Kasey MacNair, Girls on the Run San Diego’s executive director, just completed her first year on the job. We thought it would be a great time to learn more about our leader, what drew her to Girls on the Run San Diego and what fuels her passion for the organization.
The native of Ventura is married with a 4-year-old son and lives in Encinitas. She went to college and grad-school in Colorado, earning a master’s degree in psychology counseling and developing a passion for helping people to reach their personal and professional goals. She left Colorado in 2007 and moved to Southern California. She joined GOTRSD with 12 years of nonprofit and program management experience.
How did you first learn about GOTR and get involved with the organization?
When I moved to San Diego County, I was looking to volunteer with children doing something outdoors. As a runner who enjoys participating in races that benefit the local community, I was hoping to find an organization where I could connect with children through physical activity. I found GOTRSD through a Google search. In 2010 I volunteered as a Head Coach and found GOTRSD to be a perfect fit! My personal values completely aligned with the mission and I loved watching our girls grow throughout the season.
What is it about the organization that appealed to you originally?
GOTRSD positively impacts several areas of young girls’ lives. We encourage positive emotional, social and physical development. I love how our organization fosters friendships, self-confidence and strength among young girls. Our girls get to explore their own beliefs in a positive and safe environment during an age that can be challenging. All of our lessons are taught through fitness and the girls have a blast while learning important life lessons.
How does GOTRSD relate to your experiences as a runner or athlete both when you were a girl the age of our members, and now as an adult?
My parents kept me involved in many different sports growing up. Playing on a team taught me how to work well with others, set goals, and ultimately work hard to achieve the results I strived for. As an adult, I began running for exercise. After completing my first half-marathon, my love for running continued to grow. Today, running means more to me than just exercise. It is a way for me to maintain balance and stay active and connected with the community.
What interested you in the ED job?
Since I began volunteering, I have been impressed with the organization. Serving an average of a thousand girls per year, organizing two 5Ks, and providing ongoing support to the coaches, I knew this was an organization I wanted to grow with. I had several years of nonprofit management experience, so moving into an Executive Director position aligned with my career goals. GOTRSD has an incredible reputation and I am honored to have the role of the ED.
What have been the one or two biggest surprises on the job?
I have met many good friends through volunteering at GOTRSD. I continue to be amazed by the incredible and talented individuals our organization attracts: from staff to Board Members to our committed volunteers—I continue to meet some of San Diego’s finest people.
As you enter your second year on the job, what’s your goal?
I am really focused on site expansion. One of the best compliments I have received about our program came from a school principal. She stated, “Ever since GOTRSD has been at our school, I have seen a positive shift among our student culture. This program teaches our students how to be kind to each other and empowers them to make a difference here at school and their community.” Our staff will be working toward retaining our existing partner schools and expanding into new ones that will enable us to reach more girls.
How can the GOTRSD community help to grow the organization?
To start a new site, we rely on our incredible and dedicated volunteer coaches. We are always looking for fun and energetic coaches to assist us with launching a new site and coaching in a Head Coach or Assistant Coach capacity. Anyone who is interested in making a difference in young girls lives should contact us. We provide all the training and support they need. It is extremely rewarding. We also have many other volunteer positions available at any time of the year.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is 5K Day! It’s a celebratory event that culminates the season and the hard work of all of our girls. I love seeing all of our teams come together and achieve a goal that they have worked so diligently to attain. Completing a 5k empowers our girls to be successful in other parts of their lives. There is a lot of singing, dancing and tears of joy as they cross the finish line. I always end that day with an overwhelming sense of pride…for our girls, our coaches and our staff.
Can you share an anecdote/experience that you’ve had with GOTRSD that resonates with you and offers other some insights into what this program accomplishes?
During my first season as a Head Coach, I was volunteering at a low-income school. We had a “Shoe Fairy” attend one of our practice sessions. Her job was to get the shoe sizes of every girl on the team and return with brand-new running shoes for each girl. When she arrived with the shoes, all of the girls quickly put them on. It reminded me of Christmas morning as there was so much excitement in the air. One girl came up to me at the end of practice and said, “Coach Kasey, these shoes make me run faster…watch.” I watched her sprint to the other side of the track and back with a huge smile on her face. And she was right…she really did run faster.
At GOTRSD, we provide all of our scholarship teams with a new pair of running shoes. We have found that it gives our girls proper footwear for running and an extra boost of confidence.
What do you wish more people knew about GOTRSD?
Many people think GOTRSD is a running program. Although we do encourage running, we do so much more. All of our lessons incorporate an activity that involves movement. Often times, our girls just think they are playing games rather than exercising. It is truly a life-changing program that encourages girls to embrace their differences and pursue their dreams!