Published On Jun 18, 2018 in 
PECO Culture

Colleen Johnson is a runner. Beyond keeping her “fit”, she enjoys it and sets a steep personal goal each year for miles. She is also passionate about volunteering. Colleen serves as Senior Vice President at Phillips Edison, but she still finds time to get involved with the community at various volunteer events, fundraisers, and races throughout Salt Lake City and Cincinnati. Recently, Colleen combined her passions for running and volunteering at the Girls on the Run 5K by helping out as a Running Buddy and providing support at the CREW Utah booth. Read her #PeopleofPECO story below.

Ah, the precious weekend. Time to wind-down and have fun, sleep in a little, and rejuvenate your body, mind and soul. Also, time to get up at 5:30 for a volunteer event. Wait. What? Are you crazy?!

And yet, that’s what I did on June 2, along with several hundred people, as I volunteered to help at the CREW Utah (Commercial Real Estate for Women) booth to support the Girls on the Run (“GOTR”) 5K event. Before the event, we created three unique tattoos that could be personalized for each girl. The tattoos said: “I run for”, “My hero is”, and “I am strong because” and then we wrote each girls’ answer on the tattoo they chose. The girls loved these and the booth was a non-stop bee-hive of activity.

Having missed my morning run (did I mention getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday?), I wore my running shorts and shoes hoping to get a run in after I was done volunteering. And then it hit me- maybe GOTR needed additional Running Buddies (adults that agree to run side-by-side with a girl and provide encouragement along the way). I found one of the GOTR leaders, inquired, and sure enough, they needed a buddy for one of the girls. Presto! I immediately became a Running Buddy – yeah!

I was introduced to Ally, who was the cutest little second grader, beaming and excited to conquer this race. Her face was painted with black marks under her eyes (like a professional athlete). The words “Girl Power” were proudly painted in pink across her forehead, her hair was adorned with ribbons; and, of course, she sported one of our tattoos.

When the race started, Ally took off, sprinting like Justify in the Kentucky Derby. Oh, no! How am I going to explain losing her to her parents? So, I too started to sprint, weaving in and out of the mass of runners and spotted her – whew! My saving grace was Ally’s running style, which I came to know over those 3.1 miles. She would sprint and then exhausted, walk for a while (thank goodness!). There was no in-between for Ally. She also poured more water over her head than she drank and then got worried that her face paint was smeared or the ribbons in her hair were not tied just right. I assured her both looked great.

We finished in 42 minutes. I just met this sweet girl an hour ago and yet a little lump formed in my throat as we crossed the finish line, arms raised in victory. I hugged her and told her how proud I was of her and how proud she should be of herself. She nodded and smiled brightly. She had set a goal and accomplished it. I felt blessed to be a little part of that.

We volunteer to help others but, in the end, we are the ones most rewarded. I encourage you all to find the time to volunteer. The rewards are many and the commitment of even an hour, as I can attest after my time with Ally, can make a world of difference. Get involved, make a difference, and experience the joy it brings to give back.

Colleen Johnson
Colleen Johnson
Senior Vice President, Phillips Edison Grocery Center REITs 1 and 2
Community Engagement
Women in Real Estate