Share Your Gifts

Molly Barker - Founder, Girls on the Run(This month, you will begin to see reference to Girls on the Run in the Athleta catalogue and promotional materials. As the Founder of Girls on the Run, I, along with our President Liz Kunz and VP of Partnerships, Katy Brown, had the privilege to meet with the down-to-earth folks at Athleta.  I’m here to tell you… I think the earth shifted a few degrees to “positive” on its axis, the day we all met at Athleta Headquarters in Petaluma, CA.

In honor of our partnership, I am reminded of this fabulous young woman named Brooke.  I think you will note that there isn’t a single reference to running in this post—odd, when one considers that Girls on the Run does incorporate running, after all!   But I do think it captures what rests at the core of our program—the sisterhood—and what I felt the day we met with the Athleta team.  So enjoy, won’t ya?)

Several years ago, I was visiting a Girls on the Run site, in Charlotte, my hometown.  They were almost 2/3 of the way through the program.  They knew I was visiting… and as with any group of girls, our meeting is always a thrill… for everyone!

We started our time together inside.  The winter winds were whipping up outside and I wanted to have some “quiet time” to get to know each other.

We started with something simple.  “So, let’s go around the circle and share our name, our age and our favorite music group.  We went to my left and around.

I then introduced them to the notion that everyone… EVERYONE comes to earth with a set of gifts… these gifts are uniquely ours and how when we use our gifts the world’s work gets done.  Some of us are writers, some of us are thinkers, some of us are politicians, some of us are leaders in the traditional sense and some of us are leaders in our own quiet way.  “So… how ‘bout each of you sharing with me one of your gifts… tell us… what gifts have equipped you to do your world’s work?

The girls began to answer in no particular order.  Chance was an excellent friend.  “I can talk to anybody.  I don’t judge people.”

“Cool, I responded.”

Sierra was a writer.  “I have really good ideas in my head and I enjoy putting them down on paper so that other people can see my ideas.  I write for our school newspaper.”

“Excellent, I responded.”

Heather shouted out.  “I can sing.”

“Will you sing for us now?”

“Really, she responded… you want me to sing now?

“Yes of course.  Please, wouldn’t you guys like to hear Heather sing?

Yes everyone responded in near unison.  Heather sang a few bars of Taylor Swift.  We all clapped when she was done.

Everyone had shared… almost.  To my right was Brooke. I had noticed her when I walked in the room thirty minutes earlier.  Her sparkly eyes and her infectious smile were enough to melt any heart… especially mine.

“Brooke, I notice you haven’t shared.  Do you want to share one of your most fabulous gifts?”

“I’m afraid to.  You will laugh”–long deep breath, pause and then she looked to the ground.  “They will laugh.”

I let her words sink in… not wanting to minimize or take away from her fear.  Heather spoke up.  “We won’t laugh Brooke.  We are all friends here.  We can say anything.”

Chance jumped in.  “Yeah Brooke.  It’s okay… really.”

She looked up at me.  I know IT is there, but I am always struck by the intangible that Girls on the Run brings—this language of love that floats in and through the invisible space of our gatherings, like this one today.  I looked deeply into her eyes… remembered being ten… so afraid to speak up… afraid of being judged… remember being 32…feeling so defined by our cultures expectations of “girls and women” afraid to speak up about it… held captive at times throughout my life by the fear of not being accepted… the hiding away of all the light and brilliance that was me… afraid of ridicule or even worse indifference.

“It’s okay. Brooke.  We are all here for you girl.”  Words I had so longed for when I was ten.

“Alright then.  Here goes.”  Brooke looked to her lap, took a deep breath and then without any further hesitation, said.  “I can talk to squirrels.”

Girls on the RunI didn’t respond right away.  I mean, to be completely honest, holding back a downright “laugh-out-loud’ response was somewhat of a challenge.  About all I could summon at first was “Wow.”

No one else spoke and the silence felt too long, but I stayed with it anyway.

“Yep.”  Brooke nodded her head a bit more confidently now.  No one had laughed.  Her friends had listened. “I can talk to ‘em… squirrels.  I talk to them in my yard, the park, wherever they are.”

The reality that someone in our midst could talk to squirrels began to settle in.

Chance asked, “That is AMAZING.  Do they talk back?”

Yeah… all the others chimed in.  Do they talk back?

“Well, not really,” she said.  “The truth is I just seem to kind of attract them.  I’m kind of like a squirrel magnet.”

“Unbelievable” the girls responded.  I mean, let’s face it!  We had a regular Snow White in our presence.  For a good five minutes we talked about Brooke’s ability to communicate with squirrels.

“There is a lot you can do with that you know,” one of the other girls said.  “You can help the animals with a talent like that.”  And so the conversation went.

