When teachers Laura Shirkey and Melissa Grimmett started Sole Sisters at Winchester Trail Elementary School, they thought maybe 80 girls would be interested.

When teachers Laura Shirkey and Melissa Grimmett started Sole Sisters at Winchester Trail Elementary School, they thought maybe 80 girls would be interested.

They were surprised when 154 girls in third through fifth grades became active participants. They meet twice a week to run together.

Shirkey and Grimmett started Sole Sisters to help girls at the school gain more self-confidence. Shirkey has a 16-year old daughter and Grimmett has a 15-year- old niece, so they knew the struggles that young girls experience.

"We thought this club may give some girls something positive and empowering," Shirkey said. "We are trying to show the girls that they can do anything they set their mind to. They control their own destiny by their choices, not others."

To join the club, the elementary students need a pair of running or tennis shoes, a water bottle and a willingness to try something new.

Sophia Noffsinger, 10, said she decided to join Sole Sisters because she thought it would be fun to run with her friends and teachers. The fourth-grader also found out it was a good opportunity to make new friends.

"It allows me to run with the fifth-graders and the third-graders so that we are not just running with our grade," Noffsinger said. "Some of my friends are in different grades and you get to know more people that are just not in your grade."

Shirkey said more than 26 teachers and numerous volunteers have devoted their time to make the club possible.

"We had to organize the girls into 16 groups with an adult leader in each group to make it manageable," she said.

Each group has a team name and starts its session with a focus question or discussion topic for the day. Some of the topics include nutrition, confidence, grit and encouragement.

"We want the girls to have an opportunity to build friendships with others and talk about things that relate to young girls today," Shirkey said. "We are hoping that each girl will take something away from these discussions and form some bonds that will help them when they are in need of a friend."

After the discussion sessions, the girls run in preparation for a 5K race that will be held at the school on May 19.

The Winchester Trail PTO has provided the club with money to purchase healthy snacks for the girls to eat when they finish each session. Each girl who finishes the program this year and participates in the race will also receive a T-shirt from the PTO.

"It has been a great experience so far and I am so excited to see the sense of pride on those girls' faces when they finish the 5K race on May 19," Shirkey said.

"It is my hope that these girls will carry this feeling of empowerment with them and help them to positively deal the many difficult decisions and situations they will experience as they grow up," she added.