By Susan Hatten | Senior manager, corporate community engagement, Holmes Murphy 

During the summer of 1988, my family moved from Des Moines to Ida Grove, a small town in northwest Iowa – population at the time, 2,200 Iowans strong.

I was going into the second grade, and recall the trepidation I felt in making friends and fitting into this new community, school system and social scene of young girls.

Fortunate for me, a tiny but mighty troop of second grade young women welcomed me in to their small-town friendship circle with open arms. Shortly thereafter, this group – myself included — developed what may have been one of the youngest women’s reciprocity forums at that time (had we known the meaning of reciprocity, in the second grade).

We took our friendship and support of one another to the next level, and by an incredibly informal vote on the four-square playground blacktop, we formed what will forever be known as the Purple Sneaker Club. What’s in the name, you might ask? Shoe fashion in 1989 was loud with street style, and the Converse high-tops were coming back into style in new and vibrant colors.

Here we are, 30 years after the development of the Purple Sneaker Club, and I could not be prouder to share that this roster of most amazing women are still friends. We are steadfast supporters of one another, professionally and personally, and the closest of confidantes. We’ve been through a lot together over the years — poor report cards, breakups, prom dress fiascos, weddings, funerals, births, and most recently, one of our own battled (and won!) a round with breast cancer.

While our lives have taken various trajectories, we’ve been there for each other through it all. The bond we created as young girls and the development of the Purple Sneaker Club kept us together.

I share this after participating in the Metro Wide Women’s Mentoring event this past April, which I was honored to be asked to take part in by the West Des Moines and Clive chambers of commerce. As I served as a roundtable guide and met and visited with so many incredible young ladies that morning, I could not help but ponder in gratitude of our forward-thinking decision to create the Purple Sneaker Club in 1989. I reflected on the importance for young women to create strong relationships and support networks at an early age, and to continue to lift one another up.

As mental health continues to be a most important topic – especially with regard to the mental health concerns facing our young people — perhaps we can take it upon ourselves to encourage the formation of support networks for young women and girls even as early as grade school years.

While the purple sneakers may be optional, the inherent value gained in the formation of a lifelong support network of women is truly priceless.

Susan Hatten is an account executive at Holmes Murphy, where she also assists in sales and strategic partnerships. She dedicates much time to community involvement through fundraising and volunteering for several organizations, including Variety - The Children's Charity, WineFest and the Variety Riverview Park Star Playground campaign. She is a founding member of the Junto Networking group and is an active member in Lead Like A Lady. She was named the 2017Meredith Corp. Emerging Business Woman of the Year and a member of the 2011 Forty Under 40 class by the Business Record, dmJuice Young Professional of the Year, Variety's International Ambassador in 2012 and the Downtown Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year in 2012, among others. Hatten is a graduate of Iowa State University. Contact her via email.