let’s do this!!!!” Who am I to slow the bugger down? We both just took off full force and crossed the finish line together. She turned around with the biggest smile I have ever seen and just ran into my arms squealing “I did it! I did it!” That moment right there is why I love this program. Moments like this cannot be matched for volunteers or for their girls.

Why would you recommend others get involved with Girls on the Run?

This program has the potential - and already is - impacting the lives of young ladies across the country. Whether it’s the aspect of a healthy lifestyle or a healthy mindset - teaching girls how to be positive is a lesson every girl deserves. This program is beyond rewarding for its volunteers; so, I can only imagine the impact it truly has a young, impressionable little lady as she discovers what it means to be a Girl on the Run.

What are your hopes for the future of Girls on the Run as an organization?

I hope it goes viral and is implemented in every school across the country. My girls (should I have them some day :)) will certainly be participating. I can’t stress enough how amazing this organization is from all aspects. The GOTR team is full of ladies who are beyond passionate about what they do and have hearts of gold. I wish every young girl has the opportunity to participate in a program like this at some point. All it takes is one season, one turn a girl’s attitude around; and, every little girl deserves that chance.