(First published in the September 13, 2018 issue of City Pages)
Local women combine their talent and experiences to support young girls
Sheroes Among Us holds its first retreat for girls, age 11-15, Saturday, Sept. 22. Pictured here are Sheroes board members (from left) Denise Sauter, Amy Ryan, Erin Ralls, Elizabeth Messner
Elizabeth Messner understands the difficulties young girls face, especially the pursuit of perfection exacerbated by the added influences of social media. “I can sympathize…my life was like a Petri dish for this,” she says of Sheroes Among Us, a newly formed non-profit group Messner created with a mission to “meet women of the future where they are to mentor, empower and ignite their unique potential.”
Messner says many girls struggle without realizing others are experiencing the same things, or that older women experienced them, too. “I was brutally bullied,” says Messner of her middle and high school years. “I had dead animals put in my locker, my feet were run over by a group of girls wearing track spikes. I had new clothes spit on and gum rubbed into them.”
She believes talking with young girls and starting a dialogue early in their life will help them combat issues like bullying. “There is a lack of conversation that puts girls in almost a purgatory, so they opt for the lower road,” she says. But if given the opportunity and know-how to take the higher road, “you will.”
The organization will hold its first retreat for girls age 11–15 this weekend. The day-long event is intended as a safe place for girls to learn about themselves, says Sheroes Among Us board member, Amy Ryan. “And also to give them new skills and different ways to flip that negative internal dialogue and to find real life skills, like how do you deal with people.”
The retreat will feature panelists Miss Wisconsin Marissa Nelson, local nurse Debbie Harris, Peyton’s Promise founder Peyton Medick and model Sarah Kaufmann. There will also be a self defense demonstration and discussion topics such as healthy relationships.
The idea for Sheroes has danced around Messner’s mind for decades, but in January she put her thoughts into motion. “I don’t think that my struggles are unique,” she says of her youth. “I’ve wanted to do this my whole life.” Messner also wants to address the idea of defining yourself through the eyes of others. “That is a heavy load for a woman to carry… body image, social media, body size. It’s stifling.”
As she was shaping the organization, Messner began meeting other like-minded women around Wausau and asked them to come on board. Sheroes Among Us currently consists of 10 area women from all different backgrounds and ages. “But we have all have gone through the same kind of things,” Messner says.
They plan to hold several retreats throughout the year, plus workshops to facilitate communication among peer groups, young girls and parents. The group also will offer resources and tools.
Raissa Dupuis, owner of Poppy’s Boutique in downtown Wausau, was so moved by the organization that she’s donating the ticket sales of her upcoming fall fashion show to Sheroes Among Us.
“As a women and a mother of a young daughter, Sheroes Among Us resonated with me,” says Dupuis. “By working with these young women at a vulnerable age, I believe Sheroes Among Us can build a healthy foundation for these young women.”
For now Sheroes is focusing their retreats on younger females. “The 15 to 18 age group is far different than the 11- to 15-year-olds,” says Messner. “We feel like [the younger age] is where the conversation needs to start.”
The retreat for girls ages 11-15 is Saturday, Sept. 22, 8:30 am–3:30 pm at the UW-Stevens Point Wausau Campus Student Union (formerly called UWMC). Cost is $40, scholarships available. See sheroesamongus.com.
Poppy’s Boutique fashion show benefitting Sheroes Among Us is Thursday, Sept. 27 starting at 5:30 pm with a reception to follow. Tickets $20. See poppysboutiquewi.com.