From a small gathering of mothers and daughters in a South Hill living room to a ballroom filled with sparkling princesses escorted by their dads, Whatever Girls’ reach and influence has grown exponentially.
In 2009, as her daughter Grace was about to enter middle school, Erin Bishop launched Whatever Girls – a faith-based group for moms and daughters.
The name comes from a Bible verse, Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
“Because of my own experience in middle school, I wanted to help Grace navigate peer pressure and help her stay rooted in her Christian faith,” Bishop said.
Bishop said her teen years were turbulent and plagued with self-esteem issues common to many teens.
“I didn’t have an identity,” she said. “I looked to clothes, friendships and boys for approval. It didn’t work out very well for me.”
As her daughter’s teen years approached, she wanted to be intentional in her parenting. She started with a list of Grace’s friends and invited them and their mothers to her home.
“The moms I spoke to were all in for this,” Bishop said. “They wanted the same thing for their daughters: a solid support system.”
She created a scenario-based card game to launch discussion. Each card had a “What would you do?” question with several possible answers. Questions involved things like friendship, honesty, dating and integrity. The mothers and daughters discussed the questions separately and then came together to share responses.
Bishop said the discussions proved eye-opening and, most importantly, gave the girls tools and strategies to handle social situations. The group also gave the girls a built-in network through the school year.
“Even something as simple having someone to sit with at lunch can be huge,” Bishop said.
Kim Cole has six daughters and said their involvement in Whatever Girls has been exciting.
“Great conversations have opened up,” Cole said. “I believe it’s making a difference.”
The original group waned in Grace’s junior year, but Bishop had already started groups for younger girls.
In 2012, she launched a Whatever Girls blog and website, and her ideas found a national audience.
“I had immediate great response to the blog,” she said. “Moms wanted to know how to start their own groups.”
Now there are groups in Texas, Kansas and Indiana, with more groups popping up all the time. Whatever Girls also spawned a private prayer group with more than 600 members worldwide.
As Bishop spoke with women and girls, the importance of fathers became an ongoing refrain.
She said studies have shown that involved fathers can help their daughters achieve more academically, and that girls are healthier mentally and emotionally when they know their dads are there for them.
“Dads shape how girls think of men,” she said.
And the idea for a father-daughter dance was born.
“Society treats dads as the butt of jokes,” Bishop said. “I think we need to encourage them.”
The first Whatever Girls Princess Ball in 2013 proved to be a success. The Sonora Smart Dodd Father of the Year Award presented at the dance was the idea of state Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane. The award is named for the founder of Father’s Day, who was from Spokane. Daughters can nominate their fathers via the Whatever Girls Facebook page.
Matthew Pederson attended that first dance with his daughter, Charlee, then 4, and hasn’t missed a ball since.
“It was our first official daddy-daughter date,” he said. “She really enjoys dressing up and getting her hair and nails done. We go out to dinner and she chooses the restaurant. There’s really no other event quite like the Whatever Girls Princess Ball.”
In addition to providing a fun evening out with his daughter, Pederson said he appreciates the connection with other fathers.
“It gives dads an opportunity to hang out and meet new people. It’s a chance to network and lets us know we’re not alone,” he said. “Whatever Girls has been a great resource for me as a father.”
This year, Bishop has added a new event. The first Whatever Girls Fezziwigs’s Ball, a Christmas-themed dance, will take place at the Moran Prairie Grange on Dec. 10.
The dances are in keeping with Whatever Girls’ mission of intentional parenting, by providing fun family activities.
Bishop said her organization is “a hug for parents of teen daughters and younger girls.”
“We want to be on this journey with them,” she said. “Everything we do is sowing into our legacy, our daughters’ legacies and future generations.”
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