Kathryn “Katie” Sandoe will transition from board chair to executive director of Girls on the Run of Lancaster and Lebanon Sept. 1.

Sandoe, who served on the organization’s board for seven years, follows Carrie Johnson, who brought GOTR to Lancaster as the founder and executive director 12 years ago.

“My journey with GOTR started several years ago,” Sandoe explained, “I was studying for my master’s degree, and I was looking at the media. I was curious about what our culture was telling women and girls about leadership. After looking at some data and studies, I realized there’s a shift in how they view themselves and their roles in society. Middle school is the age range when we see that significant shift happen with how girls view themselves and their roles in society. They begin to adapt to cultural expectations and pressures. One of the negative effects is their disinterest in leadership–particularly political leadership.”

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She said she was wondering if there was a way to “instill in girls the confidence to become whatever they want whether it’s being a mom, an astronaut or president. Then I met Carrie Johnson and learned about GOTR, which helps girls through the formative years of their lives. Now Carrie is passing the leadership baton to me.”

Johnson said Sandoe’s personal mission is to help people live purpose-driven lives and champion the advancement of women and girls. “It is in beautiful alignment with the vision of GOTR. I know she will champion our mission, lift our girls’ voices high, and passionately lead our staff in collaborative and engaging ways. I will look forward to walking alongside Katie, initially, and then cheer GOTR on from behind and will look forward to being a star power ambassador for the organization in years to come,” Johnson said, “Katie has the talents to purposefully lead GOTR into the future so that our mission will continue to reach thousands of girls and those who love them for years into the future. The supersonic energy around GOTR’s future when our community synergistically comes together to lift up our girls is alive and well, and I know, without a doubt, Katie’s leadership will lift our girls and organization to new heights.”

“Katie is a bright light within the Girls on the Run family and within the Lancaster County community,” said board chair Denise Elliott, “I look forward to working alongside her to continue lifting the important mission of Girls on the Run and empowering each participant the program touches. Each and every girl on the run, coach, liaison, community partner, volunteer and stakeholder can take comfort knowing that the future of this amazing organization is in extremely capable and dedicated hands.”

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Sandoe describes GOTR as “this amazing data-driven program that helps girls in their formative years.”

“Part of our vision is to ensure that every girl knows she can achieve her true potential. What a girl can do with her body and mind is limitless. We want the girls to know and appreciate the gifts they have; to understand that they can do anything when they believe in themselves. It’s also about community—loving one another and lifting one another up,” she said.

In this file photo from 2019, Amanda Wenrich, reading specialist at Ebenezer Elementary School, runs a lap with one of the Girls on the Run during a practice on campus. When the photo was taken, the team was practicing for an upcoming 5K at the school. (Barb West)

GOTR is a 10-week program focusing on girls in third to fifth grade; it was shortened to 8-weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We focus on that age group since they are starting to experience some of the social pressures, but are still open to uninhibited learning and growing, especially from adults (their coaches in this program). It’s about helping them identify and activate their power now to help overcome what they will inevitably face. This is personal agency at work,” Sandoe said.

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Each week there are pre-planned lessons and some type of physical activity—each week the vigor and length of the physical activity increases. The culmination is a 5K race, and each team has a practice 5K prior to the actual event. Each girl has a buddy to support and encourage her. “The finish line at a GOTR 5K gives you goosebumps—there’s such pride and joy on the faces of the girls as they finish. They can run, walk or a combination of the two,” Sandoe explained, “Completing the race means they’ve achieved a goal, and that’s powerful. And, they’re just beginning their journey.”

GOTR also has a middle school program, Heart & Sole, for girls in sixth through eighth grade GOTR fosters an inclusive environment and offers the opportunity for all girls to participate, regardless of financial situation, through scholarships.

“I wish this program were around when I was growing up. It helps girls build confidence, character, and connections as well as physical, social and emotional competencies. It also inspires girls to make a meaningful contribution to the community since each team does a community service project,” Sandoe said of GOTR.

She was most recently the head of communication and public affairs at Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA). Sandoe also owns a coaching/consulting business and teaches at Penn State Harrisburg. She is a local leader, serving on several boards including the YWCA Lancaster and on the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce.

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