Christy Thomas firmly believes every event that’s happened in her life has been for a reason.
“I just feel like everything I’ve done has opened up a door for me to get where I am today,” she said. “I think so many times we have to look at our life like that.”
Today, the 2004 Master of Social Work graduate serves as executive director and founder of Girls on the Run Heart of Kansas — a council of Girls on the Run International serving Sedgwick, Pratt, Kingman, Butler, Harvey, Reno, Sumner, Ellis, Saline, McPherson and Marion counties.
Girls on the Run is an organization dedicated to inspiring girls of all abilities to recognize their individual strengths, while building a sense of connection in a team setting. The program teaches critical life skills through lessons and physical activity and culminates in a 5K run.
Prior to finding her passion for the Girls on the Run organization, Thomas worked in hospice, for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and then for an outpatient mental health facility. Her experiences at each one prepared her for the role she has now, including by teaching her the importance of mental health and how to effectively fundraise.
Since learning of Girls on the Run, Thomas wanted to start a chapter in the Wichita area. Her chance to do so came in 2011. The year prior, she and a group of friends were in Chicago to run the Chicago Half Marathon. They were doing some shopping when Thomas came across a group of girls outside a store promoting Girls on the Run. It felt like a sign.
Later, after Thomas returned home, she set up a meeting with other interested women in the Wichita area to iron out details of how to get a local chapter set up. Thomas applied, secured financial support and, ultimately, got Girls on the Run Heart of Kansas Council up and running.
“Everything fell into place,” she said.
Thomas shared that Girls on the Run is 90% teaching girls confidence and how to love themselves and 10% running. Since it began in 2011, the chapter has served about 10,000 local girls.
Part of what Thomas loves about leading Girls on the Run is the opportunity to empower girls to live healthy, confident lives. She herself got into running in her early 30s. After she completed her first triathlon, Thomas was especially motivated.
“I thought, gosh, if we could give girls a feeling of how powerful it is to cross the finish line and know you’ve accomplished something that you worked so hard for, we could really be onto something,” Thomas said.
Today, seeing her Girls on the Run participants achieve something and teach them life lessons along the way is as rewarding as Thomas expected it to be.
“I love that I’m part of teaching girls at a very young age that we can all celebrate each other and be happy for each other,” she said. “The only way we’re going to change the world is if we’re all coming together. And that’s what we need to do, especially now.”
Thomas shared more of her journey on The Newman Bond podcast, which features professional speakers, alumni, students and other members of Newman’s network. To listen to the full episode, visit our Newman University YouTube channel or newmanu.edu/podcast.