I walked away from this experience initially tickled… a kind of bubbly giggle made its way into my body, my step was light, up and bouncy.

But then as things so frequently do for me… the raw of this began to work its way into my being.  The notion that something as simple as her ability to unequivocally and unabashedly share something so frightening, real and within… to her friends is where I believe true cultural change occurs.

Over the years, I’ve met many, many women. Each of us brings to this world our own story, our own experiences, our own set of challenges and our own talents. And over the years I have come to realize that what Girls on the Run does so profoundly and so richly is provide a deep level of tenderness and acceptance toward all of our sisters.  Girls on the Run has opened my mind to my own propensity to judge and shown me that down deep… really down underneath all the judgment and intolerance what we all want really, is to feel beautiful, fully accepted and unconditionally loved just as we are and where we are in our own personal evolution, whether that’s talking to squirrels or dealing with our own demons.

As large as this organization has grown, I think what is uniquely OUR GIFT to the world is our ability to keep it personal, simple and real… to open our minds to understand what drives a girl… a woman. We all learn from her pain, her joy and we choose to honor what brought her here. Girls on the Run provides for every girl and every woman, regardless of the barriers, power differentials, institutions, belief systems and stereotypes she is battling in her own life, an opportunity to feel worthy, whole and warmed.

I felt the love and power of this program when I was with the folks at Athleta… and if I was with you… I would see it there, too… the rare, raw and wonderful 8 year old who still lives in your eyes.  The Heather who sings, the Sierra who writes, the Chance who is a good friend and the Brooke who talks to squirrels,

I share all of this to you as my way of invitation.  Join us if you can and if you will. Volunteer, run with a girl, share your gifts and talents.  And to our new friends at Athleta, we thank you for so easily opening your hearts, minds and spirits not only to the girls we serve but to our larger Girls on the Run vision…a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly her dreams.

Girls on the Run: Share Your Gifts

MOLLY BARKER is the founder of Girls on the Run International, Athleta's charitable partner. A four-time Ironman Hawaii finisher who holds a master's in social work, Molly combined her passion for sport, her counseling and teaching expertise, and her research on adolescent issues to develop and deliver the first Girls on the Run® curriculum to 13 girls in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1996. The innovative, experiential program combines training for a 5k event with life-changing, confidence building lessons that enhance the physical and mental health of 8 to 12 year-old girls. Today, Girls on the Run is offered in over 150 cities across North America and hundreds of thousands of girls and women’s lives have been changed by the program. Learn more and get involved at GirlsontheRun.org »

Comments

  1. Jill Teale says:

    LOVE this example of sisterhood… at such an important time in the lives of these girls! I’m new to “Girls on the Run”… I started seeing events a few months ago and so I was just starting to learn about the organization… and WOW it is absolutely amazing! I have 4 boys of my own, so no daughters that will have the privilege of benefiting from this incredible outreach. But…as an athlete, I can relate to the importance of the program just from looking back at my childhood and what a difference it would have made as I was growing up! I am very excited that I will be running my next half-marathon for SoulMates which directly benefits my local GOTR chapters!

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  2. Amy Fulco says:

    This woman continues to amaze me. What better place to see her pic than on this website!

    I coached Girls on the Run in Charlotte when my, now 13 year old, was in kindergarten. Whenever I get down or start doubting myself, I think of Molly. Such an inspiration to girls and women everywhere! You rock Molly!!

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  3. mary Dougherty says:

    my little sweet Caroline started yesterday she is 9 when I asked her how she liked it she said she loved it I am so excited for her..thank you

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  4. Mindy McIver says:

    Molly Barker and her wonderful Girls on the Run program never ceases to amaze me! What a wonderful partnership for Athleta! Now can you open an Athleta store in Charlotte? :)

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  5. Molly Barker says:

    Yep…I agree…when is the wonderful, fantastic, absolutely amazing Athleta brand going to hit the Charlotte streets…:) AND…as far as the rest of you fabulous women (and men) go…bring on the GOTR love. Thanks to all of you for your “likes” and kind, kind comments.

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  6. Kelley Atlee says:

    This ariticle had impecable timing as my oldest of three daughters, age 11 will be starting her Girls on the Run program next week. I am thrilled for her to be able to participate in an organization that is so suportive, inspiring and motivating. We as women tend to second guess our dreams, our talents and strengths. WE sometimes get caught up in thinking of the “something” or “someone” that is smarter, stronger, more fit, or more happy than ourselves. But this group proves that although there may always be doubts, there comes comfort and support. I LOVE everything you have created for my daughter Molly and I’m glad that my child will be in the kindest most talented hands!

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  7. shannon says:

    I just signed by daughter up for our local Girls on the Run! What a wonderful program to empower girls to own their importance, talents and gifts and honor each others as well!

