Superheroes Give Thanks by Girls in the Game Staff

We are brimming with gratitude this time of year. Gratitude for our supporters, volunteers and donors who have made our work of empowering over 3,800 girls in underserved communities last year possible.

We have discovered that we are superheroes for our girls every day. From teaching a new sport, to instilling confidence, every small action makes a world of difference in their lives. We are living our superhero roles this #GivingTuesday on November 29th by sharing our #SuperheroSelfies on social media and encouraging our community of supporters to do the same.

YOU can be a superhero for a girl, and we know your donation and commitment to our mission will impact thousands of girls in the year to come.

A few of our staff members shared what they are thankful for this year at Girls in the Game, and which superhero they look up to. Challenge yourself to be a superhero this year for girls and know that we are thankful for you.

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I am a superhero for girls:”By inspiring them to dream more, learn more, do more and become more”

Maritza Jaimes, Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Coordinator

What are you thankful for at Girls in the Game?

I am thankful for the staff that I have the honor of working with, that is full of empowering women. Our goal is to empower other girls to be gamechangers and working at Girls in the Game has done exactly that, empowered me. I am thankful for the women at Girls in the Game that work every day to strengthen other women.

Who is your favorite superhero?

My favorite superhero is Supergirl. She is my favorite because everyone expects her to be the sidekick of Superman but instead she is a strong independent superhero that fights by herself! In the show, she is a multi-talented woman that also has a regular job in an office. The most motivational heroes are regular normal people that are doing great things with or without superpowers.


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I am a superhero for girls: “I work with Chicago teens to become leaders in their communities”

Elizabeth White, Teen Programs Manager

What are you thankful for at Girls in the Game?

I am thankful for an amazing team of creative thinkers that are passionate about empowering girls in Chicago. I am grateful for the chance to help shape the amazing, inspiring girls who are not only taking the initiative to be leaders in their communities today, but will undoubtedly influence our world in the future.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Wangari Maathai is a superhero to me. She was a Kenyan environmental conservationist, and human and women’s rights advocate. She was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for peace, sustainable conservation and democracy.


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I am a superhero for girls: “Because I stand up for what I believe in and inspire my girls”

Cat Splendore, After School Coordinator

What are you thankful for at Girls in the Game?

I’m thankful to work alongside such dedicated and ambitious women who will always put others ahead of themselves. For the opportunity to serve as a role model for girls across the city, with the aim of helping them find their voices. And for a job that has a direct reward–witnessing and participating in the girls having fun and growing.

Who is your favorite superhero?

My favorite super hero is my brother Michael. He has always been supportive and accepting of me, while also consistently challenging and pushing me to work harder and expand my mind! Everyone he encounters he treats with respect and dignity, and I am eternally grateful to have someone like him as my brother.


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I am a superhero for girls: “Because I train coaches to lead programming confidently!”

Alecia Ivery, Assistant Program Manager

What are you thankful for at Girls in the Game?

I am thankful that Girls in the Game has allowed me to develop special and evolving relationship with the girls I have coached and the young ladies I have had the pleasure to coach with. I have been able to be a part of so many participants’ journeys at Girls in the Game. I am so thankful I can play a part in cheering them on and helping them be those future leaders that will make a powerful impact in the world.

Who is your favorite superhero?

When you think of a superhero you think of someone who is tough mentally and physically. Who is selfless and put others first and is determined to do what is right for themselves and others. My favorite superhero possesses these traits and more. She is my awesome grandmother Rosemary Cary.


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I am a superhero for girls: “I remind them how smart, funny and talented they are”

Beth Tumiel, Programming Director

What are you thankful for at Girls in the Game?

What am not thankful for, working at Girls in the Game?  I love working for an organization that is, at it’s very essence, mission driven.  At least once a day, by somebody different in the organization, I am encounter the question, “How will this impact our work with girls?” It’s inspiring to be around so many smart, talented people who use those smarts and talents to make sure that girls have the chance to be leaders in their lives and in their communities.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Favorite superhero. An old friend Hassan Al-Shwally, who passed away a few years ago.  A man who had very little and would still give it away to someone in need. He would always say “a million friends, not one enemy,” and lived in a way to make that so.  Hassan was kind to those whom nobody else was kind to and cared for those who could not care for him.

