My name is Mark. I'm 16 years old, a Junior and I go to Lincoln-Way East. I serve on the Student Advisory Board with foreverU and its one of the most exciting jobs I've ever been a part of and I truly feel like my voice is heard for once.
My life prior to foreverU was self-destructive and a real struggle I was barely managing. I never knew if I would make it through the day. But, ever since Ryan Hesslau introduced me to the mission of foreverU and got me involved, I feel encouraged and stronger - as if I am a new person, happier than I've ever been before.
Their mission truly matters because it saved my life. It showed me how to get up when I get knocked down and how to pass that mentality on to others. foreverU gives me the opportunity to stay involved with them by allowing me to lead programs, share ideas, help with projects, and beyond. When I get older, I hope to have a career in counseling and use that to further my involvement with foreverU.
I encourage students to get involved with foreverU because it brings out their true spirit and shows them how to be someone they had never thought they would be. When students get involved, they are given the tools to help others, themselves, and even receive community service hours along the way. In the future, I hope to see foreverU beyond a local level, and begin to incorporate multiple retreats and camps through the Reset Program because it is what truly saved me.
As the year of 2017 quickly comes to an end, I want to thank you for continuing to support our mission as a youth empowerment organization. This past year was incredibly impactful and action-driven because of your generous support. It’s important for any startup organization to continually come back to its roots. For us that meant coming back to the core mission we crafted on day one – to ensure no youth walk through life alone. This has become the foundation of who we are and what we do.
Whether we encounter a student being bullied, challenged by a mental illness, experiencing a difficult home life, or simply struggling to find their place in this world, we are dedicated to cultivating peer communities that provide them with the support and resources they need. As we entered the year 2017, we developed a mentality of “just start doing.”
This past year we responded to the needs of hurting communities, rocked the lives of students through our one-day empowerment program, launched our week long overnight empowerment camp, established an after-school empowerment academy for students in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and constructed our inaugural Student Advisory Council. You can read more about our efforts this past year below, as well as read some testimonials from students that are part of the foreverU community on the donation page of our website.
I would be tremendously grateful if you would take a moment to consider making an end of the year tax-deductible donation to foreverU. We have an exciting road ahead of us and it is my hope that you will continue to join our journey in the new year.
Thank you for playing a part in our story and thank you for allowing us to play a part in yours. On behalf of everyone at foreverU, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Founder & CEO, foreverU
Highlights of 2017
Check out the programs and initiatives we launched in 2017!
New! The Student Advisory Council
This past August, we selected 12 students to serve on our inaugural Student Advisory Council. The purpose of this council is to provide ambitious high school students with the opportunity to have a voice in where we go as a mission. The students participate in monthly meetings focused on collaboration, creativity, and strategic planning for our programming in the local areas.
We are excited to award our inaugural 2017 foreverU Service Award to Kevin Kelly, Founder of "A Road to Help". The foreverU Service Award recognizes mission-driven individuals that are assisting us in furthering our efforts in ensuring no youth walk through life alone and making a positive impact in surrounding communities.
Kevin Kelly is a full time firefighter in Midlothian and a part time firefighter in Crestwood. In January of 2013 he had lost a friend from the Crestwood Fire Department to suicide for unknown reasons. Six months later an individual that he had worked with in Midlothian for the past five years had taken his own life as well, he was only 28 years old. This life changing encounter motivated Kevin to start a "Road to Help" as a way to draw attention towards PTSD, firefighter peer support, and suicide prevention. This vision kick-started the development of his team's annual motorcycle run which is a fundraiser to raise necessary funds for charitable organizations focused on PTSD awareness, firefighter peer support, veteran support, and suicide prevention.
This past year, Kevin wanted to branch out into the realm of youth development and youth suicide prevention. Kevin had reached out to foreverU Founder, Ryan Hesslau, toward the beginning of 2017 about being a recipient of the funds raised from their annual motorcycle run. Kevin admired our on going efforts in helping struggling youth from the local area find their place in the world, and more importantly how we are bridging the gap between awareness and direct impact in the lives of local youth.
Kevin has exemplified tremendous integrity and humility through his leadership in guiding the success of "A Road to Help" and we are honored to have partnered with such as tremendous organization. He is an ideal representation of someone actively living a life of impact and influence, and we are forever grateful to have had him and "A Road to Help" play such a significant role in our story of bringing love to a hurting world. Together, we are stronger.
To learn more about A Road to Help, please visit their Facebook Page here.
We are excited to announce that we will be bringing back our 5k Run & Walk community fundraiser! We had made the decision to take a year off from this event with the intent of diving into other fundraising initiatives including making adjustments to our Walk of Unity, launching our annual Golf Outing & Banquet, and now initiating a foreverU Gala after the new year. Between these four community initiatives and fundraisers, and our new partnership with A Road to Help, we will have FIVE community based fundraisers during the fiscal year.
