Have you ever had a life-defining moment? Mine came in 2011 with the sudden passing of my young mother from pancreatic cancer. I was faced with how short life can be and questioned whether I was fulfilling my life purpose. I kept hearing about youth feeling like they had nowhere to turn, hurting themselves, and even taking their own lives. My dream I had acquired at a very young age of being an advocate for youth, resurfaced.
With my mother’s loss of life and young people taking their lives because of not feeling accepted, I felt driven to reach as many young people as possible. Furthermore, to let them know their life matters and is worth living and to empower them to know others’ words or actions don’t define them. I have since made it my life’s mission to help kids feel safe, heard, and valued, regardless of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. I rolled up my sleeves and armed with love, passion, and determination, my family and I founded Free2Luv®. Free2Luv is a youth empowerment nonprofit inspiring hope in youth who are often marginalized, bullied, and afforded little opportunity to thrive and prosper, including LGBTQ youth.
Behind every issue, whether it’s bullying, self-harm or self-loathing, are low self-esteem and a lack of self-love. We wanted our organization name to be a word of empowerment. The name Free2Luv encompasses loving yourself first, loving others and being free to love whoever you desire.
From personal experience, I know the value of having one other person in your corner, fighting your fight with you and supporting you fully. It can be the thing that pulls you out of your circumstance and makes the difference for a prosperous life. Sometimes that difference is between living and dying. Other times it’s standing up for a stranger who you see being bullied instead of turning away in apathy. In addition to using our own voices to impact others, we mentor youth to raise their voices in compassion and love. That’s what truly sets us apart.
One of the cornerstones of our organization and one we are incredibly proud of is our youth advocacy/mentorship program. We assist youth in finding their authentic voice and expression, which in turn builds their self-esteem and confidence. What happens from there is magic. Advocates inspire other youth in their community as they share the importance of bullying prevention, spread kindness, and celebrate individuality. By providing youth continual support, we are growing leaders and game changers who are making a powerful and positive impact in their communities, inspiring, encouraging, and uplifting their peers. It’s a dynamic ripple effect of empowerment and connection.
There’s nothing like holding hands with young people who build confidence and engage in inclusive conversations. When youth learn to express themselves more fully, they share their hearts and are open-minded with their peers. It is the most rewarding and profound work we have done in our lives, and it is a gift to witness the growth of these beautiful individuals who are our future. Teaching leadership, innovation, and compassion is critical to our society’s future. When we raise authentic, confident, and empowered individuals, we are building a strong future for all youth. Therefore, we will continue to make this our life’s work and mission. Above all, we aspire to be leaders who inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.