The Board of Directors of Girls on the Run Vermont announced that Rachel Desautels has been named executive director, effective October 1. She will succeed Nancy Heydinger, who has been executive director since bringing the organization to Vermont in 1999.
“Rachel has played a vital role in expanding our program to more sites, enhancing the training and ongoing support to our volunteer coaches, and expanding our presence with the opening of a Williston office. The Board of Directors is proud and confident in Rachel’s leadership, commitment to our mission, and vision for the future of Girls on the Run Vermont,” says board chair Sybil Keefe, noting that the change is bittersweet. “When Nancy brought Girls on the Run to Vermont 20 years ago, who would have thought her vision and passion would grow from one location and 15 girls to 170 sites and 2,700 girls annually. Her leadership and commitment to this organization will have a lasting impact on not only the girls who have participated, but the thousands of coaches who have taught the curriculum and embraced the mission.”
Desautels volunteered as a GOTR coach at Williston Central School for two years before joining the GOTRVT staff as the northern Vermont program coordinator in 2014. She was then named statewide program manager in 2017. Desautels, a mother of two, coached her own daughter as a GOTR participant.
“I’m thrilled to take on the role of executive director and honored to lead Girls on the Run Vermont into the years ahead,” says Desautels. “What Nancy has spent years creating for our Vermont girls is priceless and I am filled with joy to continue building on our mission and helping to shape even more opportunities for our community of girls.”
For her part, Heydinger says her vision was always to step down after 20 years.
“Girls on the Run Vermont has a solid foundation and the timing is right for new direction. Our phenomenal staff, committed statewide board, and our tremendous community support add up to an organization that is highly regarded throughout the state. Girls on the Run Vermont has never been stronger,” she says, with a nod of gratitude to the thousands of Vermonters—coaches, board members, and 5K volunteers—who have helped it thrive. “Every day I get to share the joy of Girls on the Run with old and new friends—people who love our mission and are passionate about helping girls to be strong and confident.”
A familiar face to girls and coaches statewide, especially for her finish-line high fives at the end-of-season 5K events, Heydinger plans to stay involved with the organization as a volunteer herself.
Girls on the Run (GOTR) is an international non-profit program that educates girls ages 8 to 13 in the importance of physical and emotional health. Through running and games, GOTR helps girls learn greater self-confidence, a stronger sense of identity, a healthier body image, and a better sense of community. In the two decades Heydinger has been at the helm of GOTR Vermont, 45,000 girls statewide have participated in the program, under the coaching guidance of 6,000 volunteers.