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New Ulm Medical Center

Program keeps Girls and Moms on the Move

These days, Carmen Wenner and her 12-year-daughter Tessa are no strangers to the sport of running. But it wasn't always that way.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever become a runner," said the 40-year-old New Ulm resident.

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Carmen Wenner (right) and her daughter Tessa at the Goldy’s Run in Minneapolis this spring. The Wenners began running together through the Girls and Moms on the Move program, through Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project.

Today Wenner and Tessa have a number of 5K runs under their belts. Running is now a regular part of their lives. Their newfound athletic passion was sparked thanks to a local effort to engage moms and young girls in healthy and active lifestyles.

Girls and Moms on the Move is an initiative of the Heart of New Ulm Project. The program works to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and to promote healthy lifestyle choices in the community.

For Wenner, Girls and Moms on the Move not only turned her into a regular runner, it provided time to bond with her daughter.

"It's so nice to have time to connect away from all the distractions," Wenner said. "We talked about nothing and we talked about everything. It really can change your relationship with your child."

The program began in 2009 with a grant from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, said Rebecca Fliszar.

Fliszar runs the physical activity program. She is also a registered dietitian at Heart of New Ulm. The free six-week curriculum is offered twice a year and targets young girls ages 6 to 12 years old and their female guardians. The program is designed to welcome participants of all athletic levels, Fliszar said.

"It's an opportunity for young girls to learn how to become physically active, share time with their moms and learn new things," she said. "It puts moms and girls on a good path toward heart health."

To date, 34 pairs have participated in Girls and Moms on the Move. Participants meet once a week for six weeks at Nehls Park. They embark on different running or walking routes throughout New Ulm. The weekly meetings include healthy snacks and an educational session on topics such as nutrition or self-esteem. The end goal of the six-week program is for teams to complete a 5K walk or run.

Fliszar said many of the girls and moms who participate continue to run and stay in touch after completing the program.

"You don't have to be a superstar runner to enjoy it and it's a great way to do something together as a family," she said.

Wenner noted that as schools cut back on recess and physical education, "it's important that we as parents take the reins and make sure our children learn what a healthy lifestyle is." Wenner added that she runs about four times a week now and is always a happier person after a good run.

"When you're running that 5K and the community comes out to cheer you on and you cross the finish line — I don't care how old you are. That's a good feeling," Wenner said. "I'd highly recommend [Girls and Moms on the Move] to anyone."

The next Girls and Moms on the Move session will be June 13 to July 18, Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. in Nehls Park. Cost for the program is $25 for a mother/daughter pair, which includes a Girls and Moms on the Move hat for each participant and snacks each week. Cost for a mother and two daughters is $35. Cost to register for the 5k race will be additional. To register, visit the Heart of New Ulm Project website.