Thomas Worthington High School celebrated female athletes on National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Feb. 6 and gave special honors to a student creating opportunities for the next generation of female athletes.

All female athletes from grades 7 to 12 were invited to the event and were highlighted for their achievements.

One was 18-year-old senior Rachel Rinaldi, who founded Every Girl Can Play, a program designed to encourage athletics participation for girls in the Worthington community and give financial assistance for fees.

Rinaldi said she thought of the program for a fifth-grade class project and decided to bring it into action during her junior year of high school

Rinaldi wanted to give other girls the same opportunities she has had in sports, she said.

"I hope that I give them a path that has been as awesome as mine was," she said.

The program is available to girls in the district who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and must be registered for a sport in Worthington Schools.

A parent then sends an email to administrative director Tammy Bryant, and a response will be provided by the end of registration for that sport, Rinaldi said.

Thomas Worthington athletics director Jen Goebbel said it was important to have an event that recognizes the value sports can have in the lives of students.

She said she got the idea to have an event after hearing former Thomas Worthington track and field coach Nancy Beattie's speech when she was inducted into the Ohio Capital Conference Hall of Fame in September 2018.

"It was something I really wanted to bring to our female athletes," Goebbel said.

The event consisted of five guest speakers, all with ties to Worthington:

* Ohio State basketball assistant coach Carrie Banks.

* Local sports anchor Audrey Hasson.

* Former high school and college swimmer Kathy McFarland.

* Dartmouth College football assistant coach Callie Brownson.

* Beattie, who coached the Thomas Worthington girls track and field team for 20 years.

Goebbel said she wanted the girls to have a moment to feel proud and celebrate.

She said many correlations can be found between women who have played sports and workforce success, so she is confident female athletes' success will transfer into other parts of their lives.

"My hope is that continues for them professionally," she said.