When it comes to nurturing the confidence and success of today’s girls and young women, many approaches utilize the latest technology or newest classroom teaching method. But what if there was a proven, holistic, and cost-effective way to forever change the lives of girls for the better that will never become obsolete? Girls With Sole offers just such a method, and we are changing the lives of girls and young women right now, today, in our community.
Girls With Sole is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization based in Cuyahoga County whose mission is to use free fitness and wellness programs to empower the minds, bodies and souls of girls who are at-risk or have experienced abuse of any kind. We envision a world where every girl thinks of herself as an athlete – and is inspired and nurtured in mind, body and soul – to achieve her fullest potential and inner most success.
Since its founding in 2009, Girls With Sole has utilized the proven power of fitness and sports combined with a unique curriculum of self-esteem building activities and art projects to instill confidence, self-esteem, physical strength, teamwork, and a passion for success in the lives of nearly 1,000 girls and young women in Northeast Ohio. By partnering with schools, social service agencies, juvenile detention facilities, and hospitals, Girls With Sole reaches girls aged 9 to 18 whom otherwise would not have access to sports and fitness opportunities, and therefore, a healthier body image and self-esteem.
All girls served by Girls With Sole participate in a comprehensive curriculum that exposes them to a wide variety of sports and fitness activities, that include, but are not limited to running. Each of our youth receives free running shoes, sports bras, water bottles, a fitness journal, and entry into at least two 5k races per year. They also receive a free copy of Finish Line Feeling, a personal memoir written by Girls With Sole founder, Liz Ferro, a survivor of child sexual abuse who found hope, confidence and healing through fitness. The impact is both measurable and invaluable – girls whose newfound confidence, strength and hope translate into academic success, leadership, a sense of belonging, and the satisfaction that comes from setting and reaching ambitious goals.
Currently we conduct programs in Cuyahoga County, Lorain County and Stark County. We are proudly funded by a variety of sources including corporate sponsorship, individual donations, The Cleveland Foundation, St. Luke’s Foundation as well as The Lorain County Board of Mental Health. In addition, proceeds from the book, Finish Line Feeling, directly benefit Girls With Sole programming.
Fundraising activities for Girls With Sole have been hugely successful, including the 50 States for Sole and Conquering the Wall campaigns in which founder Liz Ferro raised funds and awareness by running a full marathon in all 50 states and on the Great Wall of China. In the meantime, however, the demand for Girls With Sole is rapidly growing. Each week, we receive approximately ten requests for our programming in new schools and organizations. Girls With Sole looks forward to continued growth and outreach, and to providing fitness and wellness programs to girls from coast to coast who want to Lace Up for a Lifetime of Achievement.
Girls With Sole has received national recognition for the impact we are having, including “Best New Charity-Midwest Region” by Classy Awards. Founder Liz Ferro has been recognized as a Self Magazine “Women Doing Good” honoree, and Town and Country Magazine’s “Women Who Make a Difference” Awards. Additionally, Girls With Sole has been featured by Yahoo!, NBC’s Today Show, Family Circle Magazine, Runner’s World, and the Huffington Post for the impact we are having in the lives of girls and young women.
What makes Girls With Sole uniquely effective is that it introduces health and fitness into the lives of underserved girls through the lens that fitness should always be introduced to everyone – as an accessible, healthy, fulfilling part of life that we all deserve to experience, not a competition for elite athletes to win. Crossing the finish line of a race (or any personal finish line) is not about outrunning others; rather, it’s about getting the most out of oneself. These critical concepts of fitness and health promotion are at the heart of Girls With Sole’s message and our programming. As a result, the girls we reach learn to love fitness, not just for the way it makes them feel physically, but also for the way it makes them feel mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. What the girls learn from Girls With Sole naturally spills over into other parts of their lives, including academics and family and social relationships. Among the outpouring of praise that Girls With Sole routinely receives, the greatest voices of praise come from the girls themselves. Recently, one of the girls was named a “Kid with Character” by a local news publication.