“Over the past few months, seven young women have had the opportunity to
participate in the Girls with Sole program, while completing their individual residential treatment programs at Bellefarie JCB. As early as the first session with Girls with Sole, there was a visible impact on the self-esteem of the girls participating. Ms. Liz Ferrero and her colleagues have been able to touch the lives of the youth they work with in a unique and invaluable way.
By working with Girls with Sole, the clients at Bellefaire have had a new avenue for learning about the importance of setting goals, supporting one and other, pacing themselves, and most importantly believing in themselves. For a few of the clients who were not athletically inclined, and even downright insistent about not giving the program a try, Girls with Sole has been an outlet for them to learn new skills and to thrive in a new and different way. One client in particular has identified Girls with Sole as a motivating factor in her life as it is the one thing during the week she looks forward to.
As mentioned, Girls with Sole makes an impact on these young women’s lives by giving them something positive and tangible to achieve for. Unlike their mental health treatment where the girls are making steps forward, but unable to see the subtle changes, with Girls with Sole these individuals can notice the changes they have achieved when they are able to run two laps instead of three.
Over the course of time the young women have been involved with Girls with Sole there has been a decrease in their destructive and aggressive behaviors, and an increase in their ability to encourage one and other. This program works with individuals who might not otherwise have an opportunity to interact at Bellefaire, and new support systems have been formed. The young women have begun learning the importance of working as a team in order to achieve individual goals and through this process have been able to apply the skills they are learning to other areas of their treatment and lives.
There is no question that Girls with Sole has made a difference in the lives of the young women it has worked with at Bellefaire. Through this program the girls have had a positive role model in Ms. Liz Ferro, have learned new skills, and have worked on improving their own self-confidence. Girls with Sole truly does teach its mission of empowering the minds, bodies, and souls of girls at-risk through fitness and wellness.”
KAITLYN L. KLINCSocial Worker, BELLEFAIRE, JCB
“The Salvation Army Community Mentoring Program is very happy to have found out about GWS. When I spoke to Liz Ferro, founder of the program, regarding what the mission of her program was; and found out that the focus was on physical fitness,eating healthy,self-esteem and the overall wellness of the body: it fit in well with what we wanted our girls in the mentoring program to have a chance to experience. Ms. Ferro has made a difference in these girls’ lives, I am so glad we partnered with GWS.
DALE JONESPROGRAM DIRECTOR, THE ELYRIA SALVATION ARMY
“As a teacher of the girls here at The Intergenerational School (TIS), I have witnessed many positive changes in our girls. For starters, they each treat each other with a great deal more respect. They work together as a team and encourage each other.
In the beginning of the program, the girls were reluctant to do any of the activities because most of them weren’t used to “physical activity” let alone running. After a few weeks of seeing how the GWS staff really motivated the girls with fun activities, the girls started to really WANT to do GWS. They are more excited and come ready with smiles. In the long run, they understand that being active and doing it with friends actually benefits their health and friendships.
They are a wonderful team of ladies and I thank GWS for bringing this program to our school and encouraging our girls every week!”
TELISSA TEETSJUNIOR CLUSTER TEACHER
“I am a mental health counselor with the Residential Treatment Center of Multi-County Juvenile Attention System in Stark County. We work with 13 to 18 year old girls who have been placed with us by the courts and/or Children’s Services anywhere from six months to one year. All of the girls we work with have been abused, suffered neglect, and have lived through multiple traumas and losses. Our girls feel that they have lost or have had taken from them any power and control in their lives. Being placed with us often identifies them as the problem. Our work is to provide counseling, life skills, schooling and the tools needed to send them back into their communities and to succeed, often on their own. This is no easy task.
The majority of our girls are runners by nature. They have run from abusive homes, the police and any and all problems. They have run to substances, other abusive relationships and prostitution.
