The University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing is lacing up to join Girls on the Run Memphis for the organization’s 5K celebration.
Dr. Crystal Walker is a full-time assistant professor at UTHSC who also earned her Masters of Science and Ph.D. in nursing, as well as her DNP as a family nurse practitioner from the college. She also proudly serves as an advisor for the UTHSC College of Nursing Black Student Association.
Walker recalls discovering Girls on the Run through her friend, CeCera Richmond’s, Instagram post. Richmond, board member and Running Buddy of the organization, had encouraged her followers to donate funds in support of the program’s Whitehaven team.
Walker said she was eager to help the team because of her and her husband’s affinity for the Whitehaven community. Walker’s husband grew up in the area, and Walker had previously lived in Whitehaven.
After donating toward the team, she decided she wanted to extend her support for Girls on the Run by becoming involved.
“As a nurse and as someone who is very passionate about physical activity, I thought that this was an organization I could stand behind,” she said.
Executive Director of GOTR Memphis Joanna Lipman collaborated with Walker to form a partnership and sponsorship between the UTHSC College of Nursing and the nonprofit, she said.
Walker said the college’s nursing students provide assistance as Running Buddies and volunteers who operate a first-aid tent located at the 2 mile marker of the organization’s 5K race. She also commends UTHSC faculty members for their donations which allow for nursing students to become involved.
Additionally, the College of Nursing collects items for goodie bags given to GOTR girls on their race day, including pencils, Kleenex and hand sanitizers.
Walker said the nursing students benefit from the partnership because of the importance of giving back to the community they serve in.
“I’m so glad to know there’s an organization that caters to these young girls as they’re maturing,” she said. “We encourage our students to give back to communities, and finding an organization that they can identify with makes it that much easier.”
Walker admires the mission, purpose and element of physical activity that Girls on the Run incorporates into its 10-week interactive program. As a nurse, she said, she understands how much physical activity can play a role in a person’s mental health.
Walker said she hopes to carry on the legacy of the late Dr. Melody Waller, a co-advisor of the college’s black student association, Girls on the Run volunteer and close friend.
“She is deeply missed by the black student association, and I will certainly miss her at the next Girls on the Run 5K,” Walker said.
This spring, the UTHSC has recruited more volunteers than ever, including individuals within the Student Nursing Association and the college’s student government, she said. In future seasons, Walker hopes to further foster the connection between its nursing students and Girls on the Run.
“It’s good to see people from different walks of life come together and put on such an excellent event for these girls,” she said.