MMRC - The Finish Line Is Just The Beginning

What if every man, woman, and child felt connected, worthy, and able to positively impact as changemakers, their community?

Photo of Heidi Boynton
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

I wasn’t an athlete when I was younger - I didn’t find running until after the birth of my first son so for me running has always been a balm for my soul. When I run, I hear my voice without any distraction; I hear my heart, and what it longs for, I hear my breath, and it reminds me of life with all its struggle and joy and beauty. I was running very consistently when I was first diagnosed MDS in 2001. Running was my fuel, my church, my peace and quiet in the midst of a very full, busy life with two young boys. It was over 18 months before I would run again. In 2008, I was diagnosed PNH. It took a year to realize how mad I’d been, how deep inside the voices I was hearing were really angry. I didn’t want to feel that, and I didn’t want to show up that way in my life. I had some good talks with myself and tried running again, alone in the forest. I would talk out loud, ask myself how I was feeling, slowly but surely, I stopped being so mad. The connection between movement and self-reflection is undeniable. Science has shown, if you move your body, you will change your perception of yourself. 1 in 6 girls in the US opt out of life experiences because of how they perceive their looks. As a running coach, I discovered women 40+ were having conversations about worth w/their nine yr old voice. They didn't think they were worthy of walking on a 400 m track. When we don't think we matter or are worthy, we struggle to impact our community. I want to change this.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Santa Cruz

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Aptos, Campbell, Castro Valley, Chula Vista, East Palo Alto, El Cajon, Fort Bragg, Fremont, Garden Grove, Gilroy, Humbolt, La Jolla, Lodi, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, National City, Oakland, Oakley, Oceanside, Orinda, Riverside, Sacramento, San Carlos, San Diego, San Jose, San Martin, San Ysidro, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sunnyvale, Temecula, Walnut Grove, Watsonville, MARYLAND, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA,MISSISSIPPI, MONTANA, OREGON,HAWAII,IDAHO, PN, TX,CO

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Lack of children’s resilience. Through increased perception of self-efficacy kids will acknowledge what they can do, what others can do, and how to best help each other along the way. They will understand that being true to themselves will help them make positive decisions in their lives & know how to form positive relationships with peers and adults in their lives. Lack of self-efficacy. Bullying. Obesity. Through increased perception of self-efficacy kids will acknowledge what they can do, what others can do, and how to best help each other along the way, Understand that being true to themselves will help them make positive decisions in their lives, know how to form positive relationships with peers and adults in their lives. Learning self-kindness leads to empathy = less bullying.

Having the confidence to go after your dreams, to stand up for yourself when bullied or to stop yourself from bullying others out of fear and shame takes a cultivation of compassion for your entire self, heart, mind, and body. Girls and boys can learn younger and younger that they have a voice, they have something to teach others in this world, and they have something to learn from others as well. That is what confidence looks like. We believe, moving your body, training for something that may seem out of your reach and yet with friends by your side along women and men investing in your heart mind and body - will help you realize you can achieve that goal and many others while you discover #thefinishlineisjustthebeginning.

Mini Mermaid and Young Tritons Running Club collaborates with school administrators, teachers, after-school care programs and other non-profits, to train and equip adult volunteer coaches to lead a team of ten children through one of our six character driven curriculums. Over 12 sessions each 1.5 hours long, coaches lead groups of no more than ten children per club through double standard techniques, tools for building self-compassion, strategies to cultivate empathy, anti-bullying games, fitness, and nutrition. Utilizing the work of Amy Cuddy, Dr. Kristen Neff, and many others, small groups result in open discussion, while focused workouts and encouragement lead each child to find their happy pace. Each child receives a journal for reflection, t-shirt, and all supplies for activities within the curriculum. Volunteer Coaches are given a handbook, training, and support from MMRC staff, as well as all supplies for their team of ten children.

MMRC stands for dignity for ourselves and others and believes providing a platform for children to find their unique voice and form of movement will foster a lifelong habit of self-care.

We are:

  • Changing the lives of children by shifting their internal experience and the way they interact with the world around them.
  • Inviting children to have open, authentic conversations about their thoughts and feelings, to discover self-compassion and empathy for others, find their unique strengths as well as identify goals and establish tangible steps to achieve those goals.
  • Redefining strength by exploring heart, mind AND body strength, examining what we each can teach and learn,  we show each child how they can articulate a personal strength and reach out to ask others for help.
  • Breaking traditional barriers of movement by addressing each child where they are, encouraging them to find their happy pace as an important step to lifelong-balanced fitness.
  • Striving to get every child across their 5k finish line and arm them with the physical and mental tools needed to run 3.1 miles.
  • Distinguishing ourselves through our curriculum with character driven stories helping children identify with an external character and their choices to see how they can shift their behavior.

Mini Mermaid Running Club six week curriculums all follow the same model: 

Week 1: Head - How what we see and hear in the world around us affects the choices we make

Week 2: Heart - How we speak to ourselves impacts how we feel about ourselves and others AND affects the choices we make.

Week 3: Hands - No matter who we are or what we have we can collectively serve others. In community we are strong

Week 4: Belly - Food is our fuel and propels us forward, making choices to fuel our body will give us the strength to reach our goals.

Week 5: Legs - We celebrate our unique strengths and learn tools to ask others for help.

Week 6: Feet - Our feet leads us where we want to go, we learn how to set attainable goals and discover the finish line is just the beginning.

