The Morning Journal covers Girls With Sole Programs in Lorain

Yoga, dance workouts help Girls with Sole participants prepare for 5K race

Published: Monday, May 06, 2013

MORNING JOURNAL/JIM BOBEL The Girls with Sole do yoga and dance Zumba and do other fun exercises each week for the 12 week program.

ELYRIA — Local girls are making friends, gaining confidence and gearing up for a 5K race after participating in the Girls with Sole program.

Girls with Sole is a 12-week wellness and fitness program designed to empower the minds, bodies and souls of pre-teen and teenaged girls who are at-risk or have experienced abuse of any kind. The goal of the program is to raise the confidence and self-esteem levels of girls to help them to reach their fullest potential.

The girls participating in the one-hour fitness sessions run, play volleyball, do yoga, dance Zumba and do other fun exercises to prepare for the upcoming Girls with Sole “LULA” 5K race June 9 at Beachcliff Market Square in Rocky River.

“The 5K race really just gives the girls a finish line for all the hard work they have put forth through the program,” said Liz Ferro, founder of Girls with Sole. “The lessons, confidence, and friendships built, however, last a lot longer than that finish line.”

The Girls with Sole Program is currently being featured at Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs around Lorain County. The program offers girls the chance to be active while developing the physical and emotional strength needed to achieve personal goals.

“Girls with Sole is fun. We get to do a lot of cool things and you don’t even realize you are working out,” said Jada Stephens, of Franklin Elementary School in Elyria.

Ferro is currently helping girls at the Elyria Boys and Girls Club have fun and get moving in preparation for the June 5 race.

“The majority of the girls did not know each other and were not physically active before participating in the program,” Ferro said. “Now the girls have more energy, are more focused, and have grown to be very accepting of each other.”

The girls participating in the exercise session come from various elementary schools around the county and range in age from 9 to 12 years old.

According to Ray Armstrong, director for the Elyria Boys and Girls Club, the response from the girls has been overwhelming, with many of them grateful and wishing the program lasted longer.

“My favorite thing about the program is that we get to let out our real selves,” Girls with Sole participant Ala-jeiah Milton said.

According to Ferro, the sessions are showing the girls that fitness can be an outlet to relieve some of the struggles girls face today.

Ferro, a victim and survivor of foster care and child abuse, stated that she used fitness and athletics as a way of gaining confidence, self-esteem and inner strength through her own difficult times.

“I wish there was a program like Girls with Sole when I was younger to get me through tough times,” Ferro said. “Girls with Sole is my way of giving back. I’m just trying to show girls everywhere that we are a team, we are strong, and we don’t have to face life’s struggles alone.”

Ferro is an author, recipient of the 2012 Longines Women who Make a Difference Award, and a competitive triathlete working toward inspiring girls everywhere to find their inner strength in the face of adversity.

“Girls in Lorain County are very lucky to have Liz Ferro as an inspirational leader,” said Kathleen Kern, associate director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health who helped bring Girls with Sole to Lorain County. “She is nationally recognized and is a great role model for the girls.”

One of the most fascinating aspects about Girls with Sole is the collaborative effort that has occurred locally to bring the program to Lorain County. The Medical Mutual Foundation of Ohio and the Lorain County Board of Mental Health have partnered to fund the staff necessary to hold the program and registration for the girls to participate in 5K races.

The Community Foundation of Lorain County provided the girls with sports bras needed for group participation while running shoes were provided by Lori Campana. Bellefaire JCB and Guidestone mental health clinicians also offered support to the girls participating in the program.

“When there was a gap needing to be filled, someone was always willing to step up to make this program possible,” Kern said. “Our goal is to continue to collaborate so that we can keep inspiring young women to set goals and achieve them.”

For more information about the Girls with Sole Program, call Liz Ferro at 668-1509 or visit





Crain’s Cleveland Business features Girls With Sole as: WHO TO WATCH: NONPROFITS


LIZ FERRO: Founder, Girls With Sole



April 22, 2013

Liz Ferro knows how devastating abuse can be to a young woman — but she also knows how empowering athletics can be.

