After thumbing through her beloved Athleta catalog, one of our WYSK founders, who is obsessed with their workout apparel, saw a reference to Girls on the Run®, a new charitable partner for the women’s activewear brand.

Having never heard of Girls on the Run®, she checked them out and fell in love with their mission: “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” And it turns out that the non-profit was founded by a Woman You Should Know, so we are excited to tell you all about her and her inspiring organization.

Girls on the Run® is a volunteer-led, youth development program for girls ages 8 to 12. The 12 week program combines training for a 5k (3.1 mile) running event with an interactive 24-lesson curriculum designed to address many aspects of pre-teen girls’ development – their physical, emotional, mental and social well-being.

Girls on the Run runnersFun workouts and uplifting experience based lessons improve self-awareness and inspire life-changing confidence in the girls through their own accomplishments. Ultimately, the program teaches them to feel comfortable simply being themselves, inspires them to celebrate their individual strengths and talents, and provides them with the tools to make positive decisions and avoid risky adolescent behaviors.

See why we love this organization? We only wish they had been around when we were growing up.

Molly Barker – Girls on the Run International Founder

Girls on the Run LogoAfter years of questioning her own self-worth and self-image, Molly Barker, a four-time Ironman Hawaii finisher who holds a master’s in social work, found the inspiration that grew into Girls on the Run® in 1993 during a sunset run. Relying on her passion for sport, her counseling and teaching expertise, as well as her research on adolescent issues, Molly set out to design and develop a way to help girls thrive in a world that often sends them conflicting messages.

Three years later, in 1996, she piloted the earliest version of her 12-week, 24-lesson curriculum with 13 brave girls in Charlotte, North Carolina. 26 girls came the next season, then 75, and the program continued to grow. In 2000, Girls on the Run International became a 501(c)3 organization. Today, Girls on the Run® is offered in over 170 cities across North America and hundreds of thousands of girls and women’s lives have been changed by the program.

Stuck In The “Girl Box”

Molly first began running at the age of 15 when she found herself stuck in the “girl box”. The “girl box” is the place where many girls go around middle school when they begin to morph into what they think they should be instead of being who they really are. The messages of the “girl box” vary but the overarching theme comes from a culture rooted in the belief that girls and women must conform to a set of standards that are often unattainable and dangerous to our health and well-being.

As Molly shares in her own words, “In 1976, I bought my first pair of running shoes. I was fifteen and like most girls that age, trying to figure out who I was inside a changing body. I desperately wanted to fit in with the popular crowd but I couldn’t fit into the box it placed over my spirit. The box told me things I knew in my heart weren’t true: That the way I behaved and looked was more important than who I was inside. That being a woman meant being quiet and submissive. That having a boyfriend meant having to mold my body and actions to meet prescribed cultural standards. But I stepped in anyway. The years I spent trying to mold my thoughts, body, lifestyle and being into what the box required were extremely painful. So I ran. I’d put on my running shoes and head for the woods, the streets, wherever my feet would take me. I felt strong. Beautiful. Powerful.”

Girls on the RunGirls on the Run® is a lot more than a running program. Molly believes it will lead to an entire generation of girls living peacefully and happily outside of the “girl box”.

We believe Molly is an inspirational leader and we applaud her efforts to nurture and empower the next generation of women. Our hats are also off to Athleta for using the power and influence of its brand to support Molly’s mission and Girls on the Run®.

Learn more and get involved at Girls on the Run®.