When Liz came to us, not only did she bring fitness, liveliness, self-esteem and encouragement, she also brought a purpose to their lives. Now they have a reason to run the themselves in a healthy way. A way to reclaim the power and control they have been led to believe they don’t possess. Girls With Sole comes to our facility several times a month and offers our girls a change to dance, come together as a group, support one another, and above all, see first hand that they can overcome what has been done to them.
Our girls typically come to us with very little. Making sure they have life’s essentials is a battle in itself. Thanks to Liz’s efforts, they all now have brand new running shoes, sports bras, water bottles and treasures they have acquired from attending 5k’s that Liz has sponsored them for. We have been privileged to attend two 5k’s to date and one that we are looking forward to in November. All of our girls that have attended the 5k’s proudly wear their race shirts.
Not only have these experiences outside of the facility provided them with stuff, it has provided the girls with new experiences. They have been able to see a world outside of their own, where people are healthy, motivated, successful, friendly and encouraging. They experience support and a sense of belonging to something. When we attended the first 5k in June at Rocky River, many of the girls were simply giddy with excitement. They were amazed at all the activity surrounding them, the welcoming atmosphere and the achievement that they had completed a race. When we left that run, one girl commented that she couldn’t believe she’d had so much fun so early in the morning and that she didn’t have to be stoned to have a blast.
So, to Liz, I say thank you on behalf of our girls, Multi-County and myself. We are proud and privileged for you to be a part of all of our lives and thankful for the hope and joy you continue to bring. To all of you, I think you for making so much of this possible. Girls With Sole is truly a blessing to our girls.”
SUSAN M. BROWNRESIDENTIAL TREATMENT CENTER C WING COUNSELOR, MULTICOUNTY JUVENILE ATTENTION SYSTEM
“As the Director of the We Run This City YMCA Youth Marathon Program, I had the opportunity to work with Liz Ferro when she volunteered to be a running mentor and coach.
During that time she was paired with a twelve year old girl who was one of two kids that had chosen to run the Half Marathon instead of the one mile distance that the rest of the group would partake in on race day at the Cleveland Marathon.
Liz Ferro was a wonderful mentor and her energy and enthusiasm was both infectious and motivating. It was easy to see how much she cared that the child she mentored reached her goal, and that she wanted the encouragement she showed the child to continue to help her long after she crossed the finish line.
I am happy to say that that is exactly what happened. The young girl that Liz Ferro mentored is now in high school, doing very well in school and is still running today! The self-esteem and pride gained from programs such as We Run This City and mentors like Liz Ferro are invaluable to the kids in our community.”
TARA TAYLORWE RUN THIS CITY YOUTH MARATHON PROGRAM DIRECTOR
“When I first came here, Liz was just a person. I thought she was paid to come in here and do this with us, and then I read Liz’s book, and it gave me a way, way, way different perspective on her, and I think she’s one of the most powerful women I know in my life, because of what she’s endured and how happy she is now these days. So I look up to her and every single time I see her, I just look at her and study her, and think if she got through that stuff then I can, too, and I can change my life and break the cycle in my family.”
Girls With Sole Participant in RTC, Age 15
“My family life has been very tough. Both my parents were drug addicts, and my dad was really bad on crack, meth and heroin.
I’ve been locked up seven times. I do drugs, and I love to run away. I like to run away from my problems, and that’s what I want to change. I also have unhealthy relationships.
Every time I come to Girls With Sole, I mean, I have it on my calendar. Every week I get to come here, and have fun and just blow some stuff off, because it’s not easy here, at all. It’s hard to focus on yourself, and it’s hard to focus on working with what you had problems with because all the problems in here, I can’t run from them, so that’s why it’s hardest for me to be in here, because I like to run, and I can’t run from my problems. I have to face them….and we do projects that really gets me thinking about myself, because Liz really is a big self-motivator, so she makes me just change my outlook.”
