Baumhower: This is MeWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: Girls on the Run of Northwest Ohio will expand into Beverly Elementary School this fall, not Elmhurst Elementary School as an earlier version of this column stated.
The words “Pretty is as pretty does” made me smile when I heard Julia Bates use them almost as a topic sentence during a recent interview at the Toledo Free Press offices. Julia was a little uncomfortable because she was being photographed extensively by her daughter, Lee, without wearing any makeup, a white T-shirt and blue jeans. Julia, who broke through a glass ceiling when she was the first female ever elected Lucas County Prosecutor, was having her picture taken to hopefully inspire the next generation of women. Listening to her conversation with TFP’s Managing Editor Sarah Ottney confirmed I had made the right choice and, more importantly, I was on to to something beautiful.
As a father of four, with three girls, I had always imagined raising them would be easier than raising any boy. What problems could a little girl have that my hug couldn’t fix? That philosophy worked for the first six or seven years … then reality reared its ugly head. My two younger girls, Kacee (10) and Joeli (7), have lived through a rough divorce, spending the past four years splitting their time between their mom and myself, all while putting their best face forward. I am incredibly cognizant of the vast differences between the two households in which my three younger children live. One is way more structured, more disciplined — and then there is my house, which isn’t quite those things. In my newer role of the evolved 50 percent custodian, I have learned that I must be at times both a father and a mother figure. This can be occasionally problematic because if I had known anything at all about women, I’d probably still be married. I have no idea how to braid hair; I can barely execute a ponytail. My fashion capabilities are severely limited.
My thoughts on my girls dating are beyond primitive. But understanding and accepting my shortcomings gives me motivation to find the creativity to reach their beautiful little minds.
Seeing Demi Lovato and other celebs tweet makeup-free “selfies,” those pictures people take of themselves, sparked a vision in my head. What if we filled a room with selfies of the most inspiring women in Northwest Ohio, all without makeup? I knew that would be a pretty powerful night and event, but I needed the right organization or charity to benefit from it.
Two years ago, I was at Pacesetter Park when I witnessed a pack of familiar looking girls about the same age as my daughter Kacee. This group of smiling young women were running, looking focused, when I saw a friend and parent leading them along. I asked if it was cross country team and K.T. Newsom, a St. Joe’s Sylvania mom and avid runner proudly introduced me to Girls On The Run (GOTR).
I admitted I had never heard of the organization, but I was intrigued by something else that was occurring. Along their route and attached to posts were sheets of paper. A girl would stop, grab the pen hanging by yarn and jot something down, then they would immediately begin jogging again. Newsom explained that each piece of paper had the name of one of the girls in their group. The runners who were training for a 5K race were asked to write down a compliment about each member of this girls-only club. At the end of the session, each girl was able to take a page full of compliments home after running and paying many of her own. I smirked at the pure beauty and simplicity of their task.
Newsom then explained that Girls on the Run was an organization designed for girls in the third, fourth and fifth grades. The 10-week program prepared the girls to run a 5K, but half of its time dedicated to discussing issues relevent to being a girl today. Topics range from diet and nutrition to gossip and bullying, but the one that connected with me is how the media can make you feel about your own body image. I would never have known how to begin this conversation with any of my daughters.
Two years later, I remembered that conversation at Pacestter and picked up the phone. It was at this time I learned about the reach of the local GOTR and found that although it had only been in Northwest Ohio the past couple of years, they were doubling the number of schools each session and the number of participants from existing schools was growing exponentially. I also learned something that broke my heart: As of this past May, GOTR was not in any Toledo Public Schools (TPS).
I shook my head that another amazing group was almost exclusive to affluent neighborhoods, when the inner city schools have at the very least an equal need and demand. GOTR organizers explained they were having some communication issues with TPS, but were wanting to expand everywhere that would have them. This was the moment I realized GOTR was what I was looking for, the reason why powerful women would display their naked faces to the world. I pitched my vision for This is Me, explained the motive behind it and asked GOTR if they would be a part of it. I promised everyone at our initial meeting that I would help knock loudly on TPS’ door until they answered, and would raise enough money to fund GOTR at one TPS school for a year.
I am happy to announce that TPS answered a couple of weeks later and Girls on the Run will begin at Beverly Elementary School this year.
We are currently photographing our This is Me participants. I asked one of the area’s best young artists, Lee Bates, to lend her incredible eye and passion for this project. Lee is the daughter of Julia and Judge Jim Bates and eagerly accepted the task. The amazing moments and conversations I have observed during the first couple photo sessions are beyond inspiring. I am so excited to see all these beautiful naked faces and their stories being honored in a way they each deserve. The women who have been asked all come from various backgrounds and each was her own tremendous message for young girls.
If you wish to come and support GOTR, This is Me is happening at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at The Blarney Events Center in Downtowen Toledo. The photos will be sold in a silent auction the night of This is Me; 100 percent of the proceeds will fund Girls on the Run of Northwest Ohio. The Blarney Event Center, 601 Monroe St., will be the place to be that evening. It will host great live music from the area’s best female artists, amazing appetizers and the finest spirits. If you can’t make it but wish to support This is Me in another way, you can join the movement by posting a selfie of you without makeup using the hashtag #thisismeToledo.
For ticket and event information or to learn more about Girls on the Run, visit www.thisismetoledo.com.