Overcoming personal hurdles, head coach, Melissa Webster pours her life into helping others overcome their own hurdles. As a Director at One Hope United, a residential treatment program, Melissa believes that young women have value and worth, no matter what their story may be and she’s committed to leading by example. Determined to offer Girls on the Run to a group of young girls at the residential program, her and GOTR-STL staff began conversations about how to best serve these young ladies. In the spring of 2015, One Hope United fielded their first Girls on the Run team and completed their first GOTR-STL 5k on May 9, 2015. An inspiring, motivated woman tells her story of how she went from zero to sixty, reclaiming her life, and inspiring others.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Melissa Webster. I am 49 years old, but in six short weeks I will turn 50! I direct a residential treatment program in Centralia, Illinois, One Hope United. I am a mental health therapist by trade, but in this role I have a team of more than 70 people who serve almost 40 youth 24 hours a day. I have been married to Jim, my partner in crime (also a GOTR Coach and One Hope United employee) for almost 17 years. I am mother to three amazing kids, Kayla (35), Ian (33) and Madeline (22). I have three beautiful grandchildren, Jude (12), Kaleigh (11) and Kairyn (8). I am proud to say my daughter Kayla has been a GOTR Practice Partner and Kaleigh and Kairyn are both alums of GOTR.
My fitness journey has led me to running, among other activities. On the day after Christmas 2012, I started to eat a little healthier. In February, I called the bariatric surgeon. On April 1, I started my presurgery diet of 600 calories a day. My surgery was April 24, 2013. I started moving right after surgery. Walking the halls of the hospital, then walking the road in front of my house. I wanted to be a runner. I had slowly walked two 5Ks before: I picked a race that was more than I have ever done. I picked the Women’s Rock 10K in September 2013.
I set my next goal as a 15K Race, the Hot Chocolate. My first Half Marathon was April 26, 2014, almost a year past my surgery. I finished the Illinois Half Marathon in 2:52. From my first Half, I have run 30 Half Marathons. I have run in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New York and Florida. This year I have races planned for Georgia, Ohio, New Mexico and Oklahoma. And my husband? He had the surgery too. I wasn’t as avid as I was – initially – but he would run 5K races when I would run Half Marathons. He ran his first Half Marathon in September 2014. We run together now: sometimes I’m faster, sometimes he is. But we really enjoy traveling together, meeting runners all over the country and staying fit. We have run at least one 5K with each of our grandchildren.
How did you get involved with Girls on the Run St. Louis?
I learned about GOTR from the Internet initially, and then my granddaughter Kaleigh participated. I was really impressed by the girl power present, and the healthy messages and lessons being taught. I ran the 5K with her in November 2013. I thought it would be an amazing program to bring to my girls in residential. A lot of youth gain weight in residential care, and I have witnessed girls being terrible to one another in terms of bullying. I didn’t have any idea how it would work, but I thought it would be great for our girls. So I reached out to GOTR St. Louis to begin a dialogue to figure it out. Although we are not their traditional setting, the GOTRSTL team reached out to us to figure out how it might work. It worked, really, really well.
What is the most rewarding thing about Girls on the Run?
I love watching the girls grow in confidence as they participate in each practice. My staff who participated loved having a relationship of coaching with our girls, rather than someone in charge. It really helped expand the relationships of our staff and girls, and helped our residential youth to see their staff leaders are real people.
How has GOTR-STL impacted your life?
I loved offering GOTR to our residential girls, but we also extended the program to the daughters of our staff members. I loved getting to know the daughters of my staff. My staff is amazing with the children they serve at our residential facility. It is no surprise they are amazing mothers, too.
What is your favorite memory from your volunteer experience?
I finished the 5K with our fastest girls, so seeing the faces of my staff and all our girls right after they finished the finish line was amazing. They were so pleased and proud of themselves. My girls have so few “wins” in their young lives: the day of the race definitely goes down as a win in their books. They were so very happy.
Why would you recommend that others get involved with GOTR-STL?
I would recommend grown ups get involved in GOTRSTL so they can impact girls positively with healthy messages about every aspect of their lives. I would recommend girls get involved to learn all the amazing lessons, develop a greater sense of self esteem and mastery and the sense of accomplishment completing the program brings.
What are your hopes for the future of GOTR-STL as an organization?
I would love to see more girls throughout Central Southern Illinois become involved with this amazing organization.