About the Celebration
The 25th Birthday virtual celebration event will feature a keynote address from Hoda Kotb that echoes the inspiration and strength that girls find through their participation in Girls on the Run. The event will also include a discussion panel with experts and athletes about building confidence in girls through sports along with stories of impact from Girls on the Run CEO, Elizabeth Kunz
You can help inspire every girl to reach her limitless potential not just for the length of the program, but for life. Your gift will give girls confidence, empowerment and the skills they need to boldly pursue their dreams. Girls need you more than ever, and you can meet that need.
Hoda Kotb is the co-anchor of NBC News’ TODAY and co-host of TODAY with Hoda and Jenna. She has also been a Dateline NBC correspondent since 1998 and is a New York Times bestselling author for her books This Just Speaks to Me, I Really Needed This Today (an instant #1 New York Times- Bestseller), Hoda and Ten Years Later, as well as for her two children’s books, I’ve Loved You Since Forever, and You Are My Happy. The four-time Emmy winner has been honored multiple times with the Alliance for Women in Media’s Gracie Award (most recently in 2019), as well as with the 2006 Peabody Award and the 2002 Edward R. Murrow Award. She resides in New York City with her fiancé, Joel, and her daughters, Haley and Hope.
A Girls on the Run participant in 1997, Jess Ekstrom is the founder and CEO of Headbands of Hope, a philanthropic brand that spreads confidence to children. Featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America and more, the brand has donated headbands to every children’s hospital in America.
Jess believes that you don’t have to choose between making a living and making a difference. She supports women in sharing their stories, embracing the power of optimism, and reimagining their purpose to create good in the world while fulfilling their own dreams. She is the author of Chasing the Bright Side, which debuted as #1 on Amazon and is the host of the Business on the Bright Side podcast.
Liz spent the first decade of her professional life in corporate America before transitioning to the nonprofit sector in 1996. It was while working at the YMCA that Liz first learned about Girls on the Run. Its mission profoundly resonated with Liz’s personal mission and she started volunteering for the organization in 2002. She joined the staff as Chief Operating Officer in 2006 and has served as CEO since 2008.
Liz has presided over an incredible time of organizational growth and brings significant expertise to Girls on the Run in setting strategic direction and creating an inclusive culture of empowerment, gratitude and joyful purpose.
Ciara is a television news reporter based in Columbus, OH. Her professional career has encompassed contributing to local and national newsrooms including NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, NBC Sports for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, and NBC News coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march.
Beyond broadcast news, Ciara’s passion lies in health, wellness, and fitness. In addition to volunteering as a Girls on the Run coach, she is part-time fitness instructor and is currently cultivating a platform called Fit for a Queen where she aims to empower, motivate, and inspire women from all walks of life to nurture their health and live their best lives by treating their bodies well.
Vanessa is a professional distance runner with the Nike Bowerman Track Club, based in Portland, OR. She participated in Girls on the Run as a 3rd grader in her hometown in Northern California. As a high school student, her belief in the power of Girls on the Run was solidified when she volunteered as a coach.
Never one too shy to set ambitious goals, Vanessa decided at just 9 years old that she wanted to attend Stanford University someday. She not only fulfilled her dream but went on to be one of the best runners in the Stanford Track & Field program’s storied history. After graduating from Stanford, she joined the Nike Bowerman Track Club in 2018 where she has set personal bests at the 5000m (14:48.51) and the 3000m.
Ally Love is a multifaceted woman, pioneering the slash generation. She is the CEO/Founder of Love Squad, the in-arena Host of the Brooklyn Nets, a Peloton Instructor, an adidas Global Ambassador, and a Model. Ally uses her influence/platforms to create a space to celebrate and champion diversity in race and culture through conversation and sweat.
Known as a Boss of Business, Ally Love’s platform reaches millions, which is why it has been important for her to create Love Squad as a space where real conversations and real change can occur through moderated panels and open discussions around women's empowerment.
The 2016 WNBA MVP and WNBA Champion, Nneka Ogwumike was the 1st overall pick to the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Nneka, a proud first generation Nigerian American and Texas native, is regarded as the ultimate role-model and is an advocate for health, wellness, equality and opportunity, currently serving as President of the WNBA players' union (WNBPA) and is leading the group in its high profile renegotiation of the WNBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. She is a five time WNBA All-Star, three-time AII-WNBA selection, three-time All-Defensive WNBA selection and was the 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year. Regarded as an athletic, versatile and consistent performer, Nneka has excelled both domestically and internationally, winning a Euroleague Title with Dynamo Kursk (Russia) and a Chinese League Championship with Guangdong. She has been prolific as a winner with Team USA, most recently as a member of its gold medal 2018 FIBA World Championship squad.
Dr. Maureen Weiss
Maureen, or Mo as she is endearingly called, is a professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota with a focus on the psychology of physical activity. Across the span of over 30 years, Mo has made significant contributions to the sports psychology knowledge base. She is recognized globally as a leader in the field and was recognized in 2014 with the prestigious Honor Award given by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Science Board.
Mo, along with her team of researchers, conducted a longitudinal study of Girls on the Run examining the impact of Girls on the Run. The results from this study, released in 2017, are published in two peer-reviewed articles and reveal the strong positive impact of Girls on the Run in promoting positive youth development.
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“I participated in Girls on the Run back in 2002. I remember all the fun, interactive lessons and how I formed friendships with girls at my school that I had not met before. Fast forward over 15 years later and now this is my third season coaching. Seeing the excitement and accomplishment on our girls’ faces brings me more joy than they will ever know.”Access the Event