So much so, in fact, that Ms. Ferro credits athletics with her own survival.

Ms. Ferro, who was in the foster system and later adopted, said the experience of being sexually abused by a nonfamily member as a child ultimately led her to create Girls With Sole, a fitness and wellness program for at-risk young women, ages 9 to 18.

“I just don’t want any girl to feel like they’re worthless or like their life isn’t going to go anywhere,” she said.

Ms. Ferro had worked as the executive director of Westlake-based Wigs for Kids before she decided to combine her passion for fitness with her passion for helping young adults.

She founded the Girls With Sole program in August 2009, and she estimates about 550 young women have taken part since.

The program consists of participation in and exposure to a wide variety of sports, from football and yoga to running, as well as self-esteem building activities. It is for young women who have experienced or are at risk for any type of abuse, from sexual abuse to bullying.

Currently, Girls With Sole hosts six weekly groups in Northeast Ohio. Ms. Ferro does get help from volunteers, but she is the only one dedicated to the effort full-time.

Bobby Taylor, director of operations at the Boys & Girls Club of Lorain County, said the participants look forward to the meetings. Ms. Ferro helps build their self-esteem, he said, and she creates an environment where “it’s OK to try.”

“The girls really gravitate to the energy that Liz brings,” Mr. Taylor said.

Rocky Melendez, the youth and recreation coordinator at the Merrick House in Cleveland, called the program “invaluable” and said it helps empower the young women and gives them confidence.

As for the future, Ms. Ferro, a runner, triathlete and married mother of two, said she eventually would like to earn a salary and hire a small staff.

She also hopes to by 2020 spread the Girls With Sole program nationally. Ms. Ferro said a lack of funding is the group’s biggest obstacle to expansion — it’s hard to hire people to run chapters without money for salaries — so she has been fundraising and looking into available grant funding. She also plans to encourage interested volunteers to hold fundraising runs.

Ms. Ferro said there’s often a lot of eye-rolling at the start of the program, but she’s had breakthroughs, too. Indeed, some girls tell her the program changed their lives and some choose to come back to Girls With Sole even after they’ve left residential treatment or a juvenile detention center. Ms. Ferro said she’s always shocked when the young women choose to come to the program after they no longer are required to attend.

As for the curriculum that Ms. Ferro created, she said she tries to ensure that there is something for everyone, which includes the focus on self-esteem.

“They find their way to feel good,” Ms. Ferro said.




Hope for Women Magazine~ February 2013

Women Who Inspire : Liz Ferro of Girls With Sole

By Marie Cauley

Imagine being a young girl, full of life, imagination, and possibilities. The entire world is before you; your future seems bright. You dream of what you will do when you grow up-excited to discover what’s next.

Then imagine that a stranger – or even someone close to you – does something horrible. You are physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused. Suddenly, the world doesn’t look wonderful. You start thinking you can’t trust people, or you must be worthless because if you were a good person, this wouldn’t have happened. It could be a single incident or a series of them over time. There are physical and emotional scars that threaten to derail the life you dreamed of. You shut down or lash out, sometimes alternating between the two. How do you get back your life and future?

Liz Ferro has been there. As a girl, she suffered trauma and sexual abuse, experienced the roller coaster of emotions, and needed a way to lift her up. Out of her childhood, Girls With Sole was born. She is the founder, also serving as Executive Director, and actively pursuing fundraising and programs in order to give the girls what they need for success.

Liz graciously took time out of her busy schedule to talk to Hope about Girls With Sole – how it all started, what lies ahead for the organization, and why this is so important for the girls.

HOPE: Please tell us about the Girls With Sole mission. What does your organization do?

LF: Our mission is to use free fitness/wellness programs to empower the minds, bodies, and souls of girls who are at-risk or have experienced abuse of any kind. Our vision is a world where every girl thinks of herself as an athlete, inspired and nurtured in mind, body, and soul to achieve her fullest potential and innermost success.