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Finding My Team by Hannah Butler

 

My muscles ache all over. Sweat clings to my back and rolls down my forehead in tiny beads from where my tanned forehead meets my clunky, plastic helmet. The harness digs into my thighs as I throw my leg over the wooden beam hanging above me and use the rough woven rope to pull myself closer to the top. Using Grace’s sturdy knee as support, I push with my other dangling leg and finally hoist the rest of my body on top of the structure.

Yes! I sit atop the ladder and let the wind tickle the hairs on my arms as I survey my surroundings from 50 feet high. I extend a sore arm to Grace, and using the last bit of strength left in my moaning muscles, help lift her onto the beam. 

 

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Hannah climbing the ladder with her teammate Grace.

In the picture above, you can see the reassuring and solid support I received from my friend, co-worker and teammate Grace, who sweat under the sun beside me as we grappled the challenge course ladder. What you can’t see is the rest of our staff huddled together at the base of the oversized hanging blocks of wood, looking up, cheering us on.

One of the best teams I’ve ever been on was the resident assistant staff I worked with during my junior and senior years at Luther College.

Joining The Team 

Our staff worked as a team in many more ways than just helping each other conquer challenge course obstacles. We shared the common goal of welcoming and supporting incoming first-year students with answers (“The health center is located behind Larsen Hall”), encouragement (“Way to get an ‘A’ on that test AND attend the career fair this week!”) and helpful advice (“Definitely try the hot chocolate in the cafeteria, it’s the most scrumptious thing on campus”).

We were a team that planned events together, withstood hours of training together, stayed late at the start of winter break to clean and close the building together and arrived early in January to open it back up. We ate meals together, studied together and spent the wee hours of school nights listening to one another.

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Hannah completing a challenge course obstacle with her resident assistant team.

For a team that shared not only a common goal, but an entire building, we differed in many ways. We held varying religious beliefs, athletic abilities and senses of humor. Some of us sang in choir, others played Frisbee. Some hailed from along the coast, others from the Midwest. Members of our staff majored in philosophy, music, English, communication studies, art, biology, psychology, chemistry, French and political science. Yet for a group so diverse, we worked together and loved each other as one team. Becoming a member of this team was the first time I felt a true sense of belonging in college.

My New Team 

I have been a part of many teams now, and I’ve learned that they all look different. Other teams of mine have looked like baseball cap-wearing and as-sweaty-as-they-are-loving summer camp counselors, or like blue cotton t-shirts, dirt-stained legs and soccer balls. And some teams look like strong girls rocking the teal and purple logo, energized to play sports and empowered to make friends. Girls who boldly display positive health and leadership skills, and who are ready every week to have a blast after school. This is my new team. This is Girls in the Game.

After graduating college and parting with my resident assistant staff, I quickly realized that my status as a team member was not over. When I walked into Girls in the Game I joined a new team. At Girls in the Game one of our core values is teamwork. Our website reads, “Through partnerships and relationships, we will create stronger, healthier communities and a positive, cooperative environment…We are stronger as a whole team than we are as individuals and we recognize the unique contributions of all.”

Why Having a Team Now Matters 

Girls in the Game provides the girls we serve with the opportunity to experience this team membership. At Girls in the Game we show our girls what it is like to be confident, to be challenged, to be listened to and to work alongside people with common goals, yet different backgrounds.

We offer answers (“A commitment is kind of like making a promise to someone. Now who can tell me how we can make a commitment here at Girls in the Game?”), encouragement (“I am so proud of you for cheering on your teammates and working together in that last activity!”) and helpful advice (“Try dribbling with your head up this time, you might be surprised how well you can keep the ball inbounds”). While my new team may look different, the teamwork feels the same.

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Hannah working with her new team at after school programming.

One of the best parts of working at Girls in the Game is realizing that we are coaching young girls who don’t have to wait until they are in college to find a team to root for them. At Girls in the Game we strive to provide that support and connection now. And for that I couldn’t be happier.

If you believe in girls finding their own team to root for them at Girls in the Game, and want to see more girls find their support system, please vote daily for us to win $50,000 from Gatorade. Share with your friends & family who care about developing leaders for the future!

The Value of the Team by Iris Krandel

Since beginning my adventure at Girls in the Game back in August, I have experienced many different group dynamics. Some of my after-school groups are filled with loud, vivacious girls who are ready to play, while other groups of girls prefer the peace and quiet of snack time and group discussions. One thing I have taken away from each group, is that teamwork comes in many different forms.