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  8. Emily says:

    I am a proud GOTR coach at White Oak Elementary in NC and am so privileged to work with such a wonderful group of 4th grade girls. Beautiful inside and out.

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  9. Kara says:

    If any woman takes a moment to listen to the AMAZING & INSPIRATIONAL words that Molly Barker says motivated her to start this life changing program for girls, you will be moved to tears! I am a first time GOTR Coach this Spring in Loveland, Ohio with four other generous, gifted Women and am so proud to be a part of this program! I am even thinking about suggesting the school system drop gym class and instead offer GOTR:) ….Thank you Athleta for chosing such a worthy proram to partner!

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  10. Melinda says:

    I will tell you i had tears in my eyes! Wow! If I had a mentor like Molly when I was younger, the possibilities for my future would have been limitless! I’m new to running. I’d taken it up after ending a chapter in my life. Unfortuntunely, I’ve had some injuries and have stopped for the time being. I’ve been inspired and empowered to make a difference in the world, in girls lives. So I’m researching and hopefully starting a chapter of GOTR in my community. Thank you for your courage and wisdom to support Molly and her cause.

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  11. Molly never ceases to bring a smile to my face! I’m the Council Director for one of the smaller GOTR councils and I’m so proud to be a part of this program and to follow our girls that return semester after semester to be a part of GOTR. Thank you Athleta for your support! Maybe you should try a store in Boone or Blowing Rock???

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  12. Karen Bryan says:

    I am currently coaching my 12th season for Girls On The Run. This is absolutely the most amazing program I have ever seen for girls. The curriculum is fantastic, Molly is genuinely concerned and focused on these wonderful girls. The compassion and growth I see in these girls, even after they have gone on to middle school (they sometimes will come back to visit) is remarkable. I am so very proud to be a small part in this organization.
    I have to say that I was beyond thrilled to find out that Athleta would be a sponsor!! One of my very favorite places to shop. My very favorite catalog to receive in the mail! Thanks, Athleta and Thanks Molly for GOTR……You both ROCK!

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  13. Lori Hallman says:

    Both of my girls participated in GOTR at their school. A fabulous program that continues to impact both of their lives in a positive way. Thank you, Molly, for being such a positive role model and for starting such a wonderful program! And yes, I too would LOVE to have an Athleta store in Charlotte!

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  14. Mary Beth says:

    are there any girls on the run programs on Reservations? imam a Registered Nurse and interested in Diversity..How can I obtain information to pass on to interested girls and parents?
    Thanks for your help, MB/A

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  15. Sue says:

    I am in my second season of coaching Girls on the Run and it is a wonderful program. A friend of mine told me about it after her daughter completed the program- twice! I immediately looked it up online and began the process of getting a new site started in my area! We are a rural area in Southeast CO and opportunities for these types of programs are limited. We were accepted for the next session! I appreciate everyone who donates time and money to keep this program growing! The girls get so much out of it and so do the coaches! I love Athleta and, now that it is associated with this program, I love it even more!

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  16. Stacey says:

    Thanks, Athleta, for supporting GOTR! It’s such a great match of shared visions!

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  17. Debbie says:

    I coached GOTR for three years at my daughters’ elementary school. It’s an awesome program. Thanks to Athleta for recognizing that and getting involved.

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  18. Robbie says:

    I coached a great group of girls in the fall of 2010 and I thoroughly loved it. What I love even more now is seing these girls around town,in church, in the grocery store and a local runs! It is a great program and I have shared it with a girlfirend and fellow runner who is now going to coach her daughters team. GOTR is spreading throughout western NJ into PA and the Council Director is AWESOME! Thanks Molly for helping me get my girl fix through GOTR and for helping inspire these young ladies. I could see natural leadership in so many of them and that is AWESOME. I am so happy that ATHLETA has decided to partner with this organization. Way to go!

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  19. Chelsea Hilbert says:

    Girls on the Run saved my life! Truly, it did! I had the privilege of coaching several GOTR groups during the Spring and Fall of 2001/2002. My only son, Zachary, died on January 2 2001 and Molly Barker called on January 6th to offer me a coaching position in Charlotte NC. She had no idea what had happened in my life when she made the phone call nor when I showed up for my coach’s training. When I told her what had happened and how much I needed something wonderful to occupy my time, she hugged me and unconditionally welcomed me. The girls, the program and Molly not only filled my afternoons with joy, they changed my heart and my life. Now, I have 3 beautiful children, aged 11 to 3 and a special little boy who lives in heaven. I was inspired by Molly’s story and completed Ironman Florida last year. GOTR is a fantastic organization and Molly Barker is a true inspiration and a life saver!! Hat’s off to Athleta for supporting this wonderful organization!

