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Symbol of HOPE Award


Liz Ferro is the founder and executive director of Girls With Sole, a nonprofit organization based in Rocky River, Ohio. The mission of Girls With Sole is to use free fitness and wellness programs to empower the minds, bodies, and souls of girls who are at risk or have experienced abuse of any kind, and the vision is a world where every girl thinks of herself as an athlete—and is inspired and nurtured in mind, body, and
soul to achieve her fullest potential and innermost success.
 
As a baby, Liz was bounced around numerous foster homes until she was adopted at the age of 2. As a young child, she was sexually abused by a neighbor. Through the tumultuous years that followed, Liz found solace and purpose in one constant: sports. Through running, swimming, and other fitness activities, Liz discovered the healing power of the ‘‘finish line feeling,’’ the undeniable sense of pride and
accomplishment that comes from setting and reaching ambitious goals in sports and in life.
 
In 2009, Liz decided to share what she had learned as a survivor and an athlete with girls and young women who are experiencing difficulties in life. Serving just four girls that first year, Liz launched Girls With Sole with an undeterred passion for helping disadvantaged girls to experience the transformative finish line feeling for themselves. Since then, Girls With Sole has served nearly 1000 girls aged 9 to 18 through Liz’s signature program called Lacing Up for a Lifetime of Achievement (LULA). The LULA program includes a guided curriculum and exposure to numerous fitness activities, which teach girls teamwork, leadership, and healthy habits to last a lifetime.
 
What makes Girls With Sole uniquely effective is that it introduces health and fitness into the lives of underserved girls through the lens that fitness should always be introduced to everyone—as an accessible, healthy, fulfilling part of life that we all deserve to experience, not a competition for elite athletes to win. Crossing the finish line of a race is not about outrunning others; rather, it’s about getting the most out of oneself. These critical concepts of fitness and health promotion are at the heart of Liz’s message and her programming. As a result, the girls she reaches learn to love fitness, not just for the way it makes them feel physically, but also for the way it makes them feel mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. What the girls learn from Liz naturally spills over
into other parts of their lives, including academics and family and social
relationships.
 
To date Liz has crossed many finish lines. She has completed over 50 marathons (2 of them 50K ultras), 5 Ironman triathlons, and countless
road races and triathlons. She recently launched the ‘‘50 States for Sole’’
campaign and is running a marathon in all 50 states to raise awareness
and funds for Girls With Sole.
 
Liz has taken what she has learned from overcoming the tragedies of
her past and turned it into a passion for uplifting and encouraging girls
and young women who are so often overlooked, written off, and
forgotten. Her success in life is not measured by the size of Girls With
Sole or by the number of people served through her programming. She
measures success by the lasting impact she is having, one day and one
girl at a time.
 
Liz is the recipient of the 2015 Perspectives Women Who Excel
Award; the 2015 Ninth Annual Roslyn Z. Wolf Award; the 2014 SELF
Women Doing Good Award; the 2012 Longines Women Who Make a
Difference Award from Town & Country Magazine; the 2011 American
Red Cross of Greater Cleveland Hero Award; and the 2011 Classic
Woman Award from Traditional Home Magazine. She has been featured
on the NBC TODAY show and in Runner’s World and Family Circle
Magazine, is the author of the memoir Finish Line Feeling, and shares her
inspiring story and mission in speeches to professional and lay groups all
over the nation.