To see a young girl believe in herself—well, there’s not much more inspiring than that.

Chicago-based Girls in the Game aspires to make that moment happen for more young girls.

“(Girls in the Game) inspired me to be a lawyer, because you have to be brave and strong,” says Paula, a participant for six years. “You have to know what you’re doing. It’s all about leadership.”

Why was Girls in the Game founded?
Since 1995, the organization has been working with Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Park District to provide innovative programming that educates more than 3,000 girls between the ages of 6-18 about fitness, nutrition and healthy living. The goal? To turn out future leaders with a solid sense of self-esteem.

“For our girls, there’s nothing else to enroll in,” says Girls in the Game president and CEO Amy Skeen. ”That’s why we run elementary, middle and high school programs—programs we run year-round so that they can stay in it long term.”

Girls in the Game offers an after-school program that currently operates in 50 schools, summer camp and teen mentoring programs, and “Sports Days” at which the girls are exposed to a variety of fitness activities and sports and can learn more about after-school programs.
Can you share any success stories?
Mariya is a great example of the power of the program, and part of their recent holiday campaign message: “In 2006, Mariya enrolled in the Girls in the Game After School program at her middle school. A timid 11-year-old, Mariya found a safe place to discover her strength, her voice and a community of girls committed to healthy lifestyles. Her teachers noticed the change and commented on the newfound confidence Mariya displayed during the school day.”

“Girls in the Game helped me discover who I am, and now I want to do all I can to help other girls do the same,” Mariya says.
What makes at Girls in the Game so special?
The program works—according to independent research by Learning Point Associates and Loyola University, just a single year in an after school program makes a noticeable difference—girls exercised more, improved their knowledge of nutrition, ate a healthier diet, and experienced enhanced self-esteem and leadership abilities.

Skeen says her passion for the program has its seeds in the volunteer work she first did with the group. “I think one of the benefits that I had is that I was a volunteer early on,” she says. “I really believed in that intersection of sports and health helping to make an impact on the lives of girls.”

“Girls in the Game offers so much,” Skeen says. “Everyone gets her chance to be the rock star.”

Girls in the Game by the numbers:

In 2011:

  • 3,200 girls benefitted from the program.
  • 20 sites and 782 girls in the elementary school program. The five-year goal is to increase that number to 30 sites.
  • 9 sites and 208 girls in the middle school program. The five-year goal calls for 20 sites.
  • 20 sites and 660 girls served by the Weekend Days of Play program.
  • 120 girls were served by the Sports & Leadership Camp program.
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