- October 7, 2021
WINDERMERE Julia Paulsen, 9, a fourth-grader at Windermere Elementary, might not have known who Aaron Diaz was before running in the Disney Family Fun Run 5K Jan. 7, but more than 15,000 knew who she was after Diaz posted a picture of them at the run.
Julia partnered in the run with Diaz, a famous Mexican-American actor, by being one of five winners in the Girls on the Run Orlando video and essay contest held in late 2015. She also won a night at the Grand Floridian Resort and a one-day park pass with her brief answer to how Windermere Elementary's Girls on the Run team has helped her boldly pursue her dreams.
“It helps me meet new friends and be confident,” Julia said to sum her experience with Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that has teams of girls meet twice a week to learn life skills through interactive lessons, such as running games.
This 5K began at 6:30 a.m., so Julia and her mother, Judy, had to wake earlier than bright and early – well before sunrise – with a long but unforgettable day ahead of them.
“I ran at Epcot for the 5K and went to a dinner at the California Grill and saw the fireworks,” Julia said in a list of just a few aspects she enjoyed.
At the race start, the Paulsens and Diaz gathered at the front for pictures and were in line with the first runners released for the race, Judy said. Then Diaz ran with Julia the whole way, before she asked to stop at the finish line so Judy could cross with them, all together.
Julia likes running because it builds her strength, she said, having run in races held by Southwest Aquatics and at Lake Eola Park. For the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Julia was glad to have time with Diaz, but as one of four siblings, Julia was even gladder to have time with someone else.
“I liked spending time with my mom – without my siblings around,” she said.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]