Mentorship & Advocacy Org. Girls On The Run Expands To All 50 States Across America

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If you haven’t yet heard about Girls On The Run, where have you been?!? But seriously, that’s why we’re here, to share powerful stories about women and girls who are changing the world in inspiring ways. GOTR is an international non-profit organization started by founder Molly Barker in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1996. That first year they had only 13 girls join, and to date they have served over 1 million girls!

In 2000 the organization went international, and more recently, now has a presence in all 50 United States. In 2015 alone they engaged over 185,000 girls in activities that foster social, mental and physical wellness. The 20 year old group has 227 council offices around the US today, and is helped by over 100,000 volunteers.

The organization engages girls from 3rd to 8th grade, a critical time in a youth’s life, especially for girls when they are a prime target for media messages, social pressures, and tactics that seek to break down their confidence. What GOTR does it create a community which fosters confidence, develop physical wellness, create meaningful connections with their peers as well as adults, and engage girls with the idea of giving back to society.

A ten week program encompasses all of this, and also trains girls to compete in a 5k race. The connection between physical, emotional, and social wellness is a one-of-a-kind teaching that we as a society are starting to realize is crucial in our development.

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A few years ago, the Atlantic ran a feature on Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) who has been instrumental in spreading awareness about mindfulness not just in the House of Representatives, but in other areas of society, including schools in his home state. After going through a period of burnout in his own career (he has been in Congress since 2003) he went to a mindfulness retreat and returned to Washington D.C a completely different, and more calm person.

Today he has successfully managed to implement a $1 million relaxation training in elementary schools in Ohio, sponsored a bill to increase the holistic-medicine offerings of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and has even written a book on the topic. The impact has been incredibly tangible, as kindergarten teachers across the state reported improved student behavior after adopting breathing techniques in their teaching.

“Mental discipline, focus, self-reliance, deep listening—these are fundamental skills that are essential to kids’ education. We yell at kids to pay attention, but we never teach them how to pay attention,” he said in the article.

Girls On The Run has become an important part of the overhaul of our kids’ emotional health and now that they are present in all 50 states, we can only imagine the effect they are going to have on millions of more girls. We’ve already seen how organizations like Girl Scouts and Girls Who Code are flipping the script on societal norms forced upon girls from a young age, and GOTR is part of this revolutionary movement.

The heart and soul of this organization becomes all the more clear when you learn about founder Molly Barker’s story. A single mother of two teenagers, she grew up in South Carolina with four older siblings and saw her mother go through an alcohol addiction. When Molly was 15, she too began drinking and it took hold of her life in a way she never imagined.

The drinking was just one piece of a puzzle which she assembled herself in a way to overcompensate for the shame, lack of confidence, and low-self-esteem which was growing inside her teenage mind and body. Interestingly, although she was drinking, Molly also started running with some friends and although the rest of her life was tumultuous, the feeling of being free while she pounded the pavement was her escape.

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Eventually she did get sober in her 30’s, and a mere three years later she founded GOTR as a way to help other young girls not fall into the same trap she did. In a powerful TEDx Talk she gave in 2013, Molly emotionally explains just how deep the social and emotional pressures placed upon girls are. But the good news is, there are simply and effective ways to combat the negative things life throws as them, and it starts with mentorship and building a support group around a girl, so she can instead grow up being cheered on.

There’s no more powerful thing in the world than people coming together to lift each other up and affirm the value in ourselves and others. We are such huge fans of what GOTR is doing, and can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will hold. This one organization is responsible for helping raise a generation of girls who are going to enter their adult lives with confidence, healthy bodies and the knowledge that they can do anything they set their mind to.

One Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing our story. 🙂

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