Saturday, February 17th, as some of our Haute Volée were tearing it up in Albuquerque at USA Indoor Track and Field Championships, a different but equally inspiring event was taking place in Oakland, CA: the kick-off to our 2018 Bras For Girls donation program. A huge thank you to our teammates Alisha Brown and Sheena Caines who (literally) ran this giveaway, and to Heather McWhirter for these amazing pictures! We are so happy to partner with Running for a Better Oakland for the second year in a row; this year Oiselle donated 220 bras and booklets, plus additional running gear. As director of Oiselle's philanthropic giving, I often get asked, "how can I help support Oiselle's donation programs?" There's no secret, we are a business and the better our business does, the more we are able to donate and give. So if you love the Bras for Girls program, know that each bra purchase and Volée team membership directly impacts how many bras we can donate. Hear from our teammates below on the event, and thank you all for your support of this program that we are all so passionate about. We’ll see you out running!
Heather McWhirter (photographer): RBO is a wonderful program. Many of these girls come from schools where they do not have access to sport. To provide these young girls with bras and to share the benefits makes me hopeful they will have the confidence and the self-esteem to play any sport they love.
Sheena Caines (Volée): It was so great to return to RBO a second year in a row. At least a dozen of the young girls in the room were there last year, and some of the girls could already describe what to look for in a proper fitting sports bra.
We talked to the girls about why we were there, why companies empowering women were so important, why it’s important to take care of both our body and mind. And even though the topic might feel awkward, how important it is to change that conversation from awkward and embarrassing to empowering. Alisha and I both gave personal accounts of our own first bra experiences, and of our ever-changing bodies. How we were both late bloomers, how I went from an A cup for years to a C cup in a matter of a few months, then on to a D, DD and now back down to a D once I started running more often, and during marathon training. How I used to wear 2-3 cheap sports bras when running in college because there weren’t really good options out there for larger-chested women (also, I didn’t know any better!).
One of the things I told them was that we're given one body in our lives, but that body changes with us as we grow as people, as athletes and as women. It's important to do everything we can to take care of it, to change and adapt with it, and to know that as women athletes, we feel strong and empowered in these bodies that do amazing things.
After their run, thy came back to the house to collect their sports bras and I was able to help them with the proper sizing since they trickled in more slowly. One of the girls who had been there last year mentioned that she didn’t want another sports bra because it was uncomfortable and the straps were too tight. This was the perfect opportunity to again stress the importance of a proper fit because that changes everything. We got her a size up from the one she received last year, and after trying it on, she came out with the biggest smile on her face! She also mentioned that she shares one sports bra with her older sister and that she couldn’t wear it that day to practice because her sister needed it. We encounter stories like this all the time, how quality sports bras that can change a young athletes life are unobtainable to many because of the cost. By providing both girls with a new sports bra that day, we changed the way they feel about their bodies and the sport.
I chatted with another girl, age 7, about terminology (breasts vs boobs) and what seemed appropriate for her to hear. She said “both aren’t very appropriate words but I guess breasts is a little better. They’re both bad words to use.” Doing programs like this and providing information to girls at this age is crucial to changing the mindset of both men and women when it comes to the female shape. To grow up thinking that a part of your body is taboo or shameful is heartbreaking.
We all may feel self-conscious from time to time about our bodies; society has trained our brains to do so. But we’ll continue to educate and empower, change the way people think about one of the strongest and most beautiful things out there - a women’s body.
Alisha Brown (Haute Volée): First, let me start by saying how amazing it is to be a part of a company and TEAM that is committed to serving. I love that with Oiselle, I get the opportunity to reach out to different communities, my own included, and perhaps, those less fortunate, with the purpose of empowering, motivating, and spreading love. (And then of course the bonus programs such as BRAS FOR GIRLS, which gives us the opportunity to supply Middle School girls with sports bras!) Events like this just fill my heart.
Upon arrival, the RBO staff met us with a very warm welcome. I was unaware that a small picture and write up of me was on their event flyer, which explained why many of the young girls had their eyes glued on me as they walked by. It was really sweet. As we walked into the town house, I made my rounds meeting and shaking hands with the girls and some of their mothers in the room.
Sheena began the presentation by speaking about how our bodies change. She then passed the baton to me and I spoke on self-empowerment and self-love. I understand the importance and need of learning to love your body through its life transformations because I too saw my body as a traitor when I did not develop the breasts, which I thought was one of the defining factors of being a woman during my pre-teen and teen years; then when my hips, thighs and butt grew my running suffered. So I knew I had to relay the message that body parts do not define who we are as women and young ladies. I made sure to tell them that we must embrace our own selves and accept our bodies as they are and as they change. I thought it pertinent that if they had not heard it yet, that they heard it there; we are strong in whatever body we currently are in: boobs or no boob, hips or no hips, butt or no butt, we are strong and we are beautiful. And in these beautiful bodies we can have, and we can achieve, whatever it is we put our minds (followed by work) to doing.
Then we reviewed the way a sports bra should properly fit the chest. Following Sheena’s cue, “It’s time to get a little more awkward,” we stripped off our shirts and showed our fitting sports bras. Sheena went over the jump test, the band test, doing away with ‘side boob’, and how sometimes extra support may be needed. We then distributed the sports bras to the half marathon training group, and the 5k training group picked up their bras after their run. I led the 5k group through a dynamic warm up, walking the girls through each drill, stating purpose and importance of form before engaging in the stretch or drill. We then went for a run around the Lake.
Another young lady from the event came up to me and asked, “Do you ever feel embarrassed by wearing a sports bra?” I responded, “Not at all. Of course I don’t just walk around town in my sports bra. But I do take pride when I wear one. I actually prefer a sports bra, and I wear them under regular (non-workout) clothes all the time. There is nothing to be embarrassed about while wearing a sports bra.” She said okay, with a gentle smile and went on her way.
I am fortunate that we were able to speak on how our bodies are more than what society may think of them. We are strong. We are beautiful. We are women.
Nancy Phillipine, RBO Executive Director: Thanks so much for the wonderful time you shared with us.
The presentation was very informative and I really appreciated how candid Sheena and Alisha were about their own experiences. As Sheena pointed out the audience was a better match this year as we sent the little ones to run out and invited the older girls in and still had a very full room. The community is growing! Yeah!
Sally and Sarah, and Oiselle, many many thanks for your generosity. Tod, RBO founder, was sharing with me his gratitude for making this happen as he watched the girls so happy to get their bras.
I hope you come visit again soon!