Girls on the Run of Charlotte was founded by local Charlotte native, Molly Barker back in 1996. Since then, GOTR has grown into an international organization serving over 40,000 girls per year across North America. Locally, GOTR has been able to serve over 1600 girls per year, thanks to our partnership with Speedway Children' Charities. Our mission of educating and preparing girls for a lifetime of healthy living and self esteem has many different outcomes. Physically, our goal for the participants is to be able to run a 5K at the end of the season but it is the impact the program has on girl's self-esteem that truly changes their lives.

Melissa's daughter Abbigail was a GOTR participant last year and shared the impact the program had on her daughter's life.

Abbigail has had many struggles with academics, which of course took a huge hit to her self esteem. After many doctors and testing we found out that she had a learning disability called Auditory Processing Disorder. In short this means for her that when learning in school through auditory channels it is difficult and often impossible for her to transfer information from auditory pathway to memory. This first became obvious when she told us in the second grade that she just learned the math lesson last week and she could not remember. Her words were, " it is like someone took an eraser and erased my brain!" This was devastating as her parents to hear her finally put it in words what we knew was there from a very young age without a name.

With the love and support of family friends and teachers she started to make head way. But, there had been so much struggle for so long that it had taken a toll on her self esteem. She felt not good enough and cried all the time. We searched for something she would enjoy and for an activity that may help her to see her strengths. Every activity ended in not feeling good enough but, we kept encouraging her to try. As parents we knew she needed to find something soon or it would surely destroy her!

The one thing Abbigail has always had going for her is she is well behaved and a sweet easy to be around child. Even in her worst moments at school, teachers always commented on her drive and attitude to keep trying her best regardless of the out come! So we focused on that... after all that is a major strength!

Then she started fourth grade we were truly unsure how she would get through it and she brought home a brochure for GOTR, her interest seemed so genuine so we said of course we can try it! Well the rest is history!

She started running and found out she was real talented runner. Once again her drive and positive attitude took her places she never dreamed of going. Each week she would come home more and more happier about her accomplishments. Then she started telling us that she was one of the fastest runners even faster than the fifth graders she would say! We did not care if it was true or not she felt good about herself and this was something we would all hold onto!

Her dad and she started training together and they ran the Jingle Jog at the end of the season. I cannot begin to tell you the pride we all felt in her accomplishments, finally a win- win situation! When I asked Abby one day what do you like about running she said, " I Feel Free!!" Yes, I thought free from the struggles, free from the emotional pains and free from the I'm not good enough!

If it was not for GOTR, we would have never known the talent she had and we would be still trying to find a place for her to feel good about herself. But, now Abby holds her head higher and tells us she knows she is a good runner and feels good! She runs at recess and says her school mates tell her she a good runner. She finally has something to show off!

The school work has improved to honor roll status at times but, most of all it is the confidence that is the true gift! We have told her over and over it is how you feel about yourself that really matters and that positive attitude will take you places! She believes us now!!! Regarding the learning disability it will stay with her for life but, we think running will help her deal with it to as she said "make her feel FREE!!" Thank You for GOTR!!!