The Girls on Fire Confidence Conference empowered eighty young Central Albertans this weekend.
The first-ever Red Deer conference was held at Heritage Ranch on Sunday. The event aims to inspire, mentor and empower girls between eight and 13 to feel “strong, beautiful, fierce and confident.”
Theresa Stanley, founder of Girls on Fire and executive director of Phoenix Taekwon-do Club, and her team held the first Girls on Fire Conference in Edmonton in 2018. That event had 20 attendees.
“I was at a different event where a mom was speaking and she said her eight-year-old daughter was so depressed and anxious, and her self-esteem was so low that she didn’t want to live anymore,” Stanley recalled.
“It was an aha moment for me. It was like the universe shone down and said, ‘You need to do something.’ Using my martial arts platform, where we’re always building confidence for kids, I said let’s do something where I can go out and see the girls, they don’t have to come out to my gym.”
The Edmonton conference has grown significantly since that first year. The 2022 event was attended by 165 girls.
“I wanted to take it province-wide. I knew some people down in Red Deer who said they wanted it here,” said Stanley.
The conference focuses on several topics for girls, including self-defence, mindfulness, growth mindset, bullying and body positivity.
“We finish the conference with a board break. They’ll write a challenge they have, whether that’s anxiety or a bully, and they’re going to break a piece of wood,” Stanley said.
“One girl at a previous conference, within a week of being there, was almost a completely different person. Her mom was shocked. We were able to give her a few tools. A key thing she said was, ‘I put my bully’s name on a board and when I broke my board, I learned she didn’t have power over me anymore.’”
The attendees are divided into a number of groups, which are led by women leaders who live in the community.
“We brought in women who are small business owners, lawyers, teachers, who come in and sponsor the table. Then they get to mentor the girls for the day,” she said.
“It allows us to be women leaders in front of the girls so they can aspire to be a teacher, a podcaster or whatever they want to be. It’s important for them to see that.”
The plan is to bring the Girls on Fire Confidence Conference back to Red Deer next fall. For more information, visit www.girlsonfire.ca.