GWS Participant in RTC, Age 16
“Before I came here I was at another placement, and I was there for about two years, and nothing new was happening. So my case worker decided I needed to go to a more strict program where I’d be required to do treatment stuff. I really like the group Liz has here. I saw in her book that she struggled in her youth and stuff like that, and now seeing her coming here, like wow, I never would have guessed that. She just seems like such a positive person, and she’s like definitely looking forward to the future, kind of making things better for everyone. I like that she influences healthy choices, bringing healthy snacks and stuff like that. Just knowing, from reading her book, like part of her book like she has gone through plenty of struggles, some equivalent to what people here have gone through, some possibly worse, seeing as how that doesn’t seem to be like, “Oh yeah, here’s a person who’s still struggling.” It’s like, “Oh yeah, she’s great.” She becomes a role model. Definitely.”
Girls With Sole participant in RTC, Age 15
“Girls with Sole is an amazing program and we have been beyond lucky to have Liz in our lives and in our program. All of the feedback that we get from the girls is always positive about Girls With Sole – and having a consensus in any program is a big feat to accomplish!
I have seen girls with the lowest self esteem come alive in Girls With Sole. Liz and her partners bring an amazing energy and positive light that is absolutely contagious. You can actually feel the girls leave their problems at the door and have a set time to just have fun and laugh. But GWS isn’t just about leaving your problems behind. When those issues meet them at the door again, the girls are stronger and more able to deal with them then before. Girls With Sole is empowering and soul enriching. We all need a Liz/GWS in our life!”
Sarah MeltonUnit Manager at RTC
“My name is Alexis. I got to be part of Girls With Sole when I was in a program called RTC (Residential Treatment Center) in Canton, Ohio. When I was twelve years old I was taken away from my family. I was put into foster care. I struggled because while I was living with my mother I learned how to depend on myself. I took care of my mom too. She was a really bad drug user and very neglective. My dad as I was growing up was always in and out of prison. He moved to Florida to make a better life. When I was taken away from my mother I got into a lot of trouble. I was so use to being independent that I never asked for help. When I was hungry or needed something I would go out and steal it. Pretty soon I was always running away and doing drugs and hanging out with older people.
Ever since I first was involved with GWS it had me smiling and moving my body. We exercised and afterwards talked and did projects. When Liz talked to us it was very touching.
I liked exercising and the positive feedback. When I met Liz Ferro it was all positive words from her made me happy. I thought more better of myself and her story has touched me like no one could even be able to comprehend. When we all exercised and overcame something new it was amazing.
I was tired and out of breath but when I seen Liz just going so fast, I smiled breathed deep and pulled myself to run and not give up because that’s what Girls With Sole is all about -moving forward and believing in myself.
I’m happy I was in the GWS organization. I’m proud of myself for pulling myself through and I’m not going to stop now. I’m never going to give up when I’m overcoming an obstacle I’ll think of Liz and what she represents. I love it, I love Girls With Sole, I love me! All these things has kept a smile on my face through my times of doubt. Girls With Sole is one of the best programs I have been in. I wanted to say thanks to the Girls With Sole program for putting hope in me. ”
AlexisRTC GWS Participant
My name is Adrienne. When I was 17. I was sent to the Residential Treatment Center. I was living a criminal lifestyle that at the time I did not realize was going to take me nowhere. Before I got caught up in the negativity and trouble I was a very athletic, my favorites being soccer and track. I lost that somewhere along the way, blinded by the drugs, recklessness, and negative influences.
While I was in RTC, I was able to take part in the GIRLS WITH SOLE program and met Liz Ferro. The light that shone within her and her loving soul opened my eyes back up to the positive lifestlye I once knew and loved. She gave me back the empowerment I used to feel before and I soon realized why I loved sports and running so much.
Once I was able to complete the RTC program, I carried the light Liz brought back into my life with all I did. I have faced lots of obstacles along the way but thankfully I know I have Liz’s support, encouragement, and POSITIVITY that is essential to achieving my fullest potential. The impact she has made on my life is like no other. I have been very thankful for knowing there is someone out there who understands why I chose the path I did but encouraged me to see the good in all situations and gave me better techniques to get through the dark times.
