Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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Motivational event inspires girls to 'Be the Force'

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It can be tough to be a girl — these days, especially.

McKenna Reitz doesn’t have to look farther than the young women she coaches and teaches at Springfield High School. They’re of a generation for whom social media is ever present, and, too often, their teacher sees them comparing themselves to what they see on their screens.

“The pressure has always there [for girls], but it’s different now,” Mrs. Reitz, 36, said, “I think it’s intensified over the years.”

That’s part of the reason the varsity coach is bringing her team of teenage volleyball players to a girl-geared leadership summit at the Stranahan Theater on Sunday. Be The Force: Empower Yourself, presented by Total Package Girl, draws on a diverse lineup of presenters whose performances and testimonials aim to inspire and empower young audience members. Through powerful and personal onstage accounts, girls will learn how to use their voices “to be heard, acknowledged and respected.”


What: Be the Force: Empower Yourself

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd.

Admission: $25; discounts available for groups. Additional tickets for post-summit meet-and-greets are $30.


Empower Yourself is geared for girls ages 11 to 17, along with their coaches, mentors, and parents. It runs 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. For tickets, $25, and more information, go to

Presenters all have local ties and range from high school students to seasoned professionals. They represent a wide variety of experiences and interests, with a lineup juxtaposing performers like Alyson Stoner and Calysta Bevier with radio personalities like Brandi Browne and Meaghan Mick. Kristi Leigh of WTOL-TV, Channel 11, is another name attendees are likely to recognize.

A career panel is set to draw from corporate, medical, and media worlds: Gina Thompson of Owens Corning, MaryBeth Wilkinson of Owens-Illinois, Kamala Tamirisa, a cardiac electrophysiologist with ProMedica, and Barbara Hendel of The Blade.

And there will be youth presenters too. The state-champion swimmers of St. Ursula Academy’s 200-yard freestyle relay will talk teamwork onstage, while Ashlynn Hueston, of Bowsher High School and First Tee of Lake Erie, will share reflections tied to golf.

“One thing that I really loved about it is that there really is somebody for every girl to listen to and take something away from,” said Maya Ramirez, 17, who will speak about the pressure she felt after winning Project Runway: Junior in 2016 and what she did to find balance. “No matter what it is you’re interested in, there will be someone you can relate to.”

Add Mrs. Reitz to that list.

She’ll be sharing a story and message that her volleyball players already know: An autoimmune disease known as alopecia caused her to lose her hair about three years ago. The experience gives her a unique take on inner beauty and the struggles that each of us navigate on a day-to-day basis.

“Everyone is fighting their own fight,” Mrs. Reitz said. “We just need to be each other’s supporters and encouragers.”

More than 600 girls and their advocates attended last year’s event at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle, which was the second year for the annual summit. It’s organized by Kristi Hoffman, author of Total Package Girl: Discover the Ultimate You For Life, a guide for adolescent girls that embodies many of the messages that presenters will impart on Sunday.

Ms. Hoffman is also CEO of Total Package Global and host and producer of Business 360° on WGTE-TV, Channel 30.

Be The Force: Empower Yourself is a response to the challenges that Ms. Hoffman, like Mrs. Reitz, sees girls trying to navigate related to social media, relationships, body image, and more. The #MeToo movement that’s taken off even since last year’s event is “all the more reason” that finding ways to help girls face these challenges in healthy ways is so important, Ms. Hoffman said.

“The earlier in life that you can plant some of those confidence seeds, the better,” she said. “Teaching girls at a younger age to be strong, to be confident, to speak up, to always be treated with respect and to treat others with respect — that’s really important. The more we can introduce them to other women, other mentors, who exemplify that, the better that is for propelling them to a successful future.”

While the overall message of the summit is a serious one, there will also be plenty of opportunities for fun and levity. Toledo School for the Arts is providing musicians in the lobby, and Role Model Magazine will be on hand with a selfie station.

“It’s a fun, inspiring, real authentic kind of a day,” Ms. Hoffman said. “You walk out there and you feel inspired to do more and be more.”

Contact Nicki Gorny at or 419-724-6133.

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