According to urban dictionary.com, “beast mode” refers to a hyper, energetic state of mind. And let’s face it, sometimes that’s what it takes to change into workout gear and lace up athletic shoes for a training run at the end of a long day.
David & Margaret Youth and Family Services Clinical Therapist Kathleen Harkness created Team Beast Mode for teenage girls in the agency’s on-campus group foster homes who have embraced running as a way to keep fit and de-stress, as well as set healthy and fun goals. Team members must meet specified behavior criteria to be eligible for the twice-weekly training runs.
The team grew out of “two truths and a lie,” a game that Harkness used as an icebreaker for a new group of girls in a therapy session last year. One of her own “truths” was that she runs, which piqued the interest of one girl who wanted to train for a 5K race. Harkness worked with the teen, who completed the Girls on the Go 5K in Bonelli Park last September.
A group of residents went to cheer their friend on and they too caught the running bug, so it was natural to form a club to help them stay motivated. San Dimas’ Turkey Trot at Bonelli Park last November was the first event they did as a group. Soon after, they received a donation of New Balance hats with lights and reflectors for their evening workouts, along with matching Team Beast Mode shirts.
Where did their off-the-wall team moniker come from? “I gave them a list of 20 possible names that I came up with from the Internet, and they picked that one,” says Harkness, who escorts the girls during their workouts. “They chant it at the end of their runs.” Their workouts are indeed energetic, starting with stretching that sometimes morphs into spontaneous dancing. A cloudburst caught them during one of their recent runs through the streets of La Verne, sending the team into screams of delight.
The girls are united in citing weight loss as a reason for running, but some go beyond that. “It makes me feel free and gives me energy,” says Leilani, 16, “and it gives me something to do.” Her teammate Star, 17, cites the sense of accomplishment she got from finishing the Turkey Trot. And Sandra, 18, says, “Before I joined I was already exercising, because I like to work out and stay fit.”
Team Beast Mode is now targeting the upcoming Run or Dye 5K at Dodger Stadium on March 9. Participants are pelted with handfuls of nontoxic colored powder during the race and end up looking pretty psychedelic by the time they cross the finish line – something that, not surprisingly, appeals to these high-spirited girls.
David & Margaret Youth and Family Services serves more than 1,000 clients annually through a comprehensive range of services, including a residentially-based program for adolescent girls, shelter care for adolescent girls and boys, a foster family agency, adoption assistance, mental health services, treatment for learning disabilities, a transitional living program, school- and community-based education and mentoring programs. Additionally, it has a chemical program that is certified by the State of California for residents who are recovering from substance abuse. The Joan Macy School, a specialized nonpublic on-grounds school, opened in 1989 and serves agency residents, as well as students referred from surrounding school districts.