Liz and I ran in a GWS event a few years ago (after RTC). Something sparked in me during that cold, rainy race. When I was running in the rain and cold, I wanted to give up, I wanted to quit, I thought it wasn’t worth it. Liz’s encouragement and motivation kept playing in my head and I started thinking about all of the obstacles in the race (in my life). I knew I couldn’t give up, I had to push through. There was so much more I had to accomplish. Liz believed in me to keep pushing and overcome so I believed in myself! It is so easy to get caught up in life and the hardships that come with it but it is an INCREDIBLE feeling to overcome something that has been holding you back, to achieve something you have been working for for so long.
Running is the same way. It is so easy to give up, to take the easy route, to not even start. It is a whole new world women can hold in their hands and use to build them up. There is no other strength in the world like feeling like you can’t do something but ignoring it and BELIEVING IN YOURSELF and making it happen. This is the strength Liz has helped me find again and again.
I was in RTC 5 years ago and am now a happy mother of 2 beautiful children and have the career of my dreams. Our business mindset is very similar to the GWS morals. We only encourage growth, support, and POSITIVITY. We push everyone around us to fulfill their dreams and be the best we can be. I encourage everyone to become involved with Liz’s program and take it to your heart. The light that Liz brought into my life will forever be a piece of me and it continues to push me to be the absolute best I can be.
Thank you Liz for all of your love and support. That particular race day plays over in my head very often and I love the power it gives me I wouldn’t be the mother or business woman I am today without you coming to me when I needed you the most.
Adrienne Girls With Sole Graduate
I used to be afraid. I used to be afraid of what people would think, of what I would see when I looked in the mirror, of what I had to go home to and what I might find when I got there. In fact, I used to be so afraid to go home, that when I finally psyched myself up to put the key in the door, I’d turn around and run before my conscience told me to go back.
You may be thinking, “Mandi, running from your fears is cowardly and unrealistic.”
That’s what my counselor told me. She also told me that refusing to face reality is called “being delusional.”
I called it having a Superpower. I fail to see the difference. When life sucks real bad, I could just leave whenever I wanted, like a magic trick, “wanna see me disappear?” Don’t ask, I’ll do it anyways to save you the trouble. Poof! I’m gone.
So, I bet you’re wondering where I went when I ran from my fears. Well, I can tell you what places I didn’t go: the library, school, my grandmother’s, Joe’s Crabshack, the grocery store, on a pilgrimage. Long story short, I didn’t go anywhere innocent or family oriented.
My family was too high to care where I went or what I did. Then, I discovered drugs and had a new way to escape reality. I didn’t even have to leave my house! Then on one fateful evening, I was arrested. My family relinquished custody of me and I was getting released to a foster family. My life spun out of control when I got out. I had a crazy, weird new family. New school, and eventually new drugs. My addiction finally came to the light and things got bad again. My foster family decided to move to Minnesota and I was truly alone. I went to a group home and two weeks later I came to RTC. Later in the day when I got here, they told me to put on my own clothes for working out and I thought, “great, we’re gonna be doing military drills or something, I just know it!”
We went down to the gym and I was instantly greeted by Ms. Liz, my first thought was,”who is this crazy hyper pixie lady?” but it turns out that Ms. Liz isn’t just some pixie lady who shows up to work us out.
It reality, she’s my Fairy God Mother. She took my shoe size and bra size and I was instantly amazed by the amount of generosity a single woman can possess.
Over the past 6 months, Ms. Liz has done so much for me and every other girl here at RTC. She helped me shed my skin and learn to fly. Even after all of the adversity I’ve been through, she has helped me turn into a beautiful butterfly. Ms. Liz has inspired me to turn my life into something better. I’ve seen the future, but through someone else’s eyes. I’ve stepped through the looking glass and seen an alternate path. I’m so grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to meet Ms. Liz and participate in Girls With Sole. I know what I could be. I’ve seen, what others have seen, and I am no longer ashamed of what the future holds.
