When my daughter and I sat down to talk about the legacy we hoped to leave through our work, we could never have imagined just how much we would be able to accomplish with Born This Way Foundation. We rarely get to celebrate the actual day of our founding since it was on February 29th, 2012, so this celebration feels extra special to us. With our anniversary coming up this week, I’ve been reflecting on our history, our mission, and where we’re going next.
I’m not sure if you know some of our history. My daughter had an incredible vision to empower and inspire young people to build a kinder and braver world, and we always knew we wanted our work to reflect their voice. It was vital that our work be informed by and led by youth. Not long after we were founded, we met with someone who would eventually become our executive director, Maya Enista Smith, and she asked us where we wanted to make an impact. We knew we wanted to host a convening of young people and hear what was on their mind because from day one, we made the decision to never make a move as a Foundation without the leadership and perspectives of the community we represent. So we recruited a youth advisory board and asked Maya to chair the convening, which helped shape our mission and goals. We even met our communications manager, Shadille, when she served on our inaugural board. Since then, our team has grown tremendously from when it was just Maya and me emailing each other and speaking every day (which we still do). We’ve expanded our reach nationally and internationally, and we’ve never strayed from our core mission of validating the emotions of young people everywhere and building kind communities online and offline.
Our success is due not only to the hard work of our team and the vision of our youth advisors, but also to you as a vital member of our Born This Way Foundation community. Every time you send a link to join our community to a loved one, donate your hard-earned money, or share our work on social media, you’re making the difference for our programs. Thanks to you, we have:
- Launched #BeKind21, creating a movement of people committed to building a habit of kindness. We’ve reached over 49 million reported acts of kindness since 2018.
- Conducted urgent research on youth mental wellness, kind communities, digital media, and more, so we can better understand the needs of our communities.
- Partnered with DonorsChoose to fund classroom projects across the country that promote kindness and social and emotional learning.
- Toured with Channel Kindness, shining a much-needed light and giving financial support to grassroots organizations that are supporting young people across the country. To date, we’ve hosted more than 250 tour events (on the past five tours!) engaging hundreds of thousands of young people around the world.
- Partnered with the National Council for Behavioral Health to bring teen Mental Health First Aid to the United States for the first time. The life-saving program is now in over 70 schools in the U.S..
- Expanded our work in Las Vegas, supporting organizations that meet the needs of young people across the region such as The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, and Kyler’s Kicks.
I am in awe of what we’ve accomplished together as a community and I can’t wait to fill you in on what’s next. And now that I’ve shared my story with the Foundation, I’d love to learn about your journey, too. Click here to learn how to share your story with Channel Kindness.
One more thing: Stay tuned for a special anniversary video message about our work from my daughter, Maya, and me that we’ll send to you as a member of Born This Way Foundation’s community, first before anyone else, on Saturday, February 29th. Share this link to make sure your loved ones are signed up, too. You won’t want to miss it.
Here’s to 8 more years – and beyond – of building a kinder + braver world!
Hugs + Kindness,
President + Co-Founder