For the past eight weeks, on the track behind Folsom Elementary School, 16-year-old Ambassador Girl Scout Danielle Gioffre created an innovative program aptly named Summer Runnin’ to promote physical fitness and combat childhood obesity which is a national epidemic.

Nearly one in four children is considered overweight or obese and that is just in the state of New Jersey alone. The program kicked off on June 16 and concluded on a rainy July 28th evening. Each Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., you would find Gioffre and her energetic team of 22 eager volunteers in all, stretching, running and engaging in physically active games with anywhere between 30 to 53 of the registered student runners.

The participants ranged from pre-K through ninth grade and were split up into four color coded grade groups.

“We only expected about 20 students to be interested and were thrilled but nervous when we had over 50 sign up,” Gioffre said. “Not every runner is able to be here at every practice, but we still have a lot of kids who are.”

While other high school students were enjoying their summer at the shore or going on family vacations, this ambitious teen was busy searching the internet looking for healthy tips, stretching exercises, planning games, activities, shopping and filling snack bags and meeting with her project adviser, Deborah Marshall, a physical education teacher at Winslow High School and the mother of 5-year-old runner, Abigail.

Together Gioffre and Marshall spent hours going over a multitude of details in order to bring the best possible program to their registered runners.

“Danielle is an incredible young woman who never ceases to amaze me,” Marchall said. “What I loved most about her wasn’t just the great program she presented, her warmth or her professionalism, but that each week I would watch the program evolve a little bit better than it had been the week before. To recognize when something isn’t working exactly the way you would like it to, and then to go back and immediately fix it by the next practice is a skill that many adults much older than Danielle don’t often possess. We had so much fun being active and meeting new people. It was a highlight of our summer. She really did a great job.”

A junior in the early childhood education program at Camden County Technical School, Gioffre plans to be a teacher and chose to merge her love of children with her love of running for her required 80 hour “Take Action” project, which turned into more than 138 planning and implementing hours.

“I have been running cross country since fourth grade,” Gioffre said. “I noticed that running has helped me to build up my speed and stamina while playing soccer in Winslow’s rec league and on both my high school’s soccer and track teams which is why it made perfect sense to create this specific project for my Gold.”

The Gold Award, which began in 1916 as the Golden Eaglet, celebrates its centennial celebration this year and is the highest award any Girl Scout can earn. Only 5.4 percent of Girl Scouts nationwide ever achieve this lofty goal.

“This is a huge accomplishment,” Danielle’s mother and troop leader Patty Gioffre said. She went on to explain that all three of her daughters, Kristen 25, Marissa, 22, and soon Danielle will have won the Gold Award. All three have been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten and Daisy’s.

For the past 21 years this dedicated Girl Scout mom has been the troop leader to all three of her daughters.

“If Danielle’s final project submission is approved, I will have three Gold recipients in my family,” Mrs. Gioffre said. “It is an incredible organization and one of the things I am most proud of being involved in.”

“Although they are not required to earn the Gold Award, the skills and confidence that Danielle gained by completing her Junior Bronze and her Cadette Silver awards were invaluable steps taken to help her achieve this ultimate goal,” says Mrs. Gioffre.

The parents of the runners were the biggest cheerleaders.

Nancie Kelly, an EMT who assisted in the capacity of on-site medical assistant for the program and grandmother to 5-year-old runner Brynn, said “We loved it. This was such a great experience for Brynn and myself. Danielle should be proud of everything she was able to accomplish.”

Kristi Green, Girl Scout leader and Summer Runnin’ volunteer and mother of both Ethan, a student volunteer, and Marissa, a third-grade runner, said this about her children and Gioffre’s Gold Award.

“Marissa had a great time making new friends,” Green said. “She loved playing games, especially the water balloon fights and even running despite not being fast. It was great to see kids running around and enjoying being outside.”

Sustainability is a key component of earning the Girl Scout Gold.

Danielle Gioffre has put together a 20-page “Summer Runnin’ Runners Guide” along with a four-page companion booklet on “How to Run a Summer Runnin’ Program,” which will be passed on to track coaches and physical education teachers and National Honors Society students at local schools in Winslow and other local surrounding towns. Danielle has had such a positive response that she is eager to see this program run again next year.

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