We partner with social service agencies, schools, juvenile attention facilities, hospitals, and residential treatment centers to bring free fitness/wellness programs directly to girls ages 9-18 where they are. We don’t have our own facility and aren’t a counseling service, which is why collaborating with organizations who have both, but might be missing the physical outlet and mind/body/soul component, makes for the perfect team. Our program partners change throughout the year, but currently the Girls With Sole Program partners are: Boys and Girls Club of Lorain; MetroHealth; Merrick House; Lorain County Board of Mental Health; Guidestone; Bellefaire JCB; The Intergenerational School; and the Multi-County Juvenile Attention System. GWS offers a variety of fitness/wellness programs, including yoga, dance, and traditional team sports to girls who need someone to believe in them, so that they may believe in themselves. Many of these girls would otherwise have no place to participate in sports or group exercise in a safe environment. Focusing on healthy living, good nutrition, exercise, and wellness helps the girls gain self-esteem and make healthier choices in other parts of their lives.

HOPE: What made you decide to start Girls With Sole?

LF: GWS developed out of my life experiences, combined with my passion for athletics, fitness, and helping kids. The first two years of my life were in foster care, and after four different foster homes and some trauma in those homes, I was adopted by a great family. When I was nine, I was sexually abused by a next-door neighbor. I didn’t get the support needed at that time, so in an effort to handle my negative energy and anger, and to feel better about myself, I turned to athletics. There I found strength, self-esteem, and a feeling of purposefulness. As an adult, it’s my personal mission to share this discovery with young women who might not find it on their own. It’s a coping mechanism that’s actually quite good for you, teaching resiliency and perseverance needed in all aspects of life.

HOPE: Could you share a few details of what your childhood was like?

LF: I was a tough little kid. I rebelled against all authority and had anger outbursts that could frighten the toughest felon on death row. Trust wasn’t something I gave easily; the wall I built around myself was iron-clad. On the flip side, I had exuberant amounts of energy, acting in a spontaneous and hyper manner. My mom was asked to withdraw me from Girl Scouts; my guidance counselor told me I wouldn’t make it into any colleges. Often, people told me I was crazy. I think deep down, I was always happy by nature but from childhood until about age 25, I had to fight against myself, battling with feelings of self-hate and worthlessness. Childhood was a dichotomy of bright sunshine and dark, torrential storms. Athletics helped me learn, giving me strength to keep going, no matter what.

HOPE: You wrote a book that came out in September. Could you give our readers an idea of what it’s about and where it can be purchased?

LF: It’s called Finish Line Feeling, available on Amazon and Kindle. It’s a unique, uplifting memoir that tells my journey from foster child/sexual abuse survivor, to founder of the nationally recognized Girls With Sole. It describes how to gain joy and fulfillment through athletics, reminding us to believe in ourselves and our dreams. The book can be a little gritty, but it’s mostly humorously told. It’s proof that with resiliency, anyone can have that “finish line feeling.”

HOPE: What does GWS provide for these young ladies and how do you raise the money necessary?

LF: We provide them with fitness/wellness programs, free running shoes, sports bras, water bottles, and fitness journals. Girls With Sole also sponsors them to run in 5K races, triathlons, and other events. It brings new life experiences to the girls that empower and support them. We do fundraisers (including a 5K). We receive corporate support from companies like TJ Maxx, PPG Industries, Wells Fargo Insurance Services, and others through financial grants. In addition, we’ve received foundation grants from the Cleveland Foundation and Akron Family Foundation. We also bring in funds with individual donations; partial proceeds from my book, Finish Line Feeling also benefit GWS. We have tremendous support from local businesses, like Second Sole in Rocky River, who donates shoes and much more for the girls. Running clubs like Cleveland West Road Runners donate proceeds from the races they put on.

HOPE: How do running/sports empower the girls?

LF: It’s a very powerful feeling to cross a finish line or achieve a physical goal. It gives them confidence to overcome obstacles and learn to be leaders.

HOPE: What is LULA?

