We did it!

I woke up this morning so proud and honoured to be part of a fanbase as kindhearted and generous as Bethany Joy Lenz fans. I came up with the very simple idea of 'saying goodbye to Haley James Scott by giving back' and what started as a small $900 goal to represent 9 seasons/years somehow grew to $3,685 (4 times the goal). I was blown away not just by the end result, but also by all the people who took this as an opportunity to educate themselves on child sex trafficking and use their voice to bring light to this heartbreaking injustice.

I'd like to say a special thank you to Bethany Joy. I may have been the one to gather the troops with this campaign, but she was the one who inspired all of us to be a part of this fight. She generously donated a personalized note for each person who donated $100+, and if you go to the Crowdrise page (http://www.crowdrise.com/goodbyeHJS), you'll see that 99% of donations were of this amount or greater. I am in disbelief that she'd help a fan's little tribute campaign to this degree. I have never met her and she doesn't know who the bleep I am, but her support of Love146 and the respect she has for her fans truly amazes me. Before running this campaign, I simply admired her talent and loved reading her blog posts and now I have grown to respect her and even look up to her in a way I never expected to. Even though we've said goodbye to Haley, I know that Joy will continue to keep us engaged with all of her current and future projects. I am so happy I randomly watched One Tree Hill one lonely day in November a few years ago because it truly brought something so special to my life that I needed these past couple of years. Thank you Bethany Joy for being a great role model and talent in an industry where that doesn't seem matter anymore. You're a rare gem, and I'm pleased to call myself a fan.

I also want to thank all of you. Everyone who donated, tweeted, retweeted, and were supportive of #WeAreAllHuman. I never would have had the confidence to follow through with ANY of this if it hadn't been for the amazing people I have met over the past couple of years. To quote Haley, "you all made me brave".

Finally, I'd like to thank Love146 (and Rob Morris) for being so supportive of this little fan campaign. Their early support in November 2010 was the reason I knew that this would be special.

I'd also like to highlight the amazing work Love146 does to prevent child trafficking in high risk areas by empowering youth and advocates. Please read more about their prevention response efforts here: http://love146.org/prevention.

The work they do in aftercare - particularly with the Round Home - where they nurse and nurture girls who have survived the darkness of sexual slavery but have lost hope and faith in humanity amazes me. The stories of the girls who have healed in this home are so inspiring that it has truly taught me that even in the most difficult situations (perhaps seemingly impossible), we can always find hope and happiness. Read more about their aftercare programs: http://love146.org/aftercare

I'll never stop being part of their mission to end one of the world's greatest tragedies. I hope you'll all continue to fight with me.

I love all of you!



New internet sensation: #StopKony

I'm sure most of you have now seen the latest internet craze from Invisible Children to make Joseph Kony so infamous that the power of the global collective will bring justice to a warlord who has used children as the foundation of his rebel group  (Lord Resistance Army).

And I, like everyone else, was completely captivated by the movement and felt overly compelled to share this video with friends/family to get the word out.

And then I sat and thought about it a little more. I read some criticisms from those opinionated political enthusiasts who were making claims that awareness isn't a solution, Invisible Children spends too much money on advertising a cause rather than being part of every day solutions, and that making Kony famous actually gives him power (party poopers if you ask me).

I studied politics in university, and I took a keen interest in Uganda years ago when I learned of Joseph Kony and his despicable LRA. It's angering, heartbreaking, and gut-wrenching.

I don't see issues as stand-alone problems. I see the connections between multiple issues - the unequal distribution of wealth, the lack of resources, the conflicts that have arose due to Western imperialism, etc. I sometimes feel that massive awareness campaigns lose those connections and you see issues as "stand-alone" cases and miss the bigger picture.

Awareness is important. But don't just be aware of Kony. Don't see this as a stand alone case. Don't just share the video and think you've played your part. Use this as an opportunity to truly educate yourself on why our world is so imbalanced. Look at Kony as only a small part of a much larger movement to change the world.

Because the reality is that even though we may catch Kony within the year, there may be a Kony 2.0 being trained to take over. OR there will be more Kony's in other parts of the world... We need to stop the root of the issues that allow for such crimes against humanity.

Invisible Children did make this point in their video - that Kony is just the beginning - but I don't think that's the message viewers remembered most.

That all being said, I do love the tenacity of this campaign. I do support it, and I hope that all of you do too, but don't just be aware. Become educated and active. Be a part of long-term solutions. 


Small Campaign Idea for OTH Series Finale and BJG's Birthday

Sorry, only OTH related image on my work computer
Hi Everyone,

I've been thinking about blowing the dust off of this campaign to do something in honour of the final episode of a TV show that we've laughed with, cried with, and even threw a few temper tantrums with.

It'd also be in honour of a woman who we all have been inspired by in our own ways over the years.

The last episode of the show and BJG's birthday fall in the same week (assuming her bday is April 2nd? I know the Internet lies...).

