During Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend Atlanta, the kick-off city of the eight-stop tour and transformational weekend, Toyota announced the first recipients of The Toyota “Standing O-Vation” award — recognizing extraordinary people who are making positive changes in their communities and inspiring others to do the same.  Oprah Winfrey and Team Toyota brand ambassador Amy Purdy honored Ashley Hicks and Toni Carey, the founders of Black Girls RUN!, an Atlanta-based national running group created to combat obesity among women in the African-American community.  As the first “Standing O-Vation” recipients, Black Girls RUN! received a $25,000 grant from Toyota in support of its continuing efforts to get women running.

Stunned to realize — before the crowd of thousands — that they were the winners of the award as a video montage of their works streamed, Carey said, “It has been a really cool experience. You know when you’re doing work like this, it can often feel like it’s in vain or that it’s not making an impact, and then seeing it all put together on video … It was great.”

Black Girls RUN! was formed by Carey and Hicks to increase the number of African-American women who run, improving their fitness, quality of life, and ultimately decreasing the number of African-American women who are overweight. What began with a blog and two women in Atlanta has grown into a network of more than seventy groups and hundreds of thousands of members across the nation. The organization has grown, the duo says, by women simply telling other women. “When we started, we thought, ‘oh, this is something cool to do. You don’t see how big it can grow and it’s always interesting because it’s not just us; All the women who run with the group are telling other women and helping other women. It’s almost like it’s contagious to share that love and want to help people,” Hicks said.

 The driving force behind The Toyota “Standing O-Vation” stems from the automaker’s commitment to fostering women’s interests. While reflecting the kind of stories that define the brand, The Toyota “Standing O-Vation” is an opportunity to celebrate remarkable women who are not only making the world a better place, but also motivating others to spark their own journey of personal change.

“We are still in shock at what happened tonight and cannot believe we were chosen to receive this once-in-a-lifetime honor,” said Hicks.  “Eighty percent of African-American women suffer from obesity, and this group was a way to get women moving. This honor gives us the opportunity to take Black Girls RUN! to the next level, allowing us to serve our community even further,” added Carey.

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