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Top-Rated Nonprofit Freedom2Luv Combats Anti-Gay Bullying

by Shaun Knittel
Contributor
Monday Dec 17, 2012
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The anti-bullying group Free2Luv -- a nonprofit dedicated to ending bullying, spreading love, and stopping hate -- has been honored with a prestigious 2012 Top-Rated Award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations. And they are using the attention around it to continue to combat bullying, speaking at Gay-Straight Alliances and releasing an online anthem on iTunes.

"We are excited to be named a Top-Rated 2012 Nonprofit," Tonya Sandis, CEO and co-founder of Free2Luv, told EDGE. "We are proud of our accomplishments this year, and passionate about getting our Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully program into communities nationwide in 2013."

The Top-Rated Nonprofit Award was based on the large number of positive reviews that Free2Luv received -- reviews Sandis said "were written by volunteers, donors, clients and the public at large"

People posted their personal experiences with the nonprofit.


"Free2Luv is a beautiful nonprofit organization that is helping change the world through their youth programs that teach love, compassion, acceptance and understanding in place of hate and violence. Their Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully programs are making schools safer for our children. Our children living with acceptance and peace will not only change the world today but also for future generations to come," said one of the reviews.

Free2Luv has branched out from being just a neighborhood nonprofit into the mainstream. Actress and Free2Luv Ambassador Thea Gill joins other celebrities including Fran Drescher, Carmen Electra and Gabrielle Anwar, who are passionate about celebrating individuality.

"As someone who has experienced and observed bullying in my youth and as an adult, I understand and empathize with those individuals who are looking for someone or a group that will offer a consistent ear and strong guidance during frightening times of alienation and desperation that can lead to self-destructive behavior and suicide," wrote Gill. "When I was approached by Free2Luv to support this global organization, I found the CEO, Tonya Sandis, to be an exemplary model of kindness, warmth and dedicated hard work. It is these qualities that make this commendable movement one of the most accepting new anti-bullying groups I’ve been introduced to."

"We are gratified by Free2Luv for its work," said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits. "They deserve to be discovered by more donors and volunteers who are looking for a great nonprofit to support."

Being on the Top-Rated List comes at an important time of the year, as donors look for causes to support during the holiday season. It also coincides with the first anniversary of Free2Luv, an organization committed to ending bullying and celebrating individuality in our youth.


A New Nonprofit, A New Approach

Tonya and Kym Sandis are a lesbian couple, together 26 years. They have two daughters, 11 and 13, whom they home school.

"Being gay, we can relate to the feeling of being different," Kym Sandis said. "The way we are raising our children is the message we want to get out there, daring to be who you are. Free2Luv will bring that to a larger audience."

There are a myriad of reasons one might get bullied, including just being different, Tonya Sandis told the Seattle Herald, noting, "As a society, we promote wanting our kids to be the same. But as a parent we tell them to be themselves. So there is a struggle. It’s sad. People are becoming hypercritical, and many kids don’t have the skill sets, or strong partnership with theirs peers or teachers."

"Our children have two moms, but to them, who cares?" she said. "Children receive ’messaging’ today that identifies how they should be, like Disney characters that identify how a child behaves and should look like. If a child does not fit in that standard, they get picked on."

They are promoting dialogue about bullying, peer pressure and teen suicide in schools and have been invited to speak at Gay-Straight Alliance school groups.

"Now with the whole cyberbullying, it is taking it to a whole new level," said Kym Sandis. "Someone who might have been bullied by one kid in a classroom of 30 is now bullied on the Internet throughout the world, and can feel helpless, hopeless, alone."


Bullying Prevention Music Message

Free2Luv recently released an anthem, currently available on iTunes, to raise funds for its bullying prevention community program.

"Because music is a universal language, we are using it to reach our youth and truly make an impact," Kym Sandis told EDGE. "When we go into schools and communities, we want our children to know that they are powerful and they have a voice, and it is important to use it for good. We believe the bullying epidemic begins with low self-esteem and if we work to change that, we can change the face of this epidemic."

With the rise in teen suicides, it is Free2Luv’s passion to reach as many communities and children as possible to spread the word that each child has their own unique purpose, said organization officials.


For more information about Free2Luv, visit free2luv.org

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.

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