Written By: Ryan Hesslau
I look back to January of 2012, writing out ideas on a sheet of paper of how I could start some sort of revolution or movement that targets the prevention of bullying. Not knowing where to go, I knew I had discovered my purpose but where do I go from here?
About one in the morning, I woke up (which rarely happens, I’m a pretty heavy sleeper) turned to my night stand, grabbed the pencil and piece of paper, and there it was…foreverU.
Since then I truly cannot believe how far we have come in just a couple years. From an idea on a sheet of paper, to a Facebook page, to a not for profit organization, I can’t believe what foreverU has evolved into. Never would we be anywhere without the help of some amazing people who helped foreverU get off the ground when we first began.
The first person I want to thank is Michael Johnston, my youth leader and my mentor. He was one of the few people who sat down to listen to what I had to say when I first had the idea of foreverU. He believed in me, he believed that there was something within me that could make a huge impact in the lives of others. He’s inspired my life and gave me the push I needed on to my walk of faith. When we sat down to talk, I believe it was at “Pops” way back when, he had his notepad, and just began to write down everything I was saying. Those ideas then evolved into something greater. Mr. Johnston then put me through the second individual that helped foreverU, Al Longtin.
I remember the day at my church when Mr. Johnston had Al come over and talk to me. Al having quite the business background, told me to schedule a meeting with him. A week later I was having a meeting with him and a few others in his office. The next week at 16, I had a conference call with SchoolTipline. The CEO had met with Al, two weeks before this. Little weird right? SchoolTipline’s focus is preventing bullying in the school system…WOAH. Al said to me whenever there’s a problem, his question is what’s the solution? What’s the solution to bullying? That’s where we discover our mission. Promoting solutions.
SchoolTipline became one of our SOLUTIONS for preventing bullying.
While things began to come together, I ended up coming in contact with Priscilla Steinmetz, founder of The Bridge Teen Center, who we continue to stay involved with. I remember sitting in her office and explaining to Priscilla what we were trying to do within foreverU. I told her this, (foreverU’s original mission) we want to collect donations to fund organizations that are solutions toward bullying. She stopped me, and talked some sense into me. She believed in me, she believes the younger generation can do incredible things if they’re given the chance. I walked out of her office, and we discovered our new and improved mission. We wanted to give victims an environment of safety and hope by promoting solutions toward bullying…”Rethink! Relive! Revive!”
From there on we were off and running. We were becoming more and more popular, creating and developing ways for teens to get involved. Then I attended a church retreat at Springhill camps. They allowed me to set up a table to promote forever.
The band that was performing was called “Bread of Stone.” I talked to the guitarist for quite some time about foreverU. He asked me the same question he faced when starting a band…”Why does the world need another one?” He told me he wasn’t trying to discourage me, but to really think about it. What did we have that was so different that would attract the attention of teens? What makes us more prone to putting an end to bullying? My answer behind that love is our solution.
I walked away and that’s when I knew this was going to be quite a rollercoaster. Many would be discouraged by what he asked me, but it actually gave me another missing puzzle piece to ending bullying.
We developed a new slogan…”LOVE is the CURE”
Bullying has become an epidemic and a disease, but it’s the most curable thing out there. The only cure, is love.
That’s why I know in a couple years, foreverU WILL be the leading anti-bullying organization in the country.
The next person I want to thank is Rev. Bill Johnson. I was invited to speak at my church, United Methodist Church of New Lenox one Sunday morning. I spoke and said what I needed to say. People came up to me after the service and thanked me for what I’m doing and there came Rev. Bill. He said to me, “You were born to have a microphone in your hand.”
Those words, they gave me the confidence to public speak, it gave me the confidence to speak in front of hundreds, even thousands of people. Rev. Bill passed away not too long after. Without those words, I probably wouldn’t be dedicating my life toward foreverU, public speaking, or starting my other organization OVSA.
Next is Katie Smith. I spoke for Lincoln-Way East and North peer helpers about foreverU. Katie came up to me after and explained how she was involved with Global Youth Service Day and wanted to host a 5k benefitting foreverU. Katie, a senior in high school at the time led foreverU’s first ever 5k fundraise our first year of being established. That event has now become an annual project for teens to get involved with and also gave us the funding to take foreverU to where it needs to be.
Last but not least my parents and my incredible family, and amazing friends. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. All I can say is thank you. You never gave up on me, you never told me that my hopes were too high or my dreams were too big. You also believed in me. I love each and every one of you and all of you have played a role in foreverU. Whether it was helping us financially, critiquing whatever, finding connections and simply just helping to prosper foreverU. You have done just that. I couldn’t be more blessed.
Thank you to all the teenagers that have helped foreverU get to where we are. Whether it was joining a team, spreading the word or simply supporting us through the web. Thank you to the current and future Teen Representatives. Thank you to all our future sponsors, the schools and churches we’ve gotten involved with and will be getting involved with. Thank you for giving foreverU a chance. Thank you for giving me a chance.
Be sure to check out all the newest stuff we’ve developed at our website. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2014. This week we’re contacting about 10 radio shows and a few televised shows like WGN. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed. Through out all of 2014 we’ll be working on our future plans involving a music festival, Vans Warped Tour, foreverU Tours, and much more. Please get involved :D
foreverU is off and running. All I can say is, we are on our way to some pretty great things. I love all of you.
This is one of our new self-help resources available to our Ambassador community. Here we will feature the thoughts, questions, and insight of the our fellow Ambassadors. You can even leave comments of encouragement or feedback to fellow Ambassadors that may be having a tough time.