I AM NO LONGER AFRAID.
Mandi, Age 16
“Welcome to my life. There’s a lot of pain hidden behind my brown eyes, and there’s a lot of rain covering blue skies. I’m sixteen now but it feels like my childhood just flew by. I grew up with mental illness. Yet depression, PTSD and anxiety has never stopped me.
When I was thirteen I knew what death was before I knew how beautiful I really am, but still to this day insecurities consume me. I have always strived to succeed so when I do I can look back and I can thank God for all the trials and tribulations because those are my motivations.
I’ve lost a lot except the need to speak up and speak out about the terrible things I have seen, while seeing all of the positive things in this world. I deserve to have everything that has been stolen from me.
If I could speak to my ten year old self I would tell her that she is worthy of love and how God has not forsaken her. I would take her fears and write them on a piece of paper and set it to flames. I wouldn’t take the things that have happened to me away because those are the things that have built the resiliency in me.
So to Girls With Sole not only did you teach me to use exercise to cope, you taught me how strong I am both mentally and physically. I can take any obstacle, pick it up and move it away from my goals. Ms. Liz showed me that no matter how big or heavy something is – I can lift it and lift myself. No matter what, nothing can stop me from achieving my goals.
I am a Girl With Sole.”
Tavia Girls With Sole participant in Residential Treatment
“Hello my name is Kerriah, and I would like to tell you how Girls With Sole has helped me because Mrs. Liz is just so caring, and loving. She inspires me. She taught me to accept people for who they are and accept me for who I am.
I am me. People are supposed to love me for me. In 20 years I imagine myself helping MRDD kids or adults. I love helping them. They make me a better caring person and also Mrs. Liz. She is such a amazing woman.
The reason I’m at RTC is because I ran from my problems thinking that it would help. I disappointed a lot of people by doing what I did. I have no idea what could have happened but I could have ended up dead. When I was 15 years old my best friend committed suicide. I don’t really know why, but I sometimes feel like it was my fault because I hit him because we were fighting and he told me he was in love with me.
This is why I love Girls With Sole. Since I met Liz Ferro, I just started being myself and started expressing my feelings. She always taught me to think positive, great things will come my way.
I learned to be loving, caring respectful and most important, I will be myself. I’m not ready to be 18 years old. I believe it’s gonna be hard. But I got to grow up sometime. I really put all my trust in Mrs. Liz. I think she’s so special. She’s a very gifted runner. I love her. I sometimes wish she was part of my family.
I think it’s so great grown ups like Mrs. Liz actually cares for troubled kids. It makes me smile when I think of it. She makes my day when she comes here. I pray for her in my prayers. I love her and her friends she brings. God Bless, and thank you for reading.”
Kerriah RTC - Girls With Sole graduate
“My name is Shawna and I’m in Residential Treatment and foster care. I’m about to turn 18 and age out. I have a daughter from when my uncle rape me. She’s in foster care too. Girls With Sole gives me strength courage and hope. Ms Liz is my inspiration and she really keeps me going. I love Ms Liz and the other people she brings to help us.
Girls With Sole is an empowerment group where I can learn coping skills and clear my mind when I’m upset or frustrated. We have a pit bull mascot named Stella bella which is beautiful.
Ms Liz is a very sweet woman and no one is there to judge you.
We are all unique and can be ourselves with Ms Liz. She truly cares for us girls and puts a lot of time into us and she even buys us new running shoes. I don’t even think this essay can actually describe how I feel about Girls With Sole and Ms Liz.
Seriously, and she has been through a lot and achieved everything she has. She climbed to the top. She did it and I can do it too because I believe in myself and nothing is impossible ever. I’m going to be a nurse and have a family and be happy.
Girls With Sole is a place to learn about myself from other people and from moving and exercise. People who are encouraging and feel like a long lost family.
Girls With Sole is like a getaway for me where I can feel strong and safe and empowered. Nothing is impossible, only if we believe it is. Girls With Sole tells me I can achieve and I love it.”