Twenty years ago, Molly Barker started Girls On The Run, the popular after-school program that’s designed to help young girls feel healthy and confident through daily lessons and running. While it began right here in Charlotte, Girls On The Run has successfully expanded across the country and served more than 1 million girls! Now, Molly is taking on a different challenge with her newest project, The Red Boot Coalition, which is designed to give people a safe and welcoming place to share their stories and be heard, all in an effort to change how people see and engage with those around them. She’s on a mission the make the world a better place, and we don’t see her slowing down anytime soon! We are excited to introduce you to today’s FACE of Charlotte, Molly Barker.
How did The Red Boot Coalition get started?
I retired from Girl’s On The Run in 2013 and consequently spent two years on Capitol Hill. Disturbed by what I saw as partisan politics above integral leadership, I set off on a cross-country trip interviewing everyday Americans about the “us VS them” mentality that’s so prevalent throughout our nation. I quickly learned that the divide between Americans extended far past politics into race, religion and gender. When the trip was over I compiled all of the responses; one compelling message came through loud and clear. All people yearn to be seen, to be heard and to know they are loved. This is what The Red Boot Coalition does.
What’s been the most rewarding part of the coalition?
Being present to the moments when people realize that they are enough … to bear witness to that moment when someone realizes that the world needs them … as they are … to build trust in my community and then get engaged with others in working towards solutions that make the world a better place.
What hopes do you have for the future of The Red Boot Coalition?
Right now we are in an overwhelming surge of growth and interest, so my hope is that we hold onto our core principles as more people get involved; of course, I would love to see Red Boot all over the world.
You also started Girls On The Run. Tell us how that came about.
From adolescence through my early 30s, I struggled trying to conform to the ideals and stereotypes associated with being a “good Southern girl.” At age 32, I hit bottom. Three years later I started Girls On The Run. In 1996 I wrote the original curriculum and launched the program at Charlotte Country Day School. Since then, the program has served over 1 million girls.
“Girl Box” is a saying you coined. Tell us what it means and how you came up with it.
The Girl Box is that seemingly “real” place a girl feels obliged to go to, around middle school, where societal expectations and stereotypes become more important than just being herself. The box exists across all cultures and nations. It varies by ethnicity, race, religion and economics, but it does exist in the lives of girls and women.
What’s the most important lesson you hope young girls take away from Girls On The Run?
That who we are in any one moment is good enough; that we all make mistakes; that it’s critically important to stand up for ourselves and others; that we continue to look within and consistently assess how best to use our gifts and talents in the world.
If you could go back, what’s something you’d tell your younger self?
Slow down, breathe more and listen.
Best piece of advice?
“This too shall pass.”
What’s your favorite way to relax and unwind?
Spending time with my 18- and 21-year-old kids.
Are you an early bird or night owl?
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Besides the obvious, roof over my head, food in my belly and healthy environmental conditions, my running shoes, my yoga mat and my smartphone.
Thank you to Molly Barker for taking the time to speak with us. You can learn more about The Red Boot Coalition here. Thanks also to Piper Warlick of Piper Warlick Photography for the beautiful pictures of Molly.
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