County women recognized for achievements

Mari and Yesenia Bracero who were honored at the Merion in Cinnaminson on Oct. 10 for the “Remarkable Breakfast.” Submitted Photo

More than 90 Girls on the Run (GOTR) coaches, girls, community leaders, sponsors, and local businesswomen and men gathered at the Merion Golf Club in Cinnaminson recently for the “Remarkable Breakfast.”

The event, which celebrated the strengths of girls and women, raised approximately $10,000 to support existing GOTR program sites, as well as their “Every Girl Can Run!” initiative, which is aimed to expand the reach of GOTR in Burlington County and surrounding areas by making it possible for more girls to take part in the program.

A GOTR participant, Yesenia Bracero, and her mother, Mari, shared with event attendees about the impact of Girls on the Run. Mari described how Yesenia, born a premature baby, overcame some early health challenges, but struggled with relationships and low self-esteem in elementary school. This changed when Yesenia started Girls on the Run.

“When we found ‘Girls on the Run’ three years ago, it was a life-changer, for the whole family,” Mari said.

Yesenia spoke about how GOTR gave her life-long friends and confidence, as well as opportunities to serve others and have fun.

“’Girls on the Run’ helped me to make excellent friends,” Yesenia said. “It helped me so much with my emotions and it motivated me to be a better person and to help others. When I ran my first 5K, I ran without stopping. I also improved my time at each race. The coaches teach valuable lessons to use throughout our lives.”

Mari praised the program’s volunteer coaches and teams of girls.

“This group of girls from all over take everyone in no matter what differences or weaknesses they may have. Everyone gets along, and they all push each other to be better,” she said.

The keynote speaker got involved at “Girls on the Run” through serving as a volunteer coach. She courageously shared how the program’s curriculum had a powerful message for her and that her experience teaching it empowered her to deal with a difficult relationship.

“There was something about the matter of factness of teaching 8-10 year-old girls how wrong this [bullying] is and in teaching them to believe in themselves that broke through the thick wall of denial that I had built up for so long,” she said. “I knew that the ‘Girls on the Run’ values were in alignment with my values and that no matter how challenging my next steps were, honoring those values for myself and for my daughters was more important than playing it safe for the sake of peace.”

She shared her concerns about how society teaches girls to be nice, friendly and helpful without also imparting lessons that provide the balancing attributes of self-respect, self-confidence and self-awareness. This sends a message to girls that they need to be pleasing and accommodating to be accepted.

“Teaching young girls to know, trust and believe in themselves is one of the best ways to help them make choices that honor themselves and avoid people and circumstances that don’t respect or value them as they should,” she said.

The Lindsay Nigro Memorial Scholarship, providing a program scholarship to an outstanding participant in memory of Girls on the Run Coach Lindsay Nigro, was presented to Brenna Boss.

The “Remarkable Breakfast” was supported by event sponsors CRA Financial Services, LLC, Bowman & Company, LLP, Thirty-One Gifts, AXA Advisors, and the Vincentown Branch of Investors Bank.

Girls on the Run New Jersey East was established in 2000 and has impacted more than 10,000 girls throughout Burlington, Mercer, Essex, Morris and Union counties. For more information, visit