Almost 20 years ago, Molly Barker - a former Ironman triathlete and recovering alcoholic - went for a run.  She ran to clear her mind and wipe away demons that had chased her since her childhood.  And she realized that she was not alone in her thoughts and her fears.  She realized that she was like many women who had begun in early childhood changing who they were and what they believed in based on what they thought was expected of them.  That run - combined with that epiphany - gave Barker a very big idea.

What if we could catch girls in their formative years - say 3rd through 5th grade - and really teach them what it means to be true to themselves?  We could teach them about health and nutrition for sure, so that they know how to physically take care of themselves.  But we could also teach them about defusing negative self-talk - the kind that makes them feel like they aren't beautiful because they don't have a thigh gap or wear the 'right clothes.'  In fact, we could teach them what real beauty truly is -- kindness, and strength, and loyalty, and love.  

What if we could do all of that, and combine it with a goal so tangible that these young girls will remember it for their whole childhood?  An achievement that can never be taken away no matter what life throws at them along the way.  

Running a 5K.

And so the idea for Girls on the Run was born.  That first year, Barker worked with 13 girls in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.  She changed their lives that year almost as much as they changed hers.  

Today, Girls on the Run is offered in over 150 cities across North America and hundreds of thousands of girls’ and women’s lives have been changed by the program.

For the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to be on the ground floor of my community's inaugural Girls on the Run program.  Twice a week, for the past several weeks, I have met with this group of girls to talk about everything from the importance of fruits and veggies to body image to self-confidence.  And in between all of that talking, we run.  

I have seen with my very own eyes how this program truly transforms the lives of young girls.  How it teaches girls to believe in themselves.  And how it reminds them how awesome they are before society, their friends, or that little voice in their head starts telling them otherwise.

In January, I told you about my mission to raise money for the ASPCA in honor of my dearly departed 14-year-old lab by running a marathon.  Well, I'm lacing up my running shoes again for a good cause.  This time it's the New York City Marathon.  And this time it's for Girls on the Run.  

I honestly don't know who gets more out of the Girls on the Run experience - me or the girls on my team.  But I do know that I'm honored to be a part of it.  

If you are interested in donating to Girls on the Run, I would be most grateful if you would consider donating through my fundraising page.

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.