LF: Lacing Up for A Lifetime of Achievement. It’s our tagline (registered/trademarked) and name of our annual 5K race and fundraising/racing team. Find out more at

HOPE: You currently serve the Cleveland area, and the girls really appreciate everything GWS does for them. Are you planning on launching additional chapters?

LF: We have a business plan in place to be a national organization by 2020. It will take time since we’re still only three years old. Once we can handle it financially, we plan to expand to chapters in other cities.

HOPE: If someone’s interested in starting a chapter in their city, what should they do?

LF: I have a chapter application and can send information to interested parties. Many people have seen me in national publications, on our Facebook page, or found my email on the website. They contact me and ask about starting a chapter where they live. We aren’t at the point financially to pay Executive Directors here in Cleveland yet, so we can’t pay people to run GWS in other cities yet either. But I believe that day will come soon!

HOPE: How can individuals/organizations donate and help?

LF: At, there’s a PayPal button. People can join Team LULA, do races for GWS, and create fundraising pages. Spreading the word by liking us on Facebook and following our blog is also appreciated! We love when people get word out about the book, too; it furthers our reach and helps financially!

To learn more about Liz Ferro and Girls With Sole, please visit the GWS website. You can also order her book Finish Line Feeling there, and sign up to help or donate.

Marie Cauley is a freelance writer who also pens inspirational romance with hopes of soon being published. Her interests include health, music, dance, spinning, and Pilates. You can also check out her blog where she writes about faith, fitness…and the connection between them.

Town & Country Magazine, February 2013

Town & Country Magazine ~ February 2013 ~ Girls With Sole is featured for Longines Women Who Make A Difference Award



Fresh Water Cleveland ~ For Good

For Good

girls with sole a champion for cleveland’s troubled teens

Physical power is an important component of most any successful sports-related endeavor. However, athletics can also be used as a source of inner strength, a lesson Liz Ferro knows well.

Ferro is founder and executive director of Girls With Sole, a Rocky River-based nonprofit offering athletics programs to young victims of abuse throughout Cuyahoga, Lorain and Stark counties. Since its inception in August 2009, the program has aided nearly 500 girls. The organization offers traditional team sports as well as yoga, dance, Pilates and other wellness and nutrition activities.

“It’s an outlet for these girls to expend their negative energies,” says Ferro, whose organization brings its programming to different venues throughout the Cleveland area.

Ferro founded Girls With Sole to help girls who have experienced abuse gain self-esteem and mental strength. An abuse victim herself, Ferro used athletics as a source of empowerment when she had nowhere else to turn. Through the nonprofit, local girls have a chance to put teamwork, confidence and plain old fun into their daily routines.

“It’s an amazing feeling for them to do something physically,” Ferro says. “They can take that and use it in other areas of their lives.”

Ferro has numerous success stories among her young clients. One girl, a ward of the state in residential treatment, initially rejected Girls With Sole. Today, she’s a marathon runner and triathlete, a far better option than drugs or other unhealthy coping mechanisms troubled teens undertake.

“These kids don’t get this kind of encouragement elsewhere,” says Ferro. “Seeing positive and healthy people around them makes an impact.”

SOURCE: Liz Ferro
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

Girls with Sole running towards a mission

(WOIO) -After years of abuse a Rocky River woman turns personal tragedy into something good for northeast Ohio kids.

43-year-old Liz Ferro is like a little ray of sunshine.

Her story starts with a dark journey through sexual abuse as a foster care kid.

This is the reason she started Girls with Sole in August 2009.

Each of the now 350 girls in the program gets a new pair of running shoes to lace up for a lifetime of achievement following the trail forged by Ferro.

“The running shoes help me to come to the light and that’s what I’m trying to show them…and it’s working,” said Ferro.

“We give girls free fitness and wellness programs to empower them and create self esteem and it’s for girls who are at risk or who have experienced any type of abuse,” said Ferro.

Ferro has run 17 marathons and done four Iron Mans.

Ferro has just penned a book about a life spent getting to the spiritual and emotional finish line.

She’s making a difference in the lives of young girls.

Click here to see article