Making new friends at any age can be challenging, but often even more so during adolescence. Even in our connected world, it is actually easier to feel disconnected and lonely. Three years ago, Cheri Dickmeyer felt compelled to hold a summer camp to empower girls through friendships and fitness. Having two teen daughters and a marketing/fitness background, she put together a summer camp in just 30 days. What started out as an idea for a single summer camp that brought in more than 60 young ladies traveling as far as Colorado has turned into FITGirl, Inc., a non-profit organization hosting two empowerment camps each year, a two-week summer camp, self-defense classes, and encouragement to form new friendships.
“I had so many calls and emails telling me I needed to keep doing this,” Dickmeyer said. “We grew and tried new things.” The after-school program in Millard became a stepping stone to using the curriculum from the Women’s Sports Foundation. “Kosamahas been so generous to allow us to use their facility each week to work with girls on their curriculum,” she said. “Ortho Nebraska has also been a great partner. This year, they are staffing the summer camp with four nurses each day to ensure the young ladies health and safety.”
“I love that I get to make new friends and interact with other girls,” said Paris, an eleven-year-old student. Her mother, May, said her daughter loves the group of girls she’s with. “She was and still is a bit timid and shy. I want to empower her. Being a parent is already so hard, and this program really helps.”
FITGirl, Inc., was chosen out of all applicants as a capstone program at the University of Nebraska Omaha to receive a mobile site. UNO selected FITGirl Inc., is the non-profit that they felt added the most value to the community. The website launch is expected in spring 2019, and this site will allow FITGirl Inc., to regularly interact with its empowerment class attendees. Through points, rewards and ongoing contact, FITGirl Inc., will be able to impact more young women during their most impressionable years. “We have a fantastic board in place and just recently hired program coordinator Vanessa Jurado,” Dickmeyer said. The coordinator will work with FITGirl Inc., to grow and further develop the program. “Her passion for young ladies, education, and work experience make her a great fit for this organization’s mission,” Dickmeyer added.
Ten-year-old Josie entered the organization after being bullied in school. “When advice comes from mom, it doesn’t count,” said Josie’s mother. “I wanted to give her fierceness.” Josie said her favorite part of camp is that “Cheri always has girls make new friends.” Ella, an 11-year-old camp attendee, said her favorite part of the organization is that “it empowers girls to be themselves.” And Megan, a 14-year-old attendee and one of the first members of FITGirl Inc., said that she calls Cheri “Queen” and hopes to give back as a counselor one day.
“Cheri brings in so many activities that really get the kids out of screen time,” said Jodie, whose daughter Wren loves meeting new people there. Evelyn and Vivian, sisters, both agree that activities such as the marshmallow toss were among their favorite. “What Cheri has been able to do has been amazing,” said their mom. “It’s not about a person’s size or shape but about being healthy. There are friendships and bonds that might otherwise be hard to have. This is a judge free zone.”
FITGirl Inc., has recently expanded into a new location. Still undergoing renovation, this space near 156th and Maple will allow FITGirl Inc., to further grow and branch out to more girls. The upcoming 12-week camp will be full of activities and speakers. Topics will include bullying, body image, nutrition, substance abuse, friendships, and social medial. “Social media is a very real thing and it’s not going away,” Dickmeyer said. “I want to help build these girls up, so they can respond to it maturely and appropriately.”
Being a nonprofit is certainly challenging. Dickmeyer wants to ensure the camp is affordable for everyone, and it takes support from the entire community to make that happen. “Each year we are competing against much larger nonprofits for dollars to offset the expenses of our camps,” she said. And the camps fill up quickly. There are two age groups for each camp: 8-11 and 12-14, and each have their own age appropriate activities. “We will be expanding to the 14-16 age group this fall with a curriculum customized just for that age group in collaboration with Donna King, facilitator of a global leadership program called Best Year Yet™,” Dickmeyer added. “This wouldn’t be possible without our amazing vendors, partners, board members and staff.”
For more information about FITGirl, Inc., visit www.fitgirlinc.com.