Q&A with Melissa Belk - GOTR Coach, Donor, and SoleMate


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Meet Joan Collins - Superstar GOTR Donor!

This giving season, with your support, Girls on the Run South Central Wisconsin is on a mission to raise $20,000 by December 31st for running shoes and athletic clothes for 600 girls! When we do that, we’ll know that *every* youth in our program will have the equipment they need to safely and joyfully participate.

Today, we would like you to meet the amazing Joan Collins, a long-time Girls on the Run donor, and local entrepreneur and president of Joan Collins Publicity, Inc, who is offering a $5,000 challenge match to complete our shoe fund once we reach our $20,000 goal.

Joan is a committed philanthropist and is on her own mission to inspire other women to join her in making a difference in the community through philanthropy. We sat down with her for a Q&A to learn more about why she believes in the transformational power of philanthropy - and lifting up the health of our girls, youth, and families. She is happy to share her story, and hopes you will join her by becoming a Girls on the Run donor, too.

Question: Joan, when did you first learn about the power of philanthropy and how has it been a guiding force in your life? What impact do you hope to make through it? 

Answer: My father died suddenly during my first year in college. My  journalism professor and  mentor (I didn't realize she was a mentor until later) , gave me the bad news about my Dad. She managed to help me get a scholarship so I could continue college and not worry about finances. I contacted the woman who donated the scholarship and thanked her profusely. I never got to meet her. She was disappointed her daughter did not want to go to college so she  set up a scholarship for another young woman. I was the  recipient.  I still have her letters. This is way before email and text.

Question: A few years ago, you were the very first woman to receive the Wisconsin Governor’s Trailblazer Thrive Award for Women in Business for the public relations company you started at the age of 25. Who or what inspired you, as a young woman, to pursue your dreams? 

Answer: I felt there was a need for a PR firm in Madison that was not  part of an ad agency.Writing was my passion from an early age. I started  a newspaper in Wisconsin Rapids, my hometown, which I ran  for three summers while growing up called The Neighborhood Chatterbox. I loved being the publisher, editor and delivering the paper around the neighborhood.  Entrepreneurship was in my blood.   

Question: What obstacles did you overcome? And what types of skills and support did you need to overcome them? 

Answer: I didn’t have time or inclination to look for obstacles. I had to succeed and didn't want to waste the energy about obstacles., I just went for the goal and didn’t pay attention to what hurdles might be in the way.

Question: Why is Girls on the Run dear to your heart? How do you see it making a difference for future generations?

Answer: Exercise is important to me  and the earlier you start taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically…the better.  Then, moving your body becomes a lifelong very positive habit., 

Question: If you could pass along one piece of advice to a girl or youth today, what would it be? 

Answer: Stick with Girls on the Run and stay true to your goals. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way to build skills and empower you to succeed.

Question: If you could pass along a word of encouragement to other women inspired to make a difference through philanthropy, what would it be? 

Answer: Do the research and support the non-profits that truly value your philanthropy and keep you posted on their successes.


Today, Joan plays tennis four days a week and bike commutes every chance she gets. She knows well the transformative power of confidence, community, and physical activity.  As she told In Business magazine about exercise, “it’s become so much a part of my life, so that if I go three or four days without getting exercise, I feel like I’m not even with the program… You can also look at the research they keep doing about how exercise is good for the brain.”

Joan says that exercise and moving her body gives her more focus, energy and a healthier mindset. She wants that for younger generations, too. Particularly knowing they are facing a higher degree of loneliness, depression, and other mood disorders than ever before. 

Like Joan, you can create a transformational difference for girls and youth and improve the lives of future generations. Contact Mary Salisbury, Director of Philanthropy, to learn more at mary.salisbury@girlsontherun.org or (608) 352-0038. 



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