Mini Mermaids, Huge Impact: Making Running More Meaningful for Young Girls
Nothing but smiles from Cheredar, Nevens, Gann, Stone, Downer, McEntee, Tatum Ramsay, Teagan Ramsay, and coach Jen McEntee after completing the Temecula 5K.
Between flying back and forth to New Orleans for a running conference, nurturing and growing the Mini Mermaids Running Club regularly, squeezing in her own family time, and personally running eight half marathons in April to raise Mini Mermaids Running Club awareness (from Ft Bragg to Tijuana), I’m honored to have had the opportunity to interview the Co-Founder of Mini Mermaids Running Club. I hope you’re just as ecstatic to read her thorough replies and insight as I am.
Heidi Boynton is the busy bee referred to in the previous paragraph who is not only an Ironman, wife, mother, and triathlon coach herself, but the Co-Founder of MMRC. In December of 2009, she and Co-Founder Megan Tresham realized the importance of helping girls gain confidence, a positive body image and strong self esteem from a young age. The program is especially geared toward girls living at or below the poverty line. By acknowledging where each girl lives, what they have access to, expressing what frightens them, holds them back and how they will move forward, MMRC can teach resiliency. Boynton draws a parallel between the finish line of a race representing the completion of hard work, determination, struggle, optimism, goals met, opportunities, and unknown paths walked on confidently, and that of the hardships in their lives that coaches encourage girls not to mask but instead to uncover and unleash their power to bounce back from.
Sporting their well earned medals.
MMRC is not “just” a circle of love and empowering words, though. A specific and creative curriculum that encourages self empowering provides self awareness, self respect, fitness, strength, accomplishment, and community over six weeks is what makes this program so effective. Not only does the program address the fastest growing public health crisis (obesity/diabetes), but also the need to educate girls about the complexities of both media and social media. As a former 6th grade teacher, I sincerely appreciate these very real and meaningful topics being addressed in a genuine way amongst peers.
Heidi recalled an example of empowering girls in action when Rebecca desired to be a Mini Mermaid. You see, all of Rebecca’s friends were Mini Mermaids and Rebecca would plead with her mother daily, “Please Mamma, ask if I can be a Mini Mermaid,” only to hear her mother’s soft reply, “No, Rebecca.” Eventually, Rebecca wore her mother down and her mom sheepishly walked across the street assuming the coach would not let Rebecca join; quite the opposite occurred. Rebecca, her teammates, and her coach didn’t see her wheelchair as a barrier to completing a race. Instead, her coaches pull her up out of her chair and she ‘runs’ being held up by the women who are leading her and telling her no matter what, she can do great things. Rebecca embodied this and wrote in her journal that she “wants to be a Mini Mermaid everyday for the rest of her life.”
Rebecca is one of over 3,500 participating Mermaids in grades 1-12. Another impressive aspect of MMRC’s curriculum is that it transcends all grades and even ages. Participants say they, “LOVE being a Mini Mermaid,” and coaches say, “I wish I had this.” The narrative of the Mini Mermaid versus Siren is a powerful one I think all women can relate to.
When I asked, “What next?” to this clearly ambitious Co-Founder, I got a clearly ambitious answer:
“Our 50 states expansion. In the fall of 2014, we begin our 50 States Project, inspired by a study released in collaboration between Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin that identified the least healthy counties in each of the 50 United States. Our audacious but entirely achievable goal is to establish at least one MMRC team each of ten elementary-school aged girls and ten middle-school aged girls in each of the counties identified by 2018. We know based off of previous experiences that we can fund at a minimum 50 girls in a new city with a $5K grant. Our goal is to complete raising the funds for this project (total of $250k) and continue our already speedy expansion. As of now, Jan 2015 – we are in 13 states and 7 countries.”
The best part? You can get involved by joining the Mini Mermaids! Check out their website HERE if you are interested in coaching, donating, helping on race days, or participating. Every girl is offered an opportunity to join, regardless of their financial situation thanks to the ONE4ONE model.
Mini Mermaids: A girls only group that can be supported by and appreciated by everyone.