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  20. Amy Nelson says:

    In 2010 a friend asked me to run the local Girls on the Run 5K. I had just started running at the age of 43 and liked the idea that it was not timed and more emphasis was put on having fun. I was so inspired seeing all the girls and their families running together that I went home and researched the program. After learning more about the program, I decided I needed to be a part of it. This is my second year as a coach, and I look forward to every session. Seeing these girls working as a team, helping each other and speaking up for themselves is so heartwarming and uplifting. Thank you Molly Barker for creating this program and thank you Athleta for supporting it!

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  21. Kirsten Carson says:

    I assisted a friend in coaching a GOTR team in Charlotte last Spring and this past Fall. My daughter also participated and LOVED it! I think it’s such an AMAZING program for young girls…I wish it had been around when I was young to pull me out of my shell. :) It motivates me to coach again and keep my girls involved in GOTR. I am VERY excited to see that Athleta is partnering up with GOTR! Athleta is my standard wardrobe and my husband continues to ask if we should buy stock in the company…ha,ha. So, my closing question….when is Athleta coming to Charlotte, NC? It would ROCK in our south Charlotte area and I would be first in line to work for the company. I need to start supporting my Athleta wardrobe habit somehow!! Molly: you must now have some pull to get a store in your hometown, right?? ;)

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  22. Molly Barker says:

    Wow…Ya’ll!!!! (My southern roots are fully entrenched.) Chelsea…your words of love have filled me to the brim. I do remember you and I remember our encounter. You touched me then and you touch my heart now. I really do feel a girlquake is occuring! It’s time to celebrate each of us. I am so grateful that so many women and men have given their hearts and souls to this program and the girls it serves. I count my blessings everyday. EVERY day…and believe me when I say that all of you are on that list…

    Like: Thumb up 1

  23. Jennifer says:

    I coached GOTR in Walnut Creek last year and plan to coach again this year. It is a fantastic program for girls and women. Thanks to Athleta for supporting the community and this program.

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  24. Tracy Radabaugh says:

    I coach theses amazing girls in Ohio. The program is truly an inspiration to the girls and to our community. Thank You Athleta for your support and thank you Molly for your vision. We are helping our girls discover what strong, amazing women they can grow up to be and I’m so proud to be a part of it!
    Go GOTR!!!

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  25. Kim Lybarger says:

    I am a first time coach from Richmond, TX ~ we have 30 confindent girls working through the program. Smiles on their faces, shoulders back and confidence flowing through them — they spoke at a donor’s reception last Thursday night and told how GOTR has impacted their lifes…. Thank you, Athleta and Molly Baker for bringing this program to a little old town in TEXAS!!!!! we LOVE GOTR!

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  26. Jamie Hatcher says:

    I am coordinator and first time coach here in beautiful WV. I am also the mother of four girls. I can’t say enough wonderful things about GOTR. I LOVE the program and feel blessed to be able to share it with the amazing girls at our school. GOTR is everything I want for my girls and for myself. I have learned so much and have been so motivated by the program. I am extremely lucky to have 3 amazing women helping me coach. I couldn’t do it without them.
    Thank you Molly Barker and thank you Athleta for sponsoring such a positive program for girls!!

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  27. Tonya Price says:

    This is a fabulous program. My oldest daughter Erica and I did “Moms and Daughters on the Run” with Molly in 1998/1999 in Charlotte. My middle daughter Rachael, did GOTR in Atlanta. We all loved the program! Excellent self-esteem builder. Such an empowering program for young girls and the ones who love them. Molly, thank you for your vision and dedication to encouraging and empowering young women everywhere.

    Like: Thumb up 1

  28. CJ says:

    Love this. My daughter just started the GOTR program at her school, and I help out once a week. Last week, I was thinking how amazing these girls are at her school. This article shows me that GOTR gives all of the girls a place to be amazing.

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  29. Leslie Donovan says:

    I coached my daughter’s Girls on the Run program in Weddington, NC when she was in the 4th grade. She went on to run track and cross country for Weddington High. She is now a freshman at USC-Columbia this year, and runs all over campus and downtown. AND, just recently, she came in 1st in her age group in her first 1/2 marathon in Columbia. Sooo thanks, Molly! My daughter’s name is Molly, too, and without your amazing program, my Molly wouldn’t have even gotten started running! Now, it is her passion, keeps her healthy, and we can run together!

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  30. Amy says:

    It seems like I’m not the only one with tears in my eyes! We are part of a GotR program here in Charlotte, too. My daughter is certainly one of those who ‘talks to squirrels’ too, and I am thrilled that she is a part of this program. I love knowing that she is cherished for being who she is, not who anyone thinks she is, and she’s learning life-long skills that will help her find out what “being her” really means. It truly fills my heart. <3

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