The girls took a break on February 10 to relax and enjoy a mini spa and some new manicures before getting their hearts pumping again with a Zumba class taught by Jennifer MacDonnell.

On February 10, the Town of Port Hawkesbury hosted the first in a series of events designed to get girls moving while celebrating themselves and each other.

Approximately 31 girls ranging in age from 11 to 14 took part in the “Hearts on Fire Girls’ Summit” at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. The town received funding for the wellness program through the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

Corene Gillis, physical activity coordinator for the Town of Port Hawkesbury, said the program is designed to get elementary and junior school-aged girls more active.

Gillis developed the summit in partnership with Jennifer MacDonnell, who facilitated the event. The morning included Zumba and yoga classes, as well as activities to promote positive mental health and community building. Participants took part in a mini-spa, guided meditation practice and positive affirmation diaries, which MacDonnell said was a chance for them to move past negative thinking and focus on their most valued qualities.

MacDonnell said the day provided attendees with a much-needed break from the distractions of their daily lives and allowed them to focus on wellness, both mental and physical.

She added that the summit also helped the girls build new friendships after bonding through fitness, kindness and sharing.

“After the summit, I went to a local establishment for lunch and about 10 of the girls were there,” MacDonnell recalled. “They were waving and smiling at one another. This is how community is built.”

Anyone who missed the summit had the opportunity to participate in the town’s four-week “Feel the Love” program for girls. The workshops have been meeting Wednesday evenings at the Civic Centre since February 21. Like the summit earlier this month, they include a strong physical activity component, as well as karaoke, dancing, and other fun.

These workshops and summits are an excellent way to improve the physical well-being and mental health of young people, while reminding them of their self-worth.

This makes for well adjusted and successful teenagers, adults and residents; a winning formula for any society.

Not just about creating better communities and citizens, most importantly, these programs can address problems associated with emotional distress and poor physical health, which have been affecting young people, especially girls, for far too long.

Eating disorders, negative body image, abusive relationships, sexual assault, self-harm, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, are some examples of what girls and women are facing, and this summit and workshops can provide them with information to make healthy decisions and develop coping skills.

The town is providing support to raise strong, healthy, independent, and compassionate girls and young women; an invaluable investment in the future of the community.