She loves to run, and she wants to help other mothers feel good doing the same. Here’s how.

Stephanie Hughes, a Lebanon resident, founded Mothers Making Strides nine years ago. Pictured top to bottom, left to right are some of the Mothers Making Strides coaches: Kristen Godzala, Jessica Centers, Tammy Heyser, Angie Smith, Erin Coleman, Kelli Watson, Jennifer Grewe, Melodie Maddox, Lori Ransbottom, Lindsay Lamb, Becky Crowder, Stephanie Hughes, Angel Basse and Laura Kinsey. CONTRIBUTED

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Stephanie Hughes, a Lebanon resident, founded Mothers Making Strides nine years ago. Pictured top to bottom, left to right are some of the Mothers Making Strides coaches: Kristen Godzala, Jessica Centers, Tammy Heyser, Angie Smith, Erin Coleman, Kelli Watson, Jennifer Grewe, Melodie Maddox, Lori Ransbottom, Lindsay Lamb, Becky Crowder, Stephanie Hughes, Angel Basse and Laura Kinsey. CONTRIBUTED

Stephanie Hughes, a Lebanon resident, founded Mothers Making Strides nine years ago. She is a working mom who loves to run. She and her husband, Rob, have three children: Helea, Gia and Noah.

Nineteen women signed up for the Mothers Making Strides program the first year. Now, the Mothers Making Strides program trains about 80 women per year in a 14-week program. Many of them are training for their first 5K. There are new moms participating each year, but some of the moms come back every year.

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“Now, we try to grow our race, the Making Strides Together 5K. We try to get the word out, because the more we can get it out into the community, the more money we can raise and give to the kids through the Warriors BackPack program,” Hughes said.

Mothers Making Strides is a 14-week training program that runs January through April to help mothers within the Lebanon community to run in the annual Making Strides Together 5K. Participants in the program achieve physical goals and help to raise money for the Lebanon Warriors BackPack program.

Mothers Making Strides empowers women through relationships, exercise and community service. For more information, visit the Mothers Making Strides Facebook page. The Countryside YMCA partners with Mothers Making Strides to host the Making Strides Together 5K race each spring. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, May 19 at 9 a.m. the Countryside YMCA.

Q: Tell us about Mothers Making Strides?

A: About 10 years ago, we brought a chapter of Girls on the Run to Lebanon. It’s a national program for girls 3rd-8th grade. It’s a twelve-week program, very similar to ours, for girls. At the end, there is a 5K race. In that process of coaching those girls, there were some moms that said, “Why can’t there be a program like this for moms?” Then, Mothers Making Strides was born. We were talking with some of the leaders at the Countryside YMCA and our mission fits with their mission. We are not a YMCA program, but they generously let us host the program there every year, which is fantastic.

We were looking for a place to put our money into, and I met a guy that started the Warriors BackPack program. I went to one of the meetings, and decided it was a perfect cause to support. So, we’ve donated over $40,000, and we hope to continue to do that every year.

As moms, we feel like it’s important to take time out for ourselves, to be around other moms and set goals for ourselves. So that’s what it’s all about. Our mission is to reach women through friendship, exercise and community service. The YMCA has capacity for 80 women on Saturday mornings. We have two, one-hour sessions with 40 women in each session, and this year, we filled both sessions. We’d love to have more, but our space at the Y is at capacity. We have filled it again, which is awesome. The program runs every Saturday for 14 weeks. Women are divided into smaller groups with others who have similar goals, for example, if they are working mothers, or mothers who have never exercised before. Women are trained to walk, run or walk/run the 5K. Each group has two personal coaches. Mothers Making Strides is a Christian-based organization. The hour is divided into two segments; half for the Couch to 5K training on the indoor track, and the other half for devotions. We sit around, and we tackle subjects that mothers, women and wives in this day and age have to tackle. We talk about them, and we back some of those things up with Scripture. Basically, we want to help women realize their potential. If they set a goal for themselves, whether that’s a career goal, or a goal of being a mother, or an exercise goal, that if they actually take time out for themselves, and commit to themselves, that they can achieve anything. That’s what the program is. Running is secondary to the real mission of reaching moms, and getting them out of the house, to allow them to have time for themselves, to make new friendships, and try to be better. I think that’s what we’re all trying to be as moms. We have some amazing testimonies from women who have participated.

Q: Why did you want to support the Warriors BackPack program, specifically?

A: I feel like when we sit around and talk about Lebanon, at least with my friends, we live in this little bubble. We were really not aware of the economic need in the Lebanon City School District…We had no idea.

Everyone has been very grateful. I think it’s neat because we can raise awareness about the need and encourage everyone to donate. Anyone can donate to the Warriors BackPack program.

Q: What about this experience means the most to you?

A: On a spiritual level, it’s so amazing, because we were just a bunch of moms trying to get other moms to join us, so they could see what this could do for them. I’ve seen it grow so much, and I feel like it’s completely a God thing. He’s taken it from something that was small and important to something that has meant so much to so many people. I’m proud that we’ve been able to give so much money to the Warriors BackPack program, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to reach so many moms and help change their lives. That means everything to me. That’s why I keep doing it.

Q: How has the program impacted other moms?

A: Each year, we have a lot of new moms that participate, but we also have moms that come every year. We have moms that have done half marathons. So, they’re not coming for our training program. They’re coming, because it means so much more to them – the friendships and the fellowship. We love to spoil them. We feed them breakfast every Saturday morning. They get t-shirts and gifts with the money they paid for the program. The cost to participate in Mothers Making Strides is $50. There are new moms and returning moms every year.

Q: Why would you encourage other moms to get involved?

A: I would encourage other moms, because of friendships, the connections and relationships that they can make with other moms in the community. We have doctors and social workers come. Stay-at-home moms come. Every walk of life walks in, and you get to know more women. The more women you know and the more moms you know, the bigger support system you have, and the more effective you are as a mom. I know that from experience. The icing on the cake is a lot of these women finish their first 5K, which is really emotional for a lot of people.

Q: Who are some of the coaches?

A: Our coaches are Lee Ann Slaighterbeck, Melodie Maddox, Becky Crowder, Kelli Watson, Laura Kinsey, Amanda Scott, Erin Coleman, Angie Smith, Lori Ransbottom, Jessica Centers, Kristen Godzala, Jacki Tinti, Jennifer Grewe, Tammy Heyser, Angel Vasse, Bri Fitzgerald, Brandi Back, Lindsay Lamb and Chris Taylor.

Q: How can readers find out more information about the Making Strides Together 5K?

A: The Countryside YMCA partners with Mothers Making Strides to host the Making Strides Together 5K race each spring. The Making Strides Together 5K is open to everyone in the community. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, May 19 at 9 a.m. the Countryside YMCA. Participants can register for the race by signing up at the Countryside YMCA. We also have a Mothers Making Strides Facebook page, where we will post more information. They will also be able to sign up for the race at www.signmeup.com. Mother’s Making Strides usually gives about $5,000-$6,000 to the Warriors BackPack program each year. Typically, the Making Strides Together 5K draws about 200-250 participants. This year’s goal is to attract 350 participants.

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