While on a run in 1993, Charlotte resident Molly Barker had an epiphany while looking out at thunderclouds in the distance. She said she realized that she was trying to conform to a definition of the word “girl” that limited her potential.
And 20 years later to the week, Barker was honored as the 4,999th Daily Point of Light, a recognition started by former President George H.W. Bush for people who make a difference. She was recognized at the White House on Monday.
After her run in 1993, Barker began a process of recovering from alcoholism and decided that she wanted to help girls cope with negativity and stereotypes that they experience in adolescence.
She founded “Girls on the Run” in 1996, a program that aims to help make girls happy, healthy and confident, and integrates her love for running. Barker organized running activities that incorporated exercises to help build the confidence of the 13 girls who participated in the initial program.
Since then, the program has served more than 600,000 girls across the country, and more than 200,000 people have volunteered with it. This year, 140,000 have participated in Girls on the Run.
Barker was invited to the White House for the celebration of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light, where Bush and President Barack Obama were both in attendance.
Delores Morton, president of programs for Points of Light, said the gathering was Bush’s way to celebrate 5,000 Points of Light in the same place he celebrated the first one.
Morton said Barker was selected because she started out as a volunteer but brought other people together out of her own passion to create change.
Barker said she was overcome with gratitude for all of the volunteers who helped her build Girls on the Run.
“I just cried,” Barker said about her experience being recognized as a Point of Light.
And Barker keeps running.
She is piloting a new project in September called “Running Mates,” which will focus on political leadership.
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