BIO Girls of Crookston forge ahead

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    BIO Girls Crookston moved forward with their 2020 season despite the pandemic and this year’s participants have been thriving. One thing new is their service project of giving back to the Crookston community via the Small Business Development Center by collecting monetary sponsors for their running and physical activity.

    “By sponsoring a BIO Girl, you are encouraging her to be physically active, set and achieve goals, thereby, assisting with her self-esteem improvement,” the sponsor sheet read. “The money raised will be given back to the small businesses in the Crookston community as “service to others” is one of the pillars of the BIO Girls program.”

    BIO Girls anticipates participants to run the equivalent of approximately 12-20 miles over their six-week season, plus they’ll host a “Fun Run” as their season finale on Wednesday, August 19 near Ray Ecklund Complex (formally Highland Park Complex) so friends and family can cheer them on as they complete their running goal which is normally a 5K or 3.1 miles.

    Crookston mentors, which include Anita Gust, Christel Vigness, Annette Thompson, Andrea Wiesse, Linda Keller, and junior mentors Grace Smith and Mikayla Tahran, are working with over a dozen participants in grades 2-6 with a structure that includes devotions, large group lesson, small group immersion and physical activity. They’re also encouraging each BIO Girl to bring home documents from their journals to complete at-home running workouts, at-home alternative workouts, and accountability slips.

    Like other small groups and events, BIO Girls created a COVID Operations Plan and organizer, Anita Gust, says it’s working as they’ve been blessed with nice weather during their sessions so they can remain outdoors. During sessions, they complete health screenings, distance the participants, have hand sanitizer available, refrain from “high fives” and hugs, and don’t require a sign-in from parents like they have in the past.

    “(This year) has been a little different with it being only six weeks and not having the time to train for the 5k,” Gust explained. “We are thankful we have had beautiful weather and can be outside.”

    “I think the girls are happy to be with one another and be able to get together and do something,” she added. “That was the driving force behind deciding to move forward with it, even for the shortened season. Youth in our community needed something to do. I worry about the mental and social health of our society’s young girls, which is why a program like BIO Girls is so important!”


    BIO Girls is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based out of Fargo, North Dakota with sites in four states in the Midwest including North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. They aim to improve self-esteem of adolescent girls through empowerment of self and service to others. Their vision is “a world where self-acceptance empowers all girls to be their best, bold and beautiful selves, inside and out.”

    Their self-worth program serving girls in grades 2-6 combines life-skills lessons, Christian non-denominational devotions, small-group mentoring and non-competitive physical activity. BIO Girls is also an inclusive program welcoming girls of all demographics. In 2019, the organization provided nearly $10,000 worth of scholarships to professionally-referred participants and those in need of financial assistance.

    Crookston site sponsors for 2020 include the Crookston Running Club, Altru, TEARS, Ottertail Power Company, American Crystal Sugar Company, Rick and Annette Thompson, and the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks & Region Community Foundation.