Evidence-based empowerment program for girls throws biggest annual Girls Without Limits event so far at Thirty-One Gifts home office.

Evidence-based empowerment program for girls throws biggest annual Girls Without Limits event so far at Thirty-One Gifts home office.

What started a decade ago as a research study at Ohio State University is now touching the lives of girls across the country. Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX), an evidence-based nonprofit equipping girls to traverse the perilous path of adolescence, has extended its reach in central Ohio and across the nation.

ROX Founder and Executive Director Lisa Hinkelman, ROX Board Chair Tammy Roberts Myers and board member Suzanne Kiggin shared the exciting news at the nonprofit's annual Girls Without Limits charity and educational event on Oct. 13, which saw a crowd of hundreds of women, many of whom were swathed in the organization's signature electric pink. Girls Without Limits has attracted a growing number of attendees, moving from Kiggin's home to Thirty-One Gifts' office this year, its fourth. With attendees comes sustaining cash: 2014 brought in $33,000, and then $77,000 in 2015-30 percent of the program's operating budget for 2016.

The community financial support is mirrored by Hinkleman's continued passion for the program, which works to counteract negative messages girls receive with positive reinforcement, empowering experiences and skill development in a safe, all-girl setting. "(We have) a really great opportunity and intense responsibility not only to make the world safer for girls, but to make girls stronger," Hinkleman says.

Now, over 100 schools in the nation-50 in central Ohio-use the ROX program. A decade ago only three schools were using it. These triumphs have been achieved through the efforts of Hinkelman and her small staff of one-and-a-half.

To maintain its cutting-edge curriculum, ROX has begun a process to survey thousands of girls nationwide about topics such as social media and social pressure. This empirical approach is the heart of ROX. Says Myers, "the research shows, time and time again, (that it) is making an impact." The decision to survey girls from different areas and backgrounds also strengthens the value of the program, which focuses on issues all girls share. "All girls can benefit from ROX, regardless of neighborhood or socioeconomic status," Myers says.

These new horizons are coupled with a loyalty to the "fidelity and integrity of the program," says Hinkelman, whose first priority is on making sure program facilitators, who take the curriculum back to a school or group, are thoroughly trained to implement the 20-week course.

The event ended on an emotional note for Hinkleman as attendees pledged money to support ROX. Asked to donate $100, which covers the cost of one girl joining the program, nearly every member of the crowd raised their paddles.