The four curriculums are:

C1. Finding Your Voice - Self Discovery. Curriculum 1 teaches every girl to listen to her inner voice and to use tools to navigate the world where truth and lies often sound the same. We teach girls how to tell the difference between the two voices we often hear, inherent truth (Mini Mermaid) and muddled messages (Siren).

C2. Loving Yourself No Matter What - Self Worth. Curriculum 2 teaches girls to love themselves and to recognize and be proud of all they have accomplished. We teach girls to live fully, no matter what their circumstances might be.

C3. Writing Your Story - Your words are powerful. Curriculum 3 teaches girls to use powerful words to stand up for themselves and others. We focus specifically on anti-bullying techniques and tools to live in a world driven by social media.

C4. Choosing Your Tribe - Building your community. Curriculum 4 teaches girls the importance of choosing friends wisely. Knowing that peer influence is a predominant indicator of decision making, we show the girls how to use the tools they have learned to build the tribe that will help them become the young women they deserve to be.

Young Tritons Running Club is giving boys their own journey to the finish line. After hearing from many boys their parents and educators that they also needed a thoughtful curriculum aimed at mindfulness, balanced living, anti-bullying we wrote Young Tritons Running Club. The boys learn about Young Triton and his journey, evidence shows when children can identify with a character outside of themselves, they are more likely to respond, self-reflect then self-correct. The following are topics covered over the six weeks:

Wk 1 B.Strong = Strength Redefined. I know words are powerful, I think carefully when I use them.  

Wk 2 Be good to yourself = Self-Compassion, My voice is a tool that shapes my emotions; it has the power to impact how I feel about myself.

Wk3 Empathize this! = Empathy. I use my voice stand up with AND for others.  

Wk 4 Let's do this! = Cooperation. I use my words to help others.

Wk 5 Balanced Ph = Balanced Physical Health. I use my voice to encourage myself AND others to try something new.

Wk 6 The finish line is JUST the beginning. My voice defines my integrity

Junior Coaches program is a 9-week middle school and high school curriculum. Girls learn mentorship and leadership skills for three weeks then go to their local elementary school to help coach a team. In pairs, they work together to help an adult coach ten girls through Mini Mermaid Running Club curriculum.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages, and the next step will be growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Andres, a Young Tritons coach, was born in Mexico & came to the US in 8th grade, he struggled and planned to join a gang. Instead, his track coach asked him to join his gang. Andres went on to run in college & tryout for the US Olymic team. His english is rough, he was scared to coach. He told us how he used the story of Young Triton every practice with his boys and he was able to tell them his own story. One practice, had the boys retell the story from the curriculum, one boy highlighted Achilles (the bully) whose parents were going through a rough divorce - just like his parents were. This boy had been misbehaving in practice & was able to make the connection. Andres talked to the parents & told them the story building a bridge of empathy

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

2015 - 1765 children participated, 91% was delivered at no cost. After 3 yrs of programming: Aerobic Capacity: 2010/11 School Year, 28.5% of girls at Del Mar were in the needs improvement/health risk 2013/14 School Year, 7.7% of all 5th-grade girls (with programming in its 4th year) were in the needs improvement/health risk zone. This change shows a decrease of 20.8% Body Composition: 2010/11 School Year, 42.8% of girls at Del Mar were in the needs improvement/health risk 2013/14 School Year, 19.2% of all 5th-grade girls (with programming in its 4th year) were in the needs improvement/health risk zone. This change shows a decrease of 23.6% From post program surveys as a result of Mini Mermaid Running Club: 90% know they can make a difference 89% use their inner voice to make choices 83% know sharing their story can help others 92% can name an adult in their life

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $250k - $500k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Grants, donations, yr end campaigns as well as One4One sustain our programming. For children attending schools or living in communities where more than 41% are at or below the poverty line, they receive our program at no cost. For those with 30-40% at or below the poverty line they pay a subsidized cost of $75 and for schools/communities with 29% or fewer, those children pay $150, for themselves as well as for a student in a low-income school.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Girls On the Run, i Play Like A Girl, Philly Girls in Motion all use movement-based curriculum for self-development. We differ with our character driven curriculum. Mini Mermaid and Siren, above water, both look similar, under water, they are very different. Mini Mermaid represents truth; the things we know in our hearts to be right and genuine. Siren's voice represents confusing messages, deceit, and untruths. Having these two characters to see yourself in aids in self-development. Young Tritons stands alone in its use of character, male coaches, anti-bullying and increase in self-compassion.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Decreasing bullying is key to a child's wellbeing. Knowing our worth and value, we are less likely to act out in fear. Our curriculums have 17 different role playing and physical games designed to highlight the impact of being bullied, being the one bullying or standing silent while someone else is being bullied. Self-compassion leads to empathy which leads to decreased bullying. According to Dr. Kristin D. Neff, self-kindness is key to empathy. Whole teaching, heart, mind AND body leads to a greater self-awareness, growing children who will stand up for themselves and others.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)


Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 33.3%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 33.3%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 33.3%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 50%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 0%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 50%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 33.3%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 66.7%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 66.7%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 0%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 0%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 50%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lacy Stephens

I love this concept, Heidi. I think most women know first hand the struggle of maintaining self confidence, self efficacy, and feeling empowered growing up. I appreciate that you address these unique challenges of being a young women, but also have a specific curricula to provide boys the benefits of a character driven approach. 

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