Nov. 27, 2013
By Michael Kasiborski
Inspiration blooms in the unlikeliest of places. Even in the words of an elementary school girl.
Courtney Beidler, a senior captain on the University of Michigan women's swimming and diving team, harvested inspiration from such a girl named Emme.
"This was my first 5K run," the first half of Emme's message says. "And I didn't stop."
Emme scribbled down her words following a Girls on the Run 5K. Beidler took a picture of it to celebrate the sweetness and simplicity in her words.
These days, Beidler can look in the mirror and see an inspiring figure. As a team captain, she helps lead a nationally ranked squad. She is studying at Michigan, where she is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten performer. And yet it is Emme's words that inspire her.
Emme ran in the Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan's 5K run in May, an event and organization that Beidler holds close to her heart. Girls on the Run teaches elementary and middle school-aged girls lessons about self-esteem, healthy eating, empowerment and kindness through a 10-week program that emphasizes exercise and is capped off with a 5K. Beidler has volunteered with the organization for a few years and counts 2013's run as her favorite.
"This past year was the first time I've gotten to see the start and finish lines," she said. "I almost cried when the starting gun went off -- the girls are smiling, so happy to be running with their friends and parents. And when they finish -- three miles is a long way to go for a 10 year old -- they are just on cloud nine."
For Emme, and the hundreds of girls like her, the 5K begins as a daunting prospect and ends as fulfilling achievement 10 weeks later. For Beidler, and the other Girls on the Run mentors and volunteers, the journey is the destination. She wants to ensure that any girl like Emme can go experience that. This past year, Beidler and other area volunteers served as SoleMates -- GOTR members who raise money for the group. They raised enough for 38 scholarships. That's 38 more girls who could experience the fulfillment Emme did.
"It's important for everyone to feel like they have day," says Beidler. "It's not about winning or losing, they are celebrating their accomplishments."
It is that sentiment -- that everyone should feel like they have their day -- that refocuses Beidler when the workouts in the pool seem never-ending, when the school work seems to pile on and the future beyond senior year that can appear so unsettled.
Make today your day and help others make today their day, too. As one-fourth of a quartet of senior captains, Beidler can influence how a lot of days go. Her positivity and passion flows through the team like ripples in the water.
She will graduate in the spring with her degree in communications studies and a history of high achievement. Beidler was a CSCAA Scholar All-America Honorable Mention in 2012 to go along with those two Academic All-Big Ten awards. She qualified for the NCAA Championships last March and continues to improve her times. Maybe we can see how Emme was influenced, for it seems Beidler never stops, she just keeps moving forward.
"It's not hard to be a high achiever when you're surrounded by people who are also doing that," said Beidler of her 30-plus teammates and U-M's coaches. "It's really just all about getting it done."
She credits her coaches, her teammates, her fellow seniors and her parents for teaching her about balance, organization and striving for excellence. It doesn't hurt that she is obsessed with her planner, the handy book that each student receives before the school year.
"I called (academic counselor) Eric Gerbens even before the school year started and begged him for the new planner," she admits.
That attention to detail -- and self-awareness -- should come in handy for the path in life she hopes to pursue. Beidler wants to go into event planning.
She wants to fill her days giving someone their day.
"I would love to plan charity balls," she said. "I love talking to people, I love meeting people -- that would be my dream job."
Girls on the Run gave her a taste of what goes into organizing big events, and this past summer's Ann Arbor Street Art Fair gave her a whole buffet's worth of experience. Beidler served as the program coordinator responsible for the Kids' Art Fair.
"We selected students from all over Ann Arbor, and they had to be juried in," she said. "After planning it for four months, looking at the kids' names in Excel and emailing their parents, seeing them at the fair and finally putting a face to name was really awesome."
That pay off had only just begun. Beidler watched the night of the Kids' Art Fair as these aspiring artists became art entrepreneurs.
"People were buying like crazy -- one little boy sold out of his stuff in an hour."
Beidler put in months of work to make sure that young artist had his day. It worked.
"That's the one thing I like about event planning -- you're working toward a very specific goal, and then you can see it, you watch it and you live it. It's in the moment right in front of you."
It sounds a bit like swimming, too.
Set a goal. Plan an event. Swim lap after lap. Work like crazy for months. Then live in the moment. Maybe -- just maybe -- that is the way Beidler is wired.
"I've had a slew of really amazing coaches that have taught me what it means to be a teammate, what it means work hard, to be motivated, to do the right thing," she said.
Bring up her parents Greg and Kathleen, and her eyes well up with tears.
"They are great, great people," she said, fighting back tears. "I've seen them reach out to other people who needed help, and they never hesitate. They sacrificed so much."
It should come as no surprise then that Beidler spends her time enriching the lives of others. Whether it is through Girls on the Run or the Kids' Art Fair or the lives of her teammates, Beidler just wants to abide by Emme's words: I did not stop.