Our 5k Run & Walk will be taking place on September 9th at the new location of the Hickory Creek Barrens Nature Preserve in New Lenox, IL - at the intersection of Schoolhouse Road and Route 30, right across the street from Lincoln-Way Central High School. The objective of our 5k run and walk is to empower surrounding communities to rise for the silent. This fundraiser helps us further our mission of reducing bullying, division, and student suffering in our culture and providing support to struggling youth. What will you be running for? Those in attendance will have the opportunity to learn more about getting involved with our organization, purchase foreverU merchandise, and financially support our mission.
The individual registration fee is $25.00, walk-up registration fee is $30.00, and children 10 years of age and under are FREE. Register by August 25th to receive a FREE swag-bag upon check-in the day of the event. Click here to get registered!
This is Ryan Hesslau with foreverU and wanted to personally extend a word of gratitude to our supporters and contributors for helping us launch our first ever empowerment camp, Camp Reset. We can't wrap our minds around the fact that Camp Reset 2017 has already come to a close and as for myself, I can't put into words how moving and life-changing this experience has been, not only for myself, but for the students we served as well.
For those that are unaware, I had always wanted to be a camp counselor, but could never make the commitment due to my leadership role in foreverU. One year ago to be exact, I had an idea resurface that involved foreverU launching an empowerment camp intended to help students understand the value in who they are in the midst of a hurting world.
July 17th-20th at the location of Trinity Christian College, that vision came alive. During our feedback session at camp, students could not say enough about how much they enjoyed the experience and how much it changed their perspective on finding their place in this world. Some of the students even stated that this was the most powerful camp they have ever attended. The only problem they stated, is that they wished it had been longer due to the enjoyable experience they were having - pretty awesome feedback I would say? Everything operationally surpassed my expectations from the sessions with our guest speakers, to our group discussions, to the activities, and to the bonding experiences.
Friendships were formed, tears were shed, and hearts were reset. Here are a few of the many testimonies we received from some of our students present at camp:
We made sure your students were aware of the different programs they could join through foreverU to stay involved with us during the school year. We also encouraged students to take a look at our calendar and write down the dates for our upcoming 5k Run & Walk (Sept.9), and our Walk of Unity (Sept.23) - to our fellow readers, please spread the word and stay involved with us during the school year with opportunities like these.
We also launched a new partnership program called "Activate" which is offered to parents, educators, and mental health professionals. Look into joining this program at the following link - it requires little effort, you are simply a representative for us in your local area: http://foreverumovement.com/activateprogram.html
Pictures from Camp Reset can be found at the following link - be sure to click on the images to enlarge them. Feel free to right click and save any pictures of your children - you have our permission: http://foreverumovement.com/campreset.html
We are currently working on establishing a "Ucrew" in the Lincoln-Way area. The "Ucrew" will be a foreverU community outside of the school walls that students will be plugged into. The "Ucrew" will be led by local young adults affiliated with foreverU and will host monthly in-person "meet ups". This will enable the students to grow their friendships from camp and also enhance the communal aspect of the organization. The relationships, memories, and experiences encountered at camp, should not end there. By establishing a ''Ucrew", we can be sure that these students are plugged into a supportive, peer to peer, empowering community of fighters and overcomers. More details to come.
Thank you for joining us on this journey of bringing love to a hurting world. If you have any questions, feel free to send them along. In the mean time, please pay attention to your email for updates and we will be in touch.
Palos Heights, IL, May 31, 2017– This past Saturday was one of the most moving foreverU experiences we have encountered. This new year, we re-branded as a youth empowerment organization that exists to reduce bullying, division, and student suffering. We were tired of surface level impact and desired to dig deeper into the problem. We had a vision to develop creative solutions that would actually help people get the support they need, as well as reach more youth than ever before. The student-led foreverU initiative that took place this past weekend was a beautiful example of our revamped mission in action.
Last Wednesday evening, we received a phone call from our student Ambassador at Lincoln-Way Central High School, Ethan Fazio, informing us that a 16-year-old high school student at Lincoln-Way Central High School, Josh Galvan, had taken his life. Within minutes, the decision was made that we would assist Ethan and his peers in leading a foreverU Initiative with the purpose of honoring and remembering Josh, bringing surrounding communities together, taking the proper steps to reduce the stigma of seeking help, and to remind one another of the value in who we are. The gathering took place on Saturday, May 27th at 3:00 PM at Main Park in Mokena, IL. At the gathering, we had nearly 100+ in attendance, heard a few words from local youth who were close with Josh, experienced a time of self-reflection, had professional help present for those who needed. Participants were presented with take-home resources if needed, and also provided other information on how to engage in the mission of foreverU.
On Josh's day, hope was received, love was spread, stories were shared, laughter was delivered, and his legacy remembered. There were four students on the list to share a few words at the gathering. However, one by one, others in attendance began to step forward to share what was on their heart. Courage was evident on this day, and a platform was provided for youth to have their voice heard. We are overcomers. We are valued. We have a part to play. We are stronger together. On this day, we learned the importance of not letting this world distract us from the story we are living, and that it is time for us to spread love like wild-fire.
