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GO GIRLS! heads to Fiji

Abby Wedrickas, Katelyn Vonch, Kristin Bjornstad, Stephanie Robert and Olivia Cyr will travel to Fiji in August along with Keisha Betcher and adult leaders Sarah Stinson, Carrie Westland and Wendy Wimmer (not pictured). Jen Cullen photo

The details

What: Red Wing GO GIRLS! garage sale

Why: To help the girls raise money for an upcoming trip to Fiji

When: Today, Friday and Saturday

Where: 941 Burton St.

There will be no makeup, no curled hair, no fancy clothes.

Just seven Red Wing teenagers being themselves and spreading their message in a Third World country forever changed by images of women and men they see on television.

"I want them not to feel pressure to be like that," said Abby Wedrickas, a Red Wing GO GIRLS! member. "We're not all little copies of the people on 90210. They don't have to change themselves because of what they see on TV."

Wedrickas and other current and former GO GIRLS (Giving Our Girls Inspiration and Resources for Lasting Self Esteem) members will travel to the Pacific Island nation of Fiji in August to talk to boys and girls their age about media influence and body image.

The group already has raised more than $11,000 for the trip and is holding a garage sale this week to pay for the rest of their travels.

The girls were inspired by Dr. Ann Becker, whose research in the 1990s documented how Fijian culture was affected by the introduction - without preparation or media literacy - of Western media.

Becker discovered that eating disorders and body dissatisfaction skyrocketed after shows like "90210," "ER," "Zena Warrior Princess" and "Melrose Place" hit the airwaves.

"The Fijians used to embrace larger shapes because they associated it with strength and power," Wedrickas said. "Then they started having body issues."

The local teens - ranging in age from 16 to 19 - will fly into the urban area of Nadi on the island of Viti Levu, then visit teens at a school near Lautoka.

Kristin Bjornstad, another GO GIRLS! member, said the group will be careful not to offend the Fijians and their way of life.

Still, they want to impress upon them that being different is a good thing and that women should feel empowered by being who they are.

"We don't want to force our beliefs on them but we want them to know everyone has to accept themselves to be confident," Bjornstad said. "Trying to be like everyone else is boring."

The girls will talk about their experiences with body image and the affects media have on society.

"A lot of people in the West deal with this too. We don't have a shield to the media," Wedrickas said. "We want them to be able to use our tools and be able to not take those message literally."

The group - which will be led by three adults - also will spend time volunteering in a home for the elderly.

To get a taste of the culture, the teens will participate in a traditional kava ceremony where they will receive a welcoming drink made of pepper root.

The girls also will experience some of the tourist areas of Fiji.

"It will be interesting to see the differences between the two areas," said Olivia Cyr, GO GIRLS! member.

GO GIRLS! is a 12-week curriculum for high school students that came to Red Wing 10 years ago. Members have educated peers and adults around the United States about media influence on people's thoughts and attitudes about their bodes.

The teen girls speak about the powers of the media and help young women and girls decode that much of what they see on TV or the Internet is essentially unreal.

Sarah Stinson, program coordinator for Red Wing GO GIRLS!, hopes the Fiji trip will be a life-changing experience for the teens.

"This will really allow them to see that their message can affect one person and make a difference," Stinson said. "They are strong women who have a voice and deserve to be heard."

"And that's how I want to make them feel," Wedrickas said.

The girls would like to share information about their trip with the public when they return and are already scheduled to present at the annual National Eating Disorders Association Conference.

For more information or to donate to the group, contact Stinson at (651) 267-3506 or