I was thinking I would set up a new campaign on Crowdrise to raise money for Love 146. I was thinking with 9 years of OTH, we could set a goal to raise $900 during the week of April 2-6.

I'd also love to trend something like #BJGFansAgainstHumanTrafficking (feel free to suggest something catchier) on her birthday with a link to the fundraising page on Crowdrise, This wouldn't be donations driven; it'd just be all of us using our voices to do something special over Twitter again.

What do you all think? Will you help me reach this goal during the final week of a show that has touched all of our lives in a different way?

Let me know if you want to get involved and have more ideas on Twitter or in the comment box!

Much love,



What comes next?

I have been thinking about the concept of “ending” – how we grieve the things we lose. We grieve so many different types of endings in our lives. The end of an educational milestone, the end of a friendship/relationship, the end of a TV show/Movie/Book series, the end of a job, and the end of a life. All of these life milestones change us somehow. We grow up, meet new friends, establish relationships, define our life goals, gain experience, and become inspired. We are constantly taking those cherished moments and moving forward with them. Every loss becomes a memory. Every memory becomes a safe haven in our hearts and minds.

But the truth is, loss hurts. It takes time to come to a place of peace and acceptance. We experience a rollercoaster of emotions before we truly comprehend the importance of that thing, person, or moment we have lost. It takes an incredible amount of strength to move forward without constantly grieving the past.

The concept and the feelings associated with grief…. Well, to be honest, I never fully understood the power of loss until recently. I cried when I left high school, university, college, my summer job, and my lost friendships / relationships… I guess I always had the comfort of the future, of a new beginning. While I grieved the past, I became excited for the future. I was inspired and ready to move forward.

But the loss of a life? That was new to me. Within the last two years, I have lost two out of the three people who I considered my direct family. I even created this photo about 7 years ago to illustrate the three people who held the most meaning in my life. The loss of my grandmother two years ago (almost to this day) hit me hard. She was my hero, my inspiration. There was goodness in her that was so genuine. Coming to a place of acceptance came naturally as she lived a full life (95 years!), she was ready to die, and I only had good memories of her.  It still hurts me, knowing that I’ll never hear her voice again, see her face, give her a hug, or play a game of euchre with her, but she held such a special place in my heart, and she always will. It took time, but I felt like the grieving process made sense. I was sad, I missed her constantly, I regretted the moments I missed with her when I was away at school, but I was able to look forward while I cherished my time with her.

Now, I fast forward to almost 5 months ago – the day my dad died. I almost feel like I am unprepared to truly write about this grief because I am not yet at a place of acceptance. I am still in a place of incredible pain. I can’t offer words of wisdom. I can’t promise that there is light at the end of the tunnel (although I am told there is). Every loss is grieved differently. I can talk about the theories behind handling the loss a parent, but we grieve based on our experiences. The process is different for all of us. Although there are many similarities in a loss, the struggle that we go through, the aspects of the loss that bother us/challenge us are different.

I will say that it’s not a linear process. I didn’t start at the bottom when he died and have been getting better as the days go by. For me, I was actually stronger and more determined to move forward the first month or two after his death. I guess the shock got me through the summer. I cried daily, but I had hope that every day I would get a little bit stronger and I’d come to accept the reality. It’d be like in the movies or TV shows when the story arc ended and it no longer seemed to bother the character.

I was completely wrong…

The shock finally wore off and reality set in when I was on vacation – the one magical week that was supposed to cure all of my sadness. I was in a store, and I saw a shot glass with his name on it. And then I slowly began to realize that I wasn’t going to buy him a gift. I wasn’t going to go home to him. And that’s when a pain that I didn’t know existed hit me. My dad was dead, and I was never going to see him again. I wasn’t going to go home and tell him all about my vacation. This trip that was supposed to be the happiest week of the summer lost its spark. I found a place to cry alone as I watched a slideshow I made of him for his wake. I cried myself to sleep for a couple of nights. It was hard to be away from home, but the idea of going back was even worse.

And now I feel like Haley from One Tree Hill before she jumped in the pool after losing her mom – just wanting to feel something. There’s an emptiness that comes with loss. Even flying to Wilmington and experiencing an Evening with One Tree Hill (my safer version of jumping in the pool) was a fleeting moment of happiness.

My life has changed. I have changed. The weight on my heart is scary, but I don’t know how to move forward. It’s put me on one of the most arduous journeys of my adult life thus far.

My advice to anyone who is reading this… Grief is not a linear process. One day you’ll feel like the old you ready to tackle the day and the next you’ll feel broken and scared. Sometimes you’ll feel all of that in the span of 5 minutes. The emotions are so unpredictable – at least they have been for me. The smallest things can set me off. Gosh, just today a telemarketer called my house for the second time this week asking for my dad. It’s the second time I told this person my dad died. My reaction: I put on that slideshow I made and sobbed into my pillow.