We have been working directly with the family of Josh Galvan, providing any needed emotional support at this time. We have already begun crafting a local support group with the help of our medical and professional partners in the area to offer as a resource to affected youth. We also offered to cover the costs of every high school student in attendance at the gathering on Saturday to attend Camp Reset this July. We cannot sit back in times like these. It is about leaning forward with one another, providing youth with the opportunity to be part of something greater than themselves, and developing creative solutions that lead to long term impact.
Please purchase your shirt in remembrance of Josh Galvan at the following link:
Written By: Ryan Hesslau | Founder & Executive Director
Palos Heights, IL, May 10, 2017–foreverU, a non-profit organization aimed at reducing bullying, division, and student suffering, is introducing a Chicago Advisory Board this fall. The board will be comprised of 6-12 educators, school administrators, and mental health professionals. This team will serve as a think-tank to improve and tailor foreverU’s programs and overall impact. The team will have extended meeting times quarterly, as foreverU seeks to extend its programs to better serve youth and creatively disrupt the social emotional component of the public school system. foreverU Founder and Executive Director, Ryan Hesslau is looking forward to this addition coming in the fall of 2017:
"Along with re-building the infrastructure of foreverU this fiscal year, we have strengthened the foundation of who we are as a mission by adding this Partnership Program, they will have a chance to oversee the program and mission aspect of our organization, as well as building our Board of Directors this summer to oversee the organization as a whole in the coming years."
Ryan Hesslau envisions the Advisory Board as a way for the organization to gain more credibility behind it's programs and services that are provided to youth and school systems. The professionals would serve the key players in the development, evaluation, and implementation of our programming, and enable foreverU to take further steps in fulfilling its mission of reducing the occurrences of bullying, division, and student suffering.
Written By: Becca Loenen | Writing Intern
Palos Heights, IL: Youth empowerment organization foreverU recently re-structured its Ambassador program, now known as the Elevate Program. The program, designed for middle school to college students, provides structured ways for students to encourage and support their struggling peers. Ambassadors will have the opportunity to become a part of the lifestyle of foreverU, furthering the mission to live louder. Found and Director Ryan Hesslau is excited about the impact the program will have:
“Based on feedback from the current youth we serve, we recognized a desire from these students to exemplify the foreverU mission in action. With this new program structure, students won’t just be part of something, because we are equipping them to do something.”
Students enrolled in the Ambassador program will have a variety of monthly initiatives organized around the three pillars of Impact, Outreach, and Peer Support. These initiatives take place on students’ own time, and are ways for them to uplift peers and serve their communities. One of April’s Impact initiative has students write post-it note encouragements to stick on peers’ lockers. Ambassadors will have opportunities to “level-up” in the organization as they complete initiatives. Ambassadors will also receive access to self-help resources and remain in close contact with the foreverU team. The new structure of the program offers students more ways to practically help their communities and further the pro-love mission of foreverU.
Written By: Becca Loenen | Writing Intern
Palos Heights, IL, April 5, 2017–foreverU, a non-profit organization aimed at reducing bullying, division, and student suffering, is launching a summer empowerment camp for high school students. From July 17-20, students will grow as individuals and learn more about how they can impact those around them.
The camp, set on the Trinity Christian College campus, will focus on three core areas of growth: You, Your Story, and Your Impact. Students will learn more about themselves and their role in dealing with and combatting issues such as bullying, isolation, and other forms of student suffering.
foreverU director Ryan Hesslau is excited to encourage the next generation:
“It is time to rise together as the younger generation and show this world what we are made of.” -Ryan Hesslau
There will be a plethora of fun, classic camp activities for students as they build relationships and meet other students seeking to make a difference. Daily sessions, guest speakers, and break out groups will provide students with opportunities to learn and have meaningful conversations. The camp is open to all students entering high school in the fall of 2017 through 2017 seniors. Registration begins April 1.
Learn more and get registered HERE!
Written By: Becca Loenen | Writing Intern
Palos Heights, IL, March 27, 2017–ForeverU, a non-profit organization aimed at reducing bullying, division, and student suffering, recently re-branded and expanded the scope of their mission. The 2017 shift re-focused the organizational mission in an effort to impact more students. ForeverU exists as a youth empowerment organization, seeking to empower youth to live louder. Students from middle school to college have the opportunity to become ambassadors for the organization, creating positive social change in their local school environments. Additional impact programs include school chapters and empowerment days in schools. The re-branding will expand of the focus of the organization from bullying to include any student who is struggling. Ryan Hesslau, founder and director of ForeverU, is looking forward to the increased impact opportunities brought about by the re-branding.
"The re-branding will enable us to expand our outreach and further our impact as we actively empower youth to live louder. We see this as a new chapter to our story.” -Ryan Hesslau
From July 17-20, ForeverU will be hosting its first annual summer empowerment camp at Trinity Christian College. Camp Reset will offer students four days of activities designed to equip and empower them to bring about change in their schools.
About foreverU: foreverU is a pro-love movement that empowers youth to live louder. The organization, based in Illinois, was started in 2012 by current college-student Ryan Hesslau. For more information, visit foreverumovement.com.
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Ryan Hesslau at 877-456-0692 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written By: Becca Loenen | Writing Intern