Roo and I recently finished our second season of Girls on the Run – she as a runner and I as a coach. If you aren’t familiar with the program, their mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident through running. Whether she’s a runner or not, if your daughter is between 3rd and 8th grades, this program is for her.
As a coach I’ve seen how Girls on the Run empowers and inspires girls. I saw the shyest of girls become just a little more bold. I saw self-doubt turn in to self-confidence. I saw girls who began the season as total strangers become a system of support and encouragement for one another. I saw girls do things they never thought they could do. And there’s just nothing like it.
As a mother, I became closer to my daughter by running with her. I become more in tune with her thoughts, her emotions and the struggles that she and her friends are facing as young girls. It was through a Girls on the Run activity (during our last meeting of the season) that I learned that my daughter had been bullied at school…my daughter, the girl who gets along with everyone. She fits in with the girls. She fits in with the boys. The younger kids look up to her. The older kids like to hang out with her. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that a group of boys (some of whom she considered her friends) had been calling her fat and that for a couple of months she had kept this hurtful, awful secret to herself. I have no idea how long it would have gone on had this particular activity not prompted our conversation. When we sat down as a family to discuss the situation Chris and I told our amazing girl that we knew three things with absolute certainty.
1) She is absolutely beautiful and perfect just the way she is.
2) We love her unconditionally, we will always have her back and we will do everything in our power to make this stop because nobody deserves to be treated this way.
3) It is a scientifically proven fact that most third grade boys are big dummy heads who think they’re funny but really have no idea what kind of impact their words have on others.
We talked through her feelings and together we made a plan. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, was going to break our girl’s spirit so we chose to focus on all the things she IS. She is beautiful. She is smart. She is strong. She is creative. She is determined. She is an athlete. She is an amazing girl. She is so many things I wish I could be.
Girls on the Run gave her the confidence to question the hurtful words that were said to her and it gave her the courage to talk to us about it. It was my training and my experience as a coach that gave me the tools to help our sweet girl navigate these rough, emotional waters. Together, we spoke to her teacher, the principal…even some of the parents. And each of the boys had to apologize to her. I’m so proud of the way she handled it all. And when it was all said and done she still firmly believes she’s a beautiful, smart, strong, creative, determined, athletic, amazing girl.
A few weeks after the season ended Roo and I were invited to attend a luncheon where Molly Barker, the founder of Girls on the Run, would be speaking. I don’t know who was more excited – me or Roo. We put on our favorite Girls on the Run shirts, laced up our sneakers and headed to the luncheon to hear Molly speak. But Molly didn’t just speak. She truly engaged. Before the luncheon even began Molly could be found roaming around the foyer talking with girls, taking pictures with them, laughing with them and just…being a girl.
More than once, her speech moved me to tears. She spoke of the importance of girls not getting stuck in the “girl box”, which she describes as the imaginary place many girls go around adolescence, where cultural and societal stereotypes limit choices as well as opportunities. She reminded our girls that only they have the power to be themselves. She has a true passion for inspiring and celebrating girls and it just happens to be done through running, but to Molly, what Girls on the Run is really about is LOVE. Is there anything more powerful than love?
After the luncheon was over Molly hung out and signed autographs for the girls. Roo had her shirt signed and she even had Molly sign something for Lucee, our soon to be Girl on the Run.
Check out their matching bracelets. Last season we had our friends at Bands for Brothers make pink and green bands for our team. We had an extra one so Roo gave it to Molly, who said she would proudly wear it every day.
Molly’s message to Roo was “Keep on being…YOU!”
We left that luncheon feeling like we were on top of the world. We are Girls on the Run and we are unstoppable.
I was so moved by Molly’s speech and everything she stood for that I tracked her down on Twitter and Facebook where her posts continue to inspire me as both a coach and a parent. She shares amazing insight and conversation starters that have opened up a lot of dialogue and caused our family to really think about the impact we can have on the world and in the lives of others. I feel like Girls on the Run has inspired and empowered me just as much as it has my daughter and we’re both excited for the next season to start.
If you’ve thought about volunteering your time, please consider volunteering for Girls on the Run of Greater Kansas City. I promise you’ll get just as much as you give.
As our friends at Girls on the Run say…
We run like girls. Try to keep up.