"Beautiful, inside and out" is the acronym that forms the name of BIO Girls, a program that recently came to Perham. Sara Hanson of Perham had a friend who was involved with the program in Fargo and told Hanson how amazing it was. Later, while Hanson was going for a run, she saw young women with BIO Girls running.

"All of them were beaming and so excited," Hanson said. "People don’t always smile when they run, so it was so cool."

This, along with the isolation many young people felt during the COVID-19 pandemic, are what inspired her to start BIO Girls in Perham.

Marni Moch of Perham has also always been passionate about wellness. Her sister is involved with BIO Girls and was constantly nudging her to create a group in Perham. When Hanson grew interested, she actually contacted Moch's sister, who in turn contacted Moch. The two had been friends prior to this and had never talked about BIO Girls with one another.

Following this, the two met up and formed Perham's BIO Girls group together. "We just wanted to bring it to the community because we both have a love for Perham," Hanson said.

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Marni Moch (left) and Sara Hanson (right) organized the BIO Girls group in Perham. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
Marni Moch (left) and Sara Hanson (right) organized the BIO Girls group in Perham. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

BIO Girls is a 12-week program for girls in second through sixth grade with three main components. First, they meet for a large group lesson. After this session, they break up into smaller groups with their assigned mentor and up to three other girls to discuss the lesson's topic in a more comfortable setting.

Some of the topics they cover in their lessons are, “I can do this, I will do this,” “action conquers fear” and “progress over perfection.” Girls are given mentors to help them form a connection with an adult figure outside of their family.

"As a parent, I feel that BIO Girls really helped navigate some important topics that all adolescent girls will face at some point, such as ways to support and lift each other up, and how to process emotions, and consequences of social media," said Rebecca Scraper, the mother of two girls in the program. "I wish BIO Girls was around when I was a young girl."

Scraper said she's seen her daughters become more confident over the past 12 weeks. She believes it's truly amazing to see young girls transform right in front of your eyes and become confident and kind role models.

Topics that her daughters covered at BIO Girls opened up further conversations in Scraper's home. She believes it's great for girls to hear these important messages in multiple places because it helps drill them in further.

"We are truly blessed to have a program like this in our community, and I pray more girls will be able to participate in this amazing program in the future," Scraper said.

Hanson said the ages of second through sixth grades are when they see the self-esteem and positive self image of girls decline. The point of the program is to help lift them up and be confident in themselves. It's limited to 40 girls in order to keep the environment small and safe, Moch said.

After this, there is an exercise component because this often helps with stress and anxiety, Hanson said.

Mari Willie, the mother of a second grader involved with BIO Girls in Perham, said she was originally wary to sign her daughter up for it. This is because her daughter gets very anxious and worried, but Willie's husband convinced her to sign her daughter up. By the second week, she loved it.

"Every week, she grew up so much more," Willie said. Normally, it's very difficult for Willie to get her daughter away from the TV, however, before BIO Girls, her daughter turned off the TV right away and was in the car before her mother.

"I thought, 'holy moly this is amazing. This is so god for her," Willie said. "I can't speak highly enough about the program." She believes that in this program, her daughter learned that positive words matter, and she used her learned skills every day. As a parent, this was amazing to see, Willie said.

BIO Girls started teaching girls exercise with some CrossFit, then ran a mile, ran a mile and a half, ran two miles and eventually worked their way up to the program's finale, the Fun Run, which is a 5k. All of these are non-competitive.

The Fun Run took place on the morning of Saturday, June 5, with all the young girls smiling wide as they began to run.

A BIO Girls mentor poses with her group at the Fun Run on the morning of Saturday, June 5. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
A BIO Girls mentor poses with her group at the Fun Run on the morning of Saturday, June 5. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Before Moch and Hanson were able to start BIO Girls in program, they had to raise a certain amount of money.

"I think we both were like, ‘this is going to be no problem to get started in Perham.’” Hanson said. “Marni and I got well over our goal for fundraising, and we’re so appreciative of the support that we’ve gotten in Perham. Some communities struggle. They’ve asked us, ‘What’s your secret for raising funds?’ and we’re like, ‘We just live in Perham, where we’re embraced.’”

The BIO Girls program costs $200 per person to join, but no girl is turned away due to financial status. The fundraising in the Perham community is to help make sure all girls who want to can join. Moch said the BIO Girls program in Fargo was shocked by how quickly they were able to raise funds.

Now, with the Fun Run over, Perham's BIO Girls program has completed its first 12-week season.

“(The best part of BIO Girls) is seeing the growth in the girls," Moch said. "From them walking so timidly into the first session and they’re nervous and that kind of mentality. Now, when they come, they come running in and they’re smiling from ear-to-ear, and the other girls are cheering each other on.”

Both Moch and Hanson feel like BIO Girls is a little too good to be true sometimes. Hanson said to cheer these girls on, support them and ask them about the lessons they learned about in BIO Girls.

If you're interested in learning more about BIO Girls in Perham, feel free to contact perham.mn@biogirls.org.