Empowering girls through sport at Ottawa’s TD Place

There were cheers and high fives for each girl who crossed the finish line at TD Place on Saturday afternoon.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” said Bushra Al-Dainy, stepping onto the field for the first time ever. “I thought it was going to be a small field, but it’s huge.”

She joined 80 other girls for a 5 kilometre run equalling 12 laps on the giant field, for “Girls on the Run”, an afterschool program aimed at developing social, emotional and physical life skills through sport. 

“Running is the vehicle for which we engage the girls but it’s really about the life skills,” said Janice Barresi, executive director of the OSEG Foundation. “(this) teaches them social skills they can thrive in life.”

The 10-week program focuses on five schools from across the city in priority neighbourhoods. Saturday’s event also brought out family and friends.

“She’s worried about finishing first not last but I’m like don’t worry, it’s about having fun and having a great time,” said mom Natasha Simpson while cheering on her daughter from the sidelines. 

“Just the support to give her a cheer up,” said Ala Abu-Obaid, hoping this event would allow his daughter, Zena, to meet new friends and boost her confidence.

As Al-Dainy crossed the finish line, her best friend Shakchi Khatiwoda wrapped her in a hug. Congratulating the 10-year-old on a great run.

“We’re best friends,” said Khatiwoda. “She makes sure I never give up. We are our own running buddies.””

Both carrying the lessons they’ve learned through the run group.

“Like how to support each other, be kind and nice to each other,” said Al-Dainy. 

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