By Donna Cornelius
What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?
Participants in a Girls on the Run event next month will explore that question — and meet some women who didn’t let the fear of failure stop them from succeeding.
Girls on the Run is an international organization that uses physical activity, including fun running games, to inspire confidence in young girls. But it also focuses on teaching life skills through interactive lessons with positive role models.
The organization, which serves more than 168,000 girls each year, has chapters in more than 225 cities. The Birmingham area’s chapter, Girls on the Run Birmingham Metro, will host a two-day event in October to celebrate the group’s mission, organizers said.
The first event, An Evening of Empowerment, will be held Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at Clubhouse on Highlands, 2908 Highland Ave. S., Birmingham.
Guests will have cocktails and appetizers during a meet-and-greet with several people the organization calls Women Who Inspire, including Girls on the Run International founder Molly Barker.
Barker started the organization in 1996 in Charlotte, N.C., with 13 girls. She said she used running to launch the nonprofit because of the impact it had on her as a middle school-aged girl.
“My mom started running when I was about 14,” she said. “In the early 1970s, it was still a little odd for a middle-aged woman to be out running. She was breaking stereotypes.
“I’d run with her, and it was a very safe place to be myself. When girls reach middle school, they’re told how they’re supposed to look and act. When I was running with my mom, I felt very strong and powerful.”
In 2013, Barker stepped down from her leading role in Girls on the Run. Her title in the organization wasn’t director or chairman but “vision keeper,” she said.
“I was never the executive type,” she said. “I prefer jeans over a suit.”
She now travels the country to speak at events like the one in Birmingham. She’s also starting a new nonprofit, The Red Boot Coalition.
“It will take the same idea of getting people out of stereotypes and will try to shatter the race box, the religion box, the corporate box,” Barker said.
In Birmingham, she’ll talk about the founding of Girls on the Run and the “turmoil of being an adolescent girl,” she said.
She said she’s pleased with the way Girls on the Run is growing.
“It’s just been a social movement,” she said. “Our leadership all over, including in Birmingham, knows how to lead and inspire.”
Four inspiring Birmingham women will be featured with Barker at An Evening of Empowerment.
Cantor Jessica Roskin, a native of North Miami Beach, Florida came to Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El in 1999. She serves the congregation in many capacities, including teaching children and adults, pastoral care, counseling, weddings, funerals and interpreting Jewish liturgy through the history and tradition of Jewish music.
Brenda Ladun, an ABC 33/40 news anchor, has worked in Birmingham television for two decades. She’s a five-time winner of the Alabama Associated Press awards for Best Investigative Reporter and Best Specialized Reporter. Most recently, Ladun won the AP award for Best Anchor. She is a two-time breast cancer survivor, mother and author.
Javacia Harris Bowser is the founder of See Jane Write, a membership organization and website for women who write and blog. This year, Bowser was named one of the city’s Top 40 Under 40 by the Birmingham Business Journal for her work with See Jane Write. She teaches English at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.
Sarah Parcak is a graduate of Yale University and Cambridge University, a National Geographic Society Archaeology Fellow and the founding director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she is an associate professor in the department of anthropology. She and her husband, Egyptologist Greg Mumford, work together on archaeological projects in the Delta, Sinai and pyramid fields regions of Egypt. She has written the first textbook on satellite archaeology, which uses satellite imaging to identify potential archaeological sites.
Also at the Thursday night session, guests will screen a documentary film called “The Empowerment Project.”
There will be brief remarks and a question-and-answer session with Barker, one of the women featured in the film.
Tickets are $50, and space is limited.
Friday’s program is all about empowering girls, organizers said.
Middle school girls from across the Birmingham metro area are invited to a free screening of “The Empowerment Project” at The Edge Movie Theatre from 9-11 a.m. After the film, there will be a brief Q&A session with Barker and the Women Who Inspire.
Catherine Gregory, Girls on the Run Birmingham Metro director, said she sees this two-day event as more “friend-raiser” than fundraiser.
“I hope these events are just the start of a bigger movement to elevate girls’ visions of what they can accomplish,” she said.
This spring, the Birmingham Girls on the Run chapter will launch a middle school curriculum called Heart & Sole, Gregory said.
“It will build on the question ‘What would you try if you were not afraid to fail?’ and teach life skills to help the girls move forward with confidence and self-respect,” she said.
Girls on the Run Birmingham Metro is celebrating its fifth year of serving girls in grades 3-5 and their families.
The chapter started with three teams in 2011 and now averages 15 teams per season at schools in the Birmingham area and in Shelby, St. Clair and Talladega counties.
Girls in the program participate in two 5K events: the Girls on the Run 5K in Hoover in the spring and a partnership with the Magic City Half Marathon and 5K in the fall.
For more information about the Evening of Empowerment and the Birmingham Metro chapter of Girls on the Run, visit www.girlsontherunbham.org or the group’s Facebook page.
To see the trailer for the film, go to www.empowermentproject.com. ϖ