Posted Suzanna McCloskey on 4/7/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
This year, Girls on the Run will serve its one-millionth girl! We’re honoring this milestone by celebrating what makes each of us one in a million and by showcasing some one-in-a-million women who have made exceptional contributions to empowering girls and women.
As a Girls on the Run coach for four years and mother of three, Jodi Norgaard knows the importance of girls receiving positive messages about physical, mental and emotional health. When she saw a need for age appropriate, properly proportioned toys carrying that positive message, she decided to start Dream Big Toy Company and create Go! Go! Sports Girls dolls as a fun and educational way to celebrate healthy habits. The 11 dolls are themed around different sports with the goal of teaching girls to dream big and go for it, just what Jodi did when starting the toy company!
Here’s what Jodi has to share about being one in a million.
Q: Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams! How did you start to realize your own limitless potential and pursue the path to where you are today?
Jodi: I was somewhat of a shy girl, but I was a good observer and listener. I enjoyed drawing and sports and realized I enjoyed setting and achieving goals. I started to realize my limitless potential when I was a teenager, and it became more apparent when I went to college. I started to gain confidence and try new things. One new thing I tried, a goal, was my first 5k. I ran with a friend, who was a seasoned runner, and she would talk and I would listen! This helped me work on my breathing and stay focused. I succeeded with my 5k goal and moved onto my next goal, a half marathon, which led me to yet another goal–a marathon. Running is not easy and it takes determination, but it taught me persistence, meditation and the importance of an "I can" attitude verses an "I can't" attitude.
When my three children were very young, running became my meditation. I found that it cleared my head and I was a better mother, wife and friend! I saw and felt so many benefits from running, so when I heard about Girls on the Run when my daughter was 9-years-old, I knew I had to bring the program to my town, have her participate and become a coach. I was a coach for four years and saw it change the lives of not only the girls participating, but mine too.
While I was coaching Girls on the Run, my daughter and I were at a toy store. We were walking up and down the aisles when we came upon a section of dolls. Many of the dolls I saw sent an inappropriate message and were dressed in belly baring clothing, high heels and make up... From that moment on, I fueled my frustration into creating a collection of plush dolls, Go! Go! Sports Girls, to encourage healthy and active play over fashion and body image. Recently we added a series of Go! Go! Sports Girl books to accompany six of the dolls.
Q: Of the traits and achievements that help make you one-in-a-million, what stands out most to you?
Jodi: Determination, persistence, believing in yourself and an "I can" attitude. Through my journey with the Go! Go! Sports Girl line, there have been many people who have said, “Great idea, but they will never sell because they are not mainstream. They are not fashion dolls.” I knew they were wrong and realized change is never made by mainstream ideas, and I am creating change.
Q: Girls on the Run believes that big things are possible when you keep moving forward. Can you share an example from your own life?
Jodi: Aside from my three children, my example is starting a business I knew nothing about! It took two years launching the product, from rough sketch to the debut of the dolls. I needed to figure out how to do a lot–find a seamstress to sew prototypes, work with factories in China, figure out the cost of the product, get the product from China to the US, capital, overall quality control and much, much more. I was determined to figure it out, and the farther along I got, the more I knew I couldn’t give up. It is a very similar feeling when training for a race. When training for a marathon, I think everyone wants to give up at mile marker 18, but at that point there is no turning back! You have to keep moving forward.
Q: Which one of the core values of Girls on the Run resonates most with you and why?
Jodi: One core value that really resonates with me is, "Stand up for ourselves and others." I created the Go! Go! Sports Girl because I didn’t like what was marketed to girls and how girls and women were portrayed in the media. I wanted to stand up for them and shout from the mountain tops that women and girls are smart, creative and strong! Women are half the world, and if we viewed our world equally through the eyes of women and men, I believe there would be greater peace and balance. You can’t be what you can’t see, and I want to give girls a lot more to see!
Q: One of the many things our curriculum teaches girls is how to recognize and work through challenges in productive ways. What is a challenge you have faced (or still face)? How did/do you respond, and what have you learned from it?
Jodi: One of my personal challenges with this business has been fear. There are a lot of unknowns, and I have had to take leaps of faith. Having mentors and asking questions has helped a lot. I have also realized that worrying about a fear doesn’t help one bit. Staying calm is always good!
Q: What insight or advice would you offer a young girl today? What would you say now to your 8-year-old self?
Jodi: Work hard, be kind and be honest.
This spring, Girls on the Run will serve our 1 millionth girl! To celebrate, we're sharing the stories of girls, volunteers and supporters who have been inspired to be joyful, healthy and confident. Join our virtual celebration today and learn other ways to get involved at girlsontherun.org.