Liz Ferro’s smile doesn’t match her life story. Liz was an orphan, “a Catholic charities baby,” she says, in Rochester, N.Y., bounced between foster homes until she was adopted as a toddler. Even her forever home came with a dark side, when she was repeatedly raped by a neighbor at 8 years old.

“It was really difficult for me to have self-esteem. And just to feel that I had a place for negative energy,” she said.

Energy, she had a lot of it. Her dad helped her direct it into sports.

“My dad was the one person in my life who believed in me, and I think that’s a huge part of what Girls with Sole does for the kids. It shows that someone truly believes in them, so that they can believe in themselves,” she said.

“I was put on this planet to create Girls with Sole. I know I was. Because I know that the things I’ve gone through as a kid, and even as a young adult, happened for a reason,” she said. “It has to have happened for a reason. And now that I’ve started Girls with Sole, I know what that reason is.”

She says she recognizes some of the same insecurities in the girls she helps in her weekly programs now.

“They’re always in sort of a survival mode, so anything that brings them out of their comfort zone, is something that they’re not even going to bother with because it’s so scary and I was there,” she said. “And honestly, they feel it with me, which I love.”

Liz Ferro, left, with Sara Shookman, right, going on a run together.

Four days a week Liz works with at-risk girls with "soul" right here at home, and hopefully, one day nationwide.

She’s only four states away from 50 States for Sole, a campaign to finish a 50 marathons, roping people into her mission with every step.

“All of the sudden, there’s a group of people around me, and they want to know more about it. Half the marathon goes by, and I didn’t even realize I ran it because I was so busy talking about what I love,” she said.

It’s the same way she met her husband -- Mile 3 of the Cleveland Marathon.

“I have the most amazing husband, and my kids, love me and they love what I do,” Ferro said.

Her son even drew the logo. “We’re like a team, so they’re included in everything that I do.”

You can find out more about Girls with Sole by visiting their web site.

We're starting a new series Thursdays on Channel 3 News at 6 about the women in Northeast Ohio's communities who make things happen. These are women who see the possible, women you'd like to have in your group, women we’re bringing into Sara’s Circle.

Sara Shookman's circle

Her goal for Girls with Sole

“I want to see it as a national organization. Which is a huge undertaking, for again, a grassroots organization, starting from scratch that people never heard of before, but I know that it’s needed. And I know we can do it. So hopefully in 10 years, it will be in all of the states of America.”

What empowerment means to her

“To be a bad a**, in a good way. People say bad a** and it’s like, oh I’m tough, or I could beat you up, to me, a bad a** is someone who can walk into a room, and be confident and strong, and build other people up. And that’s extremely important to be empowered, is to want to make other people powerful.”

Why she runs

“When I’m running, I just let my mind go free, and it’s very liberating and it’s extremely relaxing and it’s the best mental house cleaning anyone can do.”

What states are left on her 50 States for Sole list

“North Dakota in two weeks, Iowa, Alaska and Montana.” She’ll finish the 50th marathon in July.

What makes her happy

“[My kids] are proud of me. And honestly, that’s very important to me. I grew up sort of thinking that, maybe my mom didn’t do a lot of things that I was proud of, and that’s a hard thing for me to say, but it made it very important for me to do something that was going to make my kids proud of me…They know that I’m doing something important, and they’re proud of what I’m doing, and it’s going to leave a legacy, so it’s very important to me, and I think it helps the balance of my work and my family.”

What women need to hear

“We have to be kinder to ourselves and kinder to each other. And not tear ourselves down when we look in the mirror, but concentrate on the physical abilities of our body and not the imperfections that we see…If you start concentrating on what your body can do, it’s much more important and much more empowering than concentrating on what it looks like.”