Giving Back: Abby Belcher
"It's Time for a Change..and you CAN make a difference. One child at a time." ~ Abby Belcher
School is out, or soon to be, and everyone is ready to switch gears for summer. For Texas cheerleader, Abby Belcher, her focus is somewhere different. She is eagerly looking forward to the next school year and with her heart on helping other children start off their first day with confidence and a sense of belonging.
Today is the official launch of a fundraiser for Abby’s Pledge Be Brave Backpacks. Her drive and mission behind this new project comes from a heartbreaking experience she witnessed. “Last year on the first day of school there was a girl who had no school supplies. She was off in a corner by herself and just looked out of place. She was embarrassed when the teacher asked her why she hadn't brought a pencil to class. Later I found out that she was removed from her home 3 days before and placed in foster care due to abuse that was occurring at home, and the home did not have any supplies for her. I got the idea for the Be Brave Backpacks because I didn't want anyone else to feel that way.” In her mission on her fundraiser page Abby states, “Each year, thousands of kids stay home from school due to bullying. What's worse is that many of these kids stay home to hide their bruises, broken bones, scars, and secrets that have been inflicted on them by trusted relatives within their household. Some of these children have been removed and are living in group homes or are being passed from foster home to foster home with just the items that can fit in a garbage bag. They dream of having just one day of ‘normal’ and the thrill and experience of going back to school each fall with a brand new backpack and tennis shoes, just like their peers. I hope these will encourage the kids to "Be Brave" on their first day of school this fall by giving them a little boost of confidence that they might need. Each "Be Brave" backpack will hold new school supplies and a letter of encouragement that they are important and MATTER.”
Abby, a tween advocate and activist, is a dedicated warrior with a humble spirit. She wants to make a difference in the lives of children and hopes to inspire others to do the same, but without the intention of being in the spotlight or receiving awards. Instead, she carries out her missions simply from the desire to reach out, extend a helping hand and lift others up with compassion in her actions. She is heavily involved in her community and is passionate about a variety causes, and is quick to mention her appreciation and gratitude for the support and understanding of her parents each step of the way.
A few years ago, Abby founded an anti-bullying and abuse foundation after her sister called Abby’s Pledge. She states “My sister, who has Asperger’s syndrome (a form of Autism) was being ruthlessly bullied. I made a promise to her that I would do everything I could to make other kids aware of how much bullying hurts other people and I promised to help other kids too. This promise is my pledge.” To this date Abby has taken her pledge all over the country, obtained hundreds of signatures, and even taken her pledge to Washington DC in hopes of making a change that will impact the result of bullying on a federal level. However, Abby feels her greatest achievement in creating this movement through her organization is having the opportunity to go out and talk to people and educate adults about what's really going on in kids’ minds. She feels many times the real issue is being ignored as many adults seem wrapped up in studies and statistics about bullying, and less invested in actually listening to their children share their experiences. She says, “I think kids just really need to be heard by adults and our voices don't get heard enough. I hope to change that and use Abby's Pledge as a catalyst in creating change and the way adults see children and how to listen actively. Grown-ups hear kids all the time, but they fail to listen much of the time. Those are two completely different things.”
While Abby’s Pledge primarily focuses on anti-bullying, Abby shared with me she is also very actively involved in 3 additional causes; domestic violence, child abuse, and autism awareness. “I enjoy going to conferences and continuing to learn more and more about the different types of abuse”, says Abby, “and how I can effectively make a difference within my community.” She has spoken at events for abuse, violence and trauma, has held drives to collect hats and gloves for local domestic violence shelters, donated money she earned to foster homes, and most recently began studying the therapy dog program to help kids with autism.
Abby’s future goals include continuing to grow Abby's Pledge and advocating for children's rights. She says, “Many people assume that it's simply an anti-bullying pledge, but it is much deeper than that. Ultimately, my goal is to be heavily involved with protecting the rights of children and supporting others with similar visions that I have. Also, I would like to attend Baylor University to study law or medicine, although I am leaning toward a career in law.”
For more information on how you can help Abby reach her goals with her Be Brave Backpack fundraiser, please visit the link below. Be sure to check out Abby’s Pledge on Facebook for more information on how you can make a difference in the fight to stop bullying and abuse.http://www.heartofcheer.com/news/giving-back-abby-belcher/http://www.heartofcheer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/abbybebrave1.jpghttp://www.heartofcheer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/abbybebrave1-150x150.jpgBlogCheerleadersNewsabby belcher,abbys pledge,anti-bullying,cheerleading,fundraiser,gofundme