Girls with Sole

Today I want to introduce you to a wonderful organization near to me both in spirit and geography.

GWS was started by Liz Ferro in August of 2009. It is beyond impressive what Liz has done in the past two years. She is a woman I have admired for a long time in my local running community and should be a inspiration to females young and old, near and far.

Liz’s Story
As a foster child herself, Liz Ferro, founder and Executive Director, was adopted at the age of two and personally experienced sexual abuse as a child. Liz credits athletics and fitness for giving her the self-esteem and inner strength needed throughout her life to overcome difficult times and view herself and her body as purposeful and important. 
More about GWS

Girls with Sole provides programs not just about running, but about all over wellness: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and everything else. Programs are free for the girls, and each gest a pair of running shoes and a jog bra. Ladies should be between the ages of 11 and 18 to take part, but if there is a girl as young as 8, special arrangements can be made and a program geared toward her age and abilities will be created.

Our Goal
Girls With Sole will offer a large variety of fitness and wellness programs, including yoga, dance and traditional team sports to girls who need someone to believe in them so that they may believe in themselves. Many of these girls who have experienced abuse would otherwise have no place to participate in sports or group exercise in a safe environment, or have access to group athletics. Focusing on healthy living, good nutrition, exercise and wellness will help girls make healthier choices in other parts of their lives – making a positive impact on our community as a whole.

Recently Liz was honored with the Classic Woman Award 2011 by Traditional Home Magazine. While watching her clip I was nearly brought to tears by the sincerity and passion in her voice.

Running for me has been a wonderful healing tool, recreation and identity builder in my adult life. In my younger years I also experienced abuse and trauma of varying degrees. I often think if I had discovered running at an earlier age I would have had an easier time of things.

Ignoring all the formal statistics and speaking from the heart for a moment I would say running is a perfect activity for someone who has too much for one person to process on their own, but believes they have no where and no one to turn to or trust. It’s an activity where I learned to be self-reliant. It allows a baseline and and progression only I could touch. Races and organized events set up a gateway into socialization and a sense of community and safety. Seeing the same faces week after week, overhearing the same struggles, has help me to not feel alone. I never had many close girlfriends and those I did I didn’t open up to, my closest girlfriends now are other runners or fitness enthusiasts and there are zero secrets. There is something bonding about the experience of running, especially long distance. If I could give any if not all the gifts running has given me to another little girl I would do so without hesitation.

Let us take a moment and review some facts and figures taken from the GWS website. Please visit for additional information.

Prepared for “Girls & Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Framework” by Marty Beyer, PhD and presented at Case Western Reserve University Schubert Center for Child Studies:
73% of girls in juvenile justice have experienced sexual or physical victimization.
In juvenile detention, 85% of girls report one or more traumatic events; 15% met PTSD criteria; 27% have attempted suicide; 23% have a history of self-harm; 20% were in foster care.
Abuse history in girls is linked to higher incidence of internalizing and externalizing disorders, including depression, anxiety and aggression; depression and anxiety predict delinquency proneness.
Sexually abused girls are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, which can lead to substance abuse and running away (and juvenile justice involvement).

Fact sheet prepared by Dr. Lyle Micheli and the faculty of the Division of Sports Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston:

Girls who play high school sports significantly outperform non-athletic girls in academic subjects such as science and math that tend to be dominated by boys. This suggests participating in sports gives girls the confidence to participate on a more equal footing in the classroom with boys.

Girls who are active also tend to be more optimistic, which has a direct bearing on motivation, and therefore achievement.

In a recent study, 80 percent of female Fortune 500 executives identified themselves as former “tomboys.”

Experts believe that it is not just enhanced fitness that improves girls’ emotional and psychological health, but also the very act of participating in sports that is empowering.

Girls who are athletes are also less likely to smoke or to have eating disorders.

Facts about sexual abuse and trauma
About 1 in 4 teens reports verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse each year.
About 1 in 5 High School girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
38% of girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
90-95% of sexual abuse cases go unreported to the police.
In most sexual abuse cases, the child knows the abuser.
Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their dating relationships continue to date their abuser.
About 1 in 5 teens reports being a victim of emotional abuse.

Honestly, how can you read those statistics and not think, “What can I do to make a difference?” Even if you question the source or the totals, how can you know there are these situations and not want to improve life for these kids?

It’s true Girls with Sole isn’t the only organization focusing on young girls. This organization is home-base for me though. I’ve run next to their founder on our trails and I can’t express how proud I am of her for doing this and to have seen it grow over the years. Two of my teams support her too, Grunt Girl Racing and Cleveland West Road Runners Club, showing again the ties they have to the community.

Which is why when I saw a challenge on Swanson Vitamin’s blog I knew immediately the organization I wanted to promote.

Swanson Health Products Contests

Regardless of any contest, I hope those in my area consider supporting the organization, the girls, and the events they put on each year. Make sure to ask to join their Facebook group for any new information and in the meantime … there are many, many ways you can help, for example:

If you go to the donation page, you can make a direct one time donation, using PayPal, MasterCard, VISA, Discover, American Express or your bank account!

You can join Team LULA (Lacing Up for a Lifetime of Achievement) and have your activities be fundraisers. You can bike, swim, run or whatever.

Does your company do an annual charity drive or take part in United Way? Consider designating GWS as your featured group.

Donate a new pair of running shoes or volunteer as a coach.

Hey! You can even send a charity gift card in honor of someone in your life as their holiday gift.

With all the options and information out there, I am sure everyone can find something good about this organization and a way to help Liz continue the amazing work she started.

4 thoughts on “Girls with Sole

  1. GWS is awesome! I was a coach for a while, but then my program got cancelled and I couldn't make it to any of the others. So great 🙂 Glad to see the word about GWS is spreading!

  2. Pingback: Finish Line Feeling | ROJ Running

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