Utilizing the Team

This is very apparent in the programs I lead at my various sites, when girls are put into different situations. These situations can include anything from discussing the meaning of “sportswomanship,” to teaching each other the correct form for bumping a volleyball. We try to give all of our girls the space to use teamwork in the best way that they know how.

Girls in the Game programming gives girls the opportunity to find each other’s strengths and utilize them as much as possible. No matter what the goal is, I feel that Girls in the Game works hard to exhibit teamwork on many different levels. Our girls are constantly working together to accomplish tasks, whether that means finishing the relay or correctly answering questions about teamwork as quickly as possible.

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Teamwork is one of the core values at Girls in the Game.

The girls also see my co-coach and I utilize teamwork at every session. We work hard to make sure the work load is balanced, and this shows the girls how important it is to cooperate with one another. It is incredible to see how the groups continue to develop from week to week, especially since many of them struggled to work together in the beginning.

Share Your Space

Recently I was coaching at one of my sites, Randolph Elementary School, located in Englewood. Our topic was healthy relationships. We played a game called “Share Your Space.” The goal of this game is to show the girls how they can be good friends and teammates by supporting one another in helping them find a place to put their foot. In the beginning, there are enough Polly spots spread out throughout the room that only two or three girls need to share one. (Polly spots are similar rubber circles that are meant as placeholders in activities, similar to cones.) As this game goes on the leader takes away Polly spots so that more and more girls are required to share their space with one another. I had the opportunity to participate in this activity with my girls, while my co-coach led, and I found it such a rewarding experience. It resulted in everyone running around the room holding hands, and trying to fit as many girls as possible onto one Polly spot.

We have struggled to keep this specific group focused with one another because of a little drama, but in this activity they left all of that behind to keep each other involved. I hope that in the coming weeks I see more instances like this one, where our teaching has a significant impact on how the girls take on new challenges and discover teamwork.

If you believe in teaching girls the value of teamwork at Girls in the Game, and want to see more girls find their team, please vote daily for us to win $50,000 from Gatorade. Share with your friends & family who care about developing leaders for the future!

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Go to our Facebook Page to see Coach Iris share how her girls turned into leaders by teaching a dance.

A Girl-Only Space by Michelle Sperzel

Throughout the past month, I had the pleasure and honor of attending several seminars and events geared specifically to women: Chicago Foundation for Women, Aspire Foundation Mad Leadership and speaking on a panel at the Junior League National Conference. During these events, I was surrounded by thought-inspiring women leaders who are driven to make the world better and safer for women and girls. These women-focused events made me think about the importance of the girl-only environment we have at Girls in the Game.

Single-Sex Education

I know firsthand how this environment fosters unshakeable confidence and grit. I grew up in Milwaukee and attended an all-girl high school. Students in single-sex schools are often more willing to take risks because they do not fear falling on their face in front of the other sex. As a result, the classrooms in these schools are often dynamic, free and bursting with ideas and conversation–all hallmarks of a great education.

I distinctly remember the first instance when I realized how the girl-only environment supported me. I was in my first class as a freshman at Marquette University. The professor asked a simple question. I clearly remember raising my hand and answering. I looked around to see surprise from the men in the room that I was bold enough to speak. It was the first moment that I realized I was encouraged to speak my mind, stand up for what I believe in and walk the path that suits me. It was liberating and empowering.

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Girls are encouraged to speak-up at our programs and be confident.
Creating a Safe Space

Being girl-only provides a safe place for girls to express their thoughts and opinions in an accepting and empowering environment. I’ve been able to attend many of our programs in the past few months. At overnight camp I watched girls dance, sing and express themselves with excitement. I also witnessed them support someone who was shy and nervous.

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In our programs girls learn a variety of sports from football to yoga.

During our afterschool program, I overheard one of the girls in our program tell her brother, “This is more fun without boys because I get a chance to catch the football. I’m good at it.”

Arguably, the single greatest benefit of Girls in the Game being girls-only is the greater breadth of opportunity which the all-girls program can create. We live in a culture which teaches girls that leadership, football and engineering, to give just a few examples, are “boy subjects.” At Girls in the Game, we encourage girls to try everything and show them there is no limit to what they can accomplish.

If you believe in the power of girls-only spaces at Girls in the Game, and want to see us empower more girls, please vote daily for us to win $50,000 from Gatorade. Share with your friends & family who care about developing leaders for the future!