You never know where a friendship will turn up. You never know where you will find someone that you have been missing and not even know it until you meet. When my oldest, Molly, made her middle school cheer team last year, it never crossed my mind that I may gain new friendships. I also didn’t realize that I would be sitting through weekly football games and then followed by four basketball games a week!
Last year I dreaded the arrival of basketball season and the many hours I would accumulate in a middle school gym that was loud (very loud) and sometimes a bit smelly. A group of us “cheer moms”, (did I just refer to myself as a cheer mom, for real???) began sitting together and chatting it up to help the time pass by. As the season progressed, the games became much more enjoyable to attend. This year I actually looked forward to games where I could sit and share with my “cheer mom” friends. We compare middle school teen stories (actually nightmares) that we are living, shared recipes and travel recommendations. Lots of laughing and appreciated advice all around.
Today I am sharing with you my “cheer mom” friend, Carrie Hanson, Executive Director of Girls On The Run Charlotte. I love this organization and what it stands for and how it is received in our community. I love how their message of empowerment and strength is mental and physical. The happiness and love that all of their volunteers hold is unique. Cheer season is officially over and the girls will be going to different high schools next year, but our friendship will remain; we spent way too many evenings in a sweaty gym or on the sidelines of a football field to let that diminish.
Smarty Mom: Carrie Hanson
Husband: David, works at Bank of America and trains for Ironman races like it was his job.
Kids: Kira (6th grade) Kylie (8th grade) Andrew (11th grade)
Dogs: Watson & Sonny (2 year old Whoodle brothers) and Casey (14 year-old grumpy Shih-Tzu)
Hometown: I grew up in Ann Arbor, MI and lived in Atlanta, GA for 15 years before moving to Charlotte. We currently live in Providence Springs.
Job: Executive Director of Girls on the Run Charlotte.
Tell us about your job.
Girls on the Run is a positive youth development afterschool program for girls in 3rd-8th grade. Started in 1996 right here in Charlotte with just 13 girls, GOTR is now in all 50 states serving over 200,000 girls each year! We inspire girls to recognize their inner strength and celebrate what makes them unique. Trained coaches lead teams of 8-15 girls through our research-based curriculum which includes character development and life-skills lessons and of course running. Over the ten-week season, the girls develop essential skills to help them navigate their worlds and establish healthy habits. Each season, the girls complete a community service project showcasing their teamwork and empathy skills. They come up with the idea for the project and execute it themselves. Projects my teams have done include hosting collection drives for local animal shelters, making cards and gifts for Levine Children’s Hospital and creating goodie bags and guides for new students coming to their school mid-year. The program culminates with a celebratory 5K event where the girls realize that they can accomplish more than they ever imagined, giving them a tangible feeling of accomplishment.
How did you get here?
In 2012 I became a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run at Olde Providence Elementary. It was so much fun and I think I got as much out of the lessons as the girls did! After coaching for several seasons, I joined the Board of Advisors. In 2015, after spending 19 years in various product development and innovation roles at Bank of America, I joined the Girls on the Run International team full-time as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications. It was an amazing opportunity to oversee the marketing efforts of a national non-profit organization and get to know the councils from coast to coast (even Hawaii and Alaska!) I realized however, that my true passion was right here in Charlotte and wanted to get closer to the council operations, including working with all of the dedicated volunteer coaches, participant families and supporters. On February 1, 2017 I transitioned to the role of Executive Director of Girls on the Run Charlotte and have been loving being back in the community empowering girls locally.
What is the best part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is 5K day. Although it only happens four times a year, it is such a high-energy event enabled by the hundreds of volunteers that come out on race day and support the girls as they cross the finish line. There are smiles, tears and high-fives galore. It is an amazing experience. If you’ve never been, I highly suggest volunteering to give out medals at the finish line. It will be a memory you’ll treasure for a very long time!
Tell us what your typical day looks like.
I try to arrive at work by 7:30. I’m a morning person for sure. I have a small but mighty team that handles most of the day-to-day operations so I focus a good deal of my time on strategy, building partnerships and expanding sources of funding to support more scholarships for girls. Our goal is to make Girls on the Run accessible to all girls regardless of financial circumstances. Through the generosity of a national partner, ASICS, we are so excited to distribute over 200 pair of new running shoes to girls in need this season. I can’t wait to see the excitement on their faces when they receive their shoes later this month. Around 4:30, my second job as kid-chauffeur kicks in. Whether it is dance, cheer, music or track practice, it seems like there is always somewhere one of my peeps needs to get to or from.
Favorite exercise regiment?
Favorite family outing?
We love going to Spectrum Center and watching the Hornets play. We deck out in Hornets gear and scream our heads off. When we’re not there, we’re catching the games on TV.
Favorite date night?
Our local go-to’s are Portofinos or Thai House. Our last date night started at OMB progressed to The Broken Spoke and then Mac’s Speed Shop for dinner where we saw Cody Zeller with his adorable parents, and I totally fangirled but my husband wouldn’t let me do the “pretend your taking a selfie but really take a picture of the celebrity” thing.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Untangled by Lisa Damour. It is about guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions into adulthood. With two middle school daughters, can I tell you that this is the most helpful book I’ve ever read? Don’t get me wrong, my daughters are great, but the teenage brain works in strange ways and this book is like a secret decoder ring to teenage girls. When I finish it, I’ll probably read it again. It is like an answer key for every question you’ll ever have about your daughter’s weird behavior. They need to hand this book out to moms at middle school orientation. It’s that good.
Take the night off and join Girls on the Run Charlotte for their inaugural ‘Out of the Kitchen’ event
Girls on the Run Charlotte is hosting a super cool event on March 15 at the Westin Uptown. Out of the Kitchen is a unique culinary experience that will bring together top chefs, combining their individual styles and cuisines, to benefit Girls on the Run. Each chef will create a three-course menu, with the main course to be prepared in front of the 12 guests at their table and the dessert course provided by The Westin. Tickets are limited, and cost $160 per person which includes a champagne reception, signature cocktails, four-course meal and wine. For information or to purchase tickets, go to www.gotrcharlotte.org/out-of-the-kitchen