Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to own the company. It’s not related to the amount of money you make, the prestige of the university you attended, the number of people that report to you, or the titles you’ve held. Simply stated, being a leader means inspiring others to think or act differently based on your living example. And these people – “everyday leaders” – can be found in every community, quietly living their lives, and making a difference in the lives of others.
From time to time, we will highlight some of these everyday leaders in our blog. Today we recognize DANIELLE PLUNKETT, Executive Director of Girls on the Run (“GOTR”) of Southeastern Michigan. Danielle brings her business savvy, determination, and heart to strengthen our youth, one girl at a time. We caught up with Danielle recently and found out more about her and the good work GOTR is doing in our communities.
What is Girls on the Run?
Girls on the Run® is a non-profit prevention program that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running. Our curricula address all aspects of girls’ development – their physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.
Many people assume that because of our name we are solely a running program. Actually, running for us is really a metaphor for setting goals in our lives and then taking steps each day to achieve those goals. Our program culminates in a non-competitive 5K event which gives the girls a chance to shine and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. We invite our participants’ families and our community to come out and run with our girls. The magic of the Girls on the Run 5k is that it is many people’s first time running 3.1 miles. We encourage and support the girls in our community and our participants inspire their families, teachers and friends to take on this challenge with them. I’d like to think we are inspiring our whole community to make healthier choices and dream BIG.
What Brought You To Girls on the Run?
In 2003 I was working with an agency that supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I was passionate about the work, but found myself longing to focus on the prevention of violence against girls and women instead of dealing with the aftermath.
I started volunteering as a coach for Girls on the Run and had the opportunity to meet the founder, Molly Barker. Molly’s values and beliefs were so closely aligned with mine and her approach was so novel and effective that I was smitten. I knew that Girls on the Run, which is a more than a program, it is a movement really, is where I wanted to commit my time and energy. I was hired as Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan’s first employee in 2005 and in 2008 I was promoted to Executive Director.
What do you see as the largest challenge facing young women these days?
There is pressure coming from all different directions for girls to be smart, thin, beautiful, athletic, assertive, nice, popular, a leader, etc.. It is tempting to get lost in those competing, and often contradicting, expectations and try to be all things to all people, which is not healthy. At Girls on the Run we help girls tune into their intuition, stay true to their values and use their voices.
If you could print one message on an airplane banner and fly it all over the world, what would the message say?
“Slow Down. Be Kind.” I know it sounds ultra simplistic but I truly believe that if we all slowed down, even just a little bit, and took the time to be kind to the people around us the world would be transformed.
How is GOTR making a difference?
As Molly would say, “One girl at a time!” I believe that when you invest in a girl you are investing in the whole community because when a girl is empowered she is more likely to share what she has learned with others around her. We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
How can people support GOTR?
In 2011 our council served over 2,000 girls and families and that would not have been possible without the support of our incredible volunteers and sponsors. If you are interested in volunteering for Girls on the Run or becoming a sponsor please log onto www.girlsontherunsemi.org/ or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danielle Plunkett lives in Ann Arbor with her son Jonathan who she describes as “the light of her life”. She is a voracious reader who loves trail running, yoga, cooking and spending time with her large and exuberant extended family.
Susan Dooley is a Corporate Trainer and Leadership Coach with Dale Carnegie/Ralph Nichols Group, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Michigan. New classes are forming now – please contact us for more information. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.