Rockford Barbell
Elliot Ganet, executive director of Rockford Barbell, works with Kristopher Moore, 11, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, at the nonprofit’s facility at 213 N. Third St. in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — A nonprofit that strives to inspire people to live a healthier lifestyle and equip them with the fitness gear they need is collaborating with The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois to fulfill its mission in a new way.

Annie’s Locker, which was founded in 2007, long collected shoes and other fitness gear for Rockford students and others in need. It also provided race scholarships to Rockford Road Runners events. It will now work with the Community Foundation to raise funds for two nonprofits that help youth with their fitness, education and overall well being: Rockford Barbell and Girls on the Run Northwest Illinois.

Annie’s Locker will continue to work with Rockford Road Runners, and it will maintain a three-member board with Terri Odell, Shannon Papiernik and Carol Bingley. It will also accept financial donations, but it will no longer accept gear donations.

Instead, financial contributions will go into a new permanent endowment fund that supports the two nonprofits. Money Annie’s Locker had on hand also went into that fund.

The announcement was made Wednesday at Rockford Barbell, 213 N. Third St.

“It means so much, the message that we care about Rockford Barbell long-term,” said Elliot Ganet, executive director of Rockford Barbell. “Being able to carry on Annie’s Locker’s legacy of improving and committing to people’s physical and mental health through fitness, through movement: We’re happy to do it and thrilled that we get the chance.”

Girls on the Run is a nonprofit founded in Charlotte that expanded here in 2014. It helps roughly 200 third through fifth grade girls in Winnebago County with its social, emotional learning program. The program is designed to build confidence, kindness and decision-making skills while creatively incorporating running, said Paula Capone, executive director of Girls on the Run Northwest Illinois.

Andrell Davon Singleton, 13, works through the clean and jerk on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, at Rockford Barbell. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

Roughly 90% of the girls participating are part of the scholarship program, Capone said.

“This will help us meet the girls needs by providing them shoes, or maybe sports bras, so they can feel confident when we do our physical fitness portion of running in our program,” she said. “It’s always a win-win when you can come together to make a good situation even better.”

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Rockford Barbell has a weightlifting program and a yoga program aimed at improving social-emotional well-being through trauma-informed practices. The programs are primarily funded by the Winnebago County Mental Health Board, which is funded by a half-cent sales tax voters approved in March 2020.

“We want to help build resilient kids,” Ganet said. “Kids improving their ability to connect with one another, kids improving their ability to regulate themselves, improving their self-awareness, improving their self-confidence … that’s a win for us.”

How to donate | Learn more

To donate to the Annie’s Locker Fund, go HERE.

To learn more about Annie’s Locker, go HERE.

To learn more about Girls on the Run Northwest Illinois, go HERE.

To learn more about Rockford Barbell, go HERE.

Kristopher Moore, 11, performs the clean and jerk on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, at Rockford Barbell. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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