I encountered Girls on the Run like many other parents do – my girls brought home information about a “running program”, and I thought it sounded like a great way to encourage them to be more active. Boy, was I wrong. This supposed “running program” was SO MUCH MORE. My girls learned how to embrace their authentic selves, how to nurture positive relationships (and identify the not-so-good ones), and how they can impact those around them. This was an EMPOWERMENT program, that happened to include some running. I was hooked. I decided I needed to get more involved, and signed up to become a coach. I showed up for National Coach Training, and walked into a room full of amazing and beautiful women (and a few men too!) of all sizes, shapes, colors and backgrounds. Women from the inner city, from suburbia, and from rural areas. Runners and non-runners. All these amazing people were there to learn, and to give back. One of the activities during coach training was an exercise in understanding context. Each prospective coach filled out a sort of Mad Lib-style, fill-in-the-blanks poem called “I Am From”. This exercise asked us to visualize our childhood and remember what we saw, smelled, heard, and felt. Both the good and the bad. I cried when I read mine. I cried as I listened to others. This exercise – this moment – was pivotal for me. You see, I am a survivor of abuse. I was sexually abused as a child. As an adult, I was in an abusive marriage. These two things are not unrelated. It has become painfully apparent to me the impact a program like Girls on the Run could have had on me as a child, and I have made it my personal mission to help bring this program to as many girls as I can. All three of my daughters have participated in the program, and continue to contribute as they graduate from it. I am raising my girls to be empowered, self-aware, and confident women. Girls on the Run has helped my daughters, and myself, to identify and embrace our individual strengths, beauty, and STAR POWER. And if even just one of my daughters, my co-coaches, or the girls I coach learn they have the strength and confidence to avoid or escape a potentially abusive relationship, then I’ve done my job.