First season for BIO Girls – Devils Lake a marathon-running success

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – To some, no qualities hold more merit than empowerment and resiliency. 

Although the scorching heat might have shortened the race, BIO Girls – Devils Lake didn’t allow such adversity to dampen the mood entirely. 

Instead, the program stuck to its core philosophy of empowerment and resiliency to push through the BIO Girls Wonderfully Made 5K on June 23 at River of Life Assembly of God. 

Of course, such an occasion didn’t reach a vibrant crescendo overnight. Like any other program, it all starts with a build-up, and a marathon is no exception. 

BIO Girls is a nonprofit organization geared toward serving girls ranging from second to sixth grade. With more than 70 locations across the Midwest, BIO Girls utilizes a 12-session program that helps raise self-esteem, increase mental wellness, grow healthy relationships, teach leadership skills and show kindness.

BIO Girls – Devils Lake recently concluded its first season in Devils Lake.

BIO Girls – Devils Lake helped bring 40 girls together for their inaugural season in the community. With each session clocking out at around the 90-minute mark, BIO Girls – Devils Lake helped teach life lessons each girl could keep with them for the future. 

While the 5K marathon was not the last session of the year, each prior session helped prepare for what was the “biggest” event on the season calendar. 

After seeing BIO Girls succeed in Grand Forks, Margi Yanish (the director of BIO Girls – Devils Lake) decided to bring the program to Devils Lake. After their first session on April 11, each following get-together continued to grow individual values and illustrate the program’s overall goal. 

The 5K marathon, like any other session, helped emphasize this philosophy to a tee. 

“It teaches the girls to have a goal to work toward, to build up the 5K, and it’s non-competitive,” Yanish said. “We want all the girls just to do their best and, you know, make their goal. It makes them feel more successful [and] boosts their self-esteem.” 

After Yanish reached out to her to gauge whether she would be interested in co-directing, Antoinette Sailor hopped on board to help manage the program in Devils Lake. 

Of course, Yanish and Sailor also had to deal with adversity in addition to the girls. Whether from rainstorms, blizzards or 90-degree weather, BIO Girls – Devils Lake certainly had to overcome a fair share of obstacles, especially regarding physical activities, such as the 5K marathon. 

However, through their lessons, the girls stood firm and, perhaps most importantly, worked together as a family to overcome any obstacle. 

No reward or payoff could be greater, according to Sailor. 

“I think, just to be there for one another to run the race that they’ve been training for this whole time, that they can see each other through this and just really care about their friends that they are running next to,” Sailor said. 

Upon the marathon’s conclusion (in addition to the program’s final session on June 27), BIO Girls – Devils Lake officially concluded its first season. Now, the program will look toward 2023, and for a good reason. After all, the Lake Region Community Fund – a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to funding needs in the community – pledged to help provide future resources for the program’s upcoming season. In addition to Western State Bank sponsoring the program, BIO Girls – Devils Lake has reason to show optimism. With such a positive turnout, it only made sense to keep the momentum going through next year. 

The Lake Region Community Fund recently awarded BIO Girls – Devils Lake funding toward the 2023 season. BIO Girls – Devils Lake is scheduled to get underway once more in the spring of 2023.

Yanish and Sailor will still look back at their first group with pride. To the pair, BIO Girls – Devils Lake was as successful in the marathon as it was during all other sessions. 

Sometimes, kindness is as powerful as empowerment and resiliency. And to Yanish and Sailor, the girls showed all of it in more ways than one. 

Such resonance matches what BIO Girls wishes to teach, no matter where the program is located. 

“I think kindness,” Yanish said. “They’ve really done a great job being really empathetic to each other and working together really well and just showing a lot of kindness.” 

“I would have to say the same,” Sailor said. “We have not had any issues where girls have been not nice to each other. They’ve just really, really truly cared about each other, and we’ve seen more of that throughout the 12 weeks, so it has been a wonderful opportunity for these girls.” 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email ( or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.