Animal-Shack

Gazelle Girl

Verwys runs half-marathon for third-world women

by Published: Apr 30, 2014

Professor Betsy Verwys celebrates after completing the Gazelle Girl Marathon in Grand Rapids, raising money for SowHope with every mile she ran.  Photo Provided By: Betsy Verwys

Professor Betsy Verwys celebrates after completing the Gazelle Girl Marathon in Grand Rapids, raising money for SowHope with every mile she ran.
Photo Provided By: Betsy Verwys

Ferris professor Betsy Verwys ran with a purpose on April 13.

“I was challenged by a friend of mine to set new goals for myself as I trained for this race,” Verwys said. “It’s easy to set new time challenges, but he challenged me to think about the race differently.”

Verwys collected pledges from friends and family for every mile she ran in the Gazelle Girl Marathon in Grand Rapids.

“One of the goals of the Gazelle Girl half-marathon is to honor women,” Verwys said.  “So it was only natural for me to choose to honor a group of deserving women.”

SowHope received 100 percent of Verwys’ pledge money.

SowHope is a non-profit, international, charitable organization that inspires and empowers women around the world by promoting wellness, education, and economic opportunity.

The organization’s target population is 1.5 billion women who live on less than $2 a day while working and raising families in extreme physically and emotionally harsh environments.

Running 13.1 miles, Verwys more than tripled her $500 goal, raising $1,600 for the organization.

“To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what kind of financial goal to set,” Verwys said.  “I actually originally set it for $300!  I think that people in our communities are more compassionate and generous than we realize. They often just need to be provided a tangible opportunity.”

According to Verwys, $1,600 can be used by SowHope to start a microloan club for 20 women in a village in Bangladesh, help 53 women go from non-literacy to a fifth grade level of literacy in India, buy three full grown milking cows in Uganda, buy 10 sewing machines in Nigeria and buy a birthing table in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Verwys ran the race on an injured foot, enduring a great amount of pain for the last 8 miles of the run.

“I literally kept thinking about the women I’ve met whose lives are so much harder than my own,” Verwys said. “They deal with physical, emotional and mental trauma on a much bigger scale… it really helped me to maintain my focus and press on.”

Verwys also dedicated each mile she ran to a woman who has greatly impacted her life. At each mile marker she came across, she spoke that woman’s name out loud.

“You can make a difference, really, you can,” Verwys said. “It was less about the dollar amount and more about the fact that I was able to bring awareness to this great organization, raise a few dollars, and be a part of something bigger than myself.”

To learn more about SowHope and how you can help, visit sowhope​.org.