And here’s something no one ever warned me about – talking about the person you’ve lost in the past tense. The memories are uncontrollable, and you will want to talk about the person you lost. The first time I talked about my dad in the past tense was a couple of weeks after he died at a brand workshop for work. It came out without even a little bit of thought and as soon as I realized it, I had to pretend like it never happened so that I didn’t fall apart in a room filled with coworkers and clients.

Grief is a funny and unpredictable process that completely changes us. It shakes up our world, and it tests us in ways we’d never expect. Like those other milestones in my life, I hope to grow from this cherishing the memories I have. I hope that I’ll be able to become a stronger person as I come out of this dark place and see the light again.

And I know a LARGE part of getting me to see that light is being a part of this movement, being a love warrior, and working with all of you to make a positive change in the world. My commitment to this campaign came a year after my grandmother’s death, and I used her inheritance money for the mention campaign last year. Her, along with Bethany Joy, were my inspirations for working so hard on this. I hope I can, in one year, find the strength to do something equally special inspired by the life of my dad.

I know this is not the most inspiring life journey, but it’s a truthful one. Maybe I’ll update you all in a year from now when I finally see the light, but having an understanding for the darkness and knowing that the pain that comes with loss is natural helps to fuel the healing process.


Mother/Daughter Relationship

Before I publish this I want to apologize for the jumbled, scattered thoughts of this article. I was seething mad, very heartbroken; and just generally wanted to get points across on the subject.

The mother/daughter relationship has been classified as many things: good and bad, but in the end, it is known deep down that your mother protects you, loves you, and would do anything for you. So what happens when the one person you trust at birth displaces that trust?

I just read an article on just that recently that did just that. The mother is accused of trying to sell her daughter’s virginity and other sexual acts to men for at least $10,000. As a “bonus” the mother sent pictures to interested men of her daughter scantily clad. I have read a few of these type of situations like this: a mother tries to sell her young child on e-bay to men for sex, another on craigslist, another on a website. These articles, these women, these mother’s make me cry and again want to scoop up these children and bring them to safety. Teach them how love is supposed to be, and that there mother was wrong.

When these mother’s are brought to “justice” my heart soars for these children, but although they may be “vindicated” are they truly? I want this to stop, I want mother’s to be the best mother’s they can be – strive to be the best.

I am so honored to be a part of Love146, to see all they do, all they strive to be. I love how they have a Round Home for the victims to help them in various ways. My wish is there were round homes everywhere, but most importantly is one day; these round homes do not exist – because they will not be a need. I know this is a tall-ordered wish, but I cannot help it.


Heavy heart on Spirit Day

I woke up this morning to a heartbreaking story. 15 year old, Jamie Hubley, from my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario committed suicide on Saturday. He was an openly gay youth who battled depression due to being bullied for being open about his sexuality. I immediately thought back to Bethany Joy Galeotti's amazing blog post, American Gossip Epidemic, and I want to take this declaration a step further and talk about the "Bullying Epidemic".

Many of you reading this have probably been bullied at one time in your life. I was bullied as a young girl struggling with her weight. I was called "thunder" and "earthquake". It got to the point where I feared walking to the store because of the constant name-calling. At the time, I felt shame. I was mad at myself to not fitting into what everyone "deemed" normal. I didn't blame the bullies. I was never angry at them. I turned that anger towards myself.

The truth is that it wasn't my fault. I did not deserve the harsh words. It was not Jamie Hubley's fault. It was not Tyler Clementi's fault. It was NOT YOUR FAULT. No one deserves to be bullied. NO ONE! And I am getting tired of the fact that it not only exists but also seems to be growing and adapting to today's technology.

How many of these heartbreaking stories is it going to take until bullying is eliminated? When are the "bullies" going to realize that their words are KILLING people?! When are we going to stop feeling the need to "other" people? I wish polarizing words like "popularity", "in crowd", "the cool kids" didn't exist. In order to validate that status, you need to have a group of people who don't fit the rules of "coolness". People need to fight to make sure that they feel important by taking that importance away from others. It's sickening!

WE ARE ALL HUMAN! We are all an equally important life on this earth! It's time we be more accepting of EVERYONE! It's time we stop judging others and start understanding them. It's time to learn how to RESPECT each other. We need to go beyond "tolerating" to "embracing" each others' differences.

If you're being bullied right now, please don't blame yourself. Don't let that pain take your life away. You are WORTH being here. You are just as important as those who have made you feel subhuman. If anything, you should feel sorry for them. They obviously have anger and hate in their hearts and have directed it upon someone so innocent. You are amazing, and I hope you tell yourself that every day.

If you're struggling, don't be afraid to seek help. There are local helplines, group sessions, and so many online resources that are created to help you. If I had known about these resources, maybe my self esteem wouldn't be so broken right now. There's a strength in realizing you are in pain, and by meeting others with similar experiences/feelings, you won't feel so alone.

We are all in this together!

xo Stephanie