Sole Sisters: Running to raise money, change minds

Sole Sisters Samantha Rebowe, left, and Katherine Fremin, right, race hand-in-hand with Karin Wright, 10, a Dufrocq Elementary School student, as they approach the finish line at the 3.1 mile Girls on the Run 5K race at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center,  Dec. 8, 2012.  Sole Sisters of LSU is an organization of sorority women, many of whom are running in a half-marathon in January to raise money for Girls on the Run. Sole Sisters members helped out, and some ran in, this Girls on the Run race.
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BY KAREN MARTIN

Special Sections editor

On Jan. 20, Carley Wahlborg and between 200 and 300 of her LSU sorority sisters will run the Half Marathon of The Louisiana Marathon.

They’re doing it to raise money for Girls on the Run.

They’re doing it to foster healthy living in college-age women.

They’re doing it because it’s hard.

They’re doing it because they want to change the way some people think about sororities.

“We could have hosted an event to raise money,” says Wahlborg. “We could have done a 5K, but we wanted to truly show we’d taken a major step to a healthy lifestyle, and we wanted to show we could truly make a sacrifice for something we believe in … We want to fight the stereotypical thinking that a sorority girl wouldn’t be involved in something like this.”

Wahlborg gets passionate, her voice racing as she talks about changing that image.

“One of our main focuses is to get out into the community and to push back the boundaries of what people think sororities are,” she says. “We tell our girls that perceptions won’t change unless we start changing our conversations. We have to change ourselves and change our actions. One way we say we can do that is by stepping beyond what we have been doing and working toward a healthy lifestyle.”

The 20-year-old public relations major and Kappa Delta member ignited this change two years ago when she started Sole Sisters as a philanthropic effort for her own sorority to help out Girls on the Run of Greater Baton Rouge, a youth development program which combines an interactive curriculum and running to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls.

The sorority made bandannas with inspirational phrases.

But that wasn’t enough, says Wahlborg.

So last fall, about 50 KDs decided to step it up and run in the half-marathon, part of the inaugural Louisiana Marathon held in January 2012. At www.thelouisianamarathon.com, groups can register with Crowdrise to fundraise for their favorite charities.

“We raised about $1,500 for Girls on the Run,” says Wahlborg. “Because we had so much success, we believed we needed to expand our mission to the rest of the sororities on campus. Sole Sisters of LSU was formed, and now we have 10 sororities involved and 300 members.”

The fundraising goal of $3,100 for the Jan. 20 event is more than double their first-time efforts.

The coeds also want to set good examples for the Girls on the Run girls. But, truth be told, it kind of happened the other way around.

The Girls on the Run program, which costs $165 per girl, stresses pre-teen’ physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. The idea is to provide girls with tools to make positive decisions and avoid risky adolescent behaviors. At the end of each season, the girls complete a 5K run as a group.

“They really were an inspiration to us,” says Wahlborg, who with a number of other Sole Sisters were on hand for the Girls on the Run 5K on Dec. 8.

Wahlborg says she’s surprised by the number of sorority members who have become involved with the program, and by their commitment, even from those who have never run before.

Wahlborg, who ran cross country in high school and has done a marathon, says Sole Sisters offers three different training programs, for beginners, intermediates and experienced runners.

“The beginners, which is a walk/run program, is the most popular,” she says.

And the practice sessions, she adds, have turned out to have benefits beyond getting in shape.

“One of the best things,” she says, “is that you might join a group and know no one. Then you run the entire lake and you learn about someone and about their life. It’s a way to meet someone you might never have gotten to know. If you’re in different sororities, it’s difficult to meet everyone. But here you do and you realize this person is very similar to me, and you have lots of similar interests.”

And, says Wahlborg, you just might discover the joy of running.

“It’s my peace time,” she says. “I think it keeps me balanced. It’s a stress reliever. It’s a time I just need to be with my friends or by myself. It allows me time. You have nothing else to do but run and think. It’s very nice.”

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