On Saturday, May 18th we hosted our third annual “Brave” girls empowerment event. The purpose of this event is to remind these girls that they are valuable and to encourage them to dream big dreams for what their futures could be. We recognize that all teen girls are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation and homelessness, but especially those in the foster care system. 260 people (including 180 girls, 20 caregivers, 40 volunteers and 20 volunteer hairstylists) were present for the event at the Salvation Army Center in White Center.
Girls participated in an incredible resource fair and received a resource booklet with over 30 free and low cost resources including college prep, extracurricular activities, summer camps, counseling services, etc…. There were art projects with confidence-boosting activities like collage dream boards, dream catchers, metal stamping bracelets with empowerment words, etc… A volunteer group called The Beyond Project provided free haircuts and styling. Girls were able to take silly pictures in a photo booth area or formal portraits with a professional photographer.
After free time everyone enjoyed a delicious dinner and dessert bar and raffled-off prizes given by generous donors. After dinner two women from the Seattle Police Department gave a self-defense demonstration that was inspiring and empowering!
The event concluded with a closing talk from Lisa Barnes, a captain in the Salvation Army. Lisa told her story of living in 35 foster homes and reminded the girls that they can persevere and accomplish anything they put their mind to. She had the girls write down obstacles that prevent them from being brave: i.e. their past, fears, worries about what others would think, etc… The girls came up one by one and impaled their papers on a huge wooden heart covered in nails. Then, in the most epic conclusion, after Lisa encouraged the girls to leave their obstacles there on the nails, the girls all shouted in unison “I choose to be Brave” and what turned out to be flash paper they had written on, went up in flames and completely disappeared! It was the most powerful moment and the girls left changed! (watch that moment below)
Thank you to everyone who donated to this event- financially, gifts in kind, volunteers from your church, youth leaders, etc…! Each year we’re able to reach more girls and remind them that they are worthy of respect, love and fulfilling their life dreams.
- Mandy Neill