Writing life in Bold letters

awatson@nsnews.com TWO women found the perfect ingredients in chalkboards, photography and a little piece of mind to launch a campaign to stop bullying.

North Vancouver resident Susan Goble and Burnaby resident Joanne Greenwood are the founders of Be Bold, an anti-bullying campaign with a different but positive message.

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"The Be Bold campaign is a graphic campaign that Susan and I came up with in April and it's based on letting go of the negatives that you may have grown up on," says Greenwood.

Using Goble's photography background and Greenwood's dedication to empowering youth, the two came up with an idea that has participants writing down a word they were taunted with, then using positive words to create an anagram. They are then photographed with the boards, each in colourfully ornate frames, as a keepsake they can share.

"This word has defined them for too long and they don't see themselves as that anymore," says Goble. "They're seeing the positive things in themselves and they think that Be Bold has given them the confidence to do that."

The idea has been incredibly popular, especially on social media, and the two have been receiving calls from people all over the world. Greenwood says the moment they launched the first photo on Facebook, the feedback was very positive.

"I didn't realize that it was going to be so powerful and that people were going to embrace it as much as they have," she says.

"I thought that we would have to work at it a little bit getting the message out, but the photos have spoken for themselves and we have people that are so anxious to do it."

From the successful gala they held in June to local celebrity attention and invitations to anti-bullying rallies, Goble says the response has been widespread. They even took part in a music video. "It's just been kind of overwhelming," she says. "We're getting a lot of demands. We're just trying to figure out where to go from there."

Goble says the idea has sparked an interest not only in those who have been bullied but also cancer survivors, recovering addicts and those with mental health issues.

"It's grown into even more," she says, adding that even her daughter who had never been bullied wanted to take part. "I think it's so important to instill that confidence in kids so that if they encounter a bully or if they encounter people who try to knock them down, it's going to be hard to do."

There is also a beneficial element to writing down the words, something that Greenwood says she felt when she did her own and was finally able to let go.

"There is definitely some therapeutic value to it," says Greenwood. "We're finding too that people who are writing their words down are also getting so much support from people they didn't really know they'd get support from. That's also kind of nice to see."

Participants pay a $30 fee for the photographs and partial proceeds go to various charities that have included the Amanda Todd Legacy Fund and the Beauty Night Society.

"We're changing up the charities every month, because we want to give to everybody," says Goble. They plan on donating to the Calgary flood relief at a photo shoot next month.

"I hope that this keeps growing," Goble says. "Our goal is we're going to hopefully become a non-profit and we really would love to get into the schools somehow."

Trulioo, an online identity verification company that helps to weed out cyber bullies and Internet trollers, has already approached the team in the hopes of working with them.

"We just want to be more involved in the prevention of cyber bullying, the prevention of bullying and we want to somehow figure out a way to get the word out in the schools to provide some different type of anti-bullying education and empower the kids at the same time," Goble says. "I think that positive piece is missing, I think kids are always told about negative, negative, negative and not given the tools to rise above it."

The suicide death of Coquitlam teen Amanda Todd catapulted bullying into the limelight, Greenwood says, and discussion about the issue hasn't lost momentum.

"We're living in a time where there's so much unkindness in the world," she says. "We don't want anyone else to do that, we don't want any more kids, or young girls or young boys feeling like they have no other choice but to do something so drastic."

For someone that was not bullied, hearing other people's stories was an eye-opening experience, says Goble.

"I've always been a positive person but I think it's made me realize how much bitterness and anger there is in the world," she says. "I've realized that it's kind of like that adage 'sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.' We have the power to change, we have the power to decide whether or not words hurt us and I think these people have shown me that with a positive mental attitude. You don't have to be defined by a label." Greenwood says she's starting to see more kindness in the world and the whole experience has changed her.

"When I look at the bravery that some of these people have that have written down their words, I'm humbled by it all," says Greenwood. "There's just something about watching somebody let go of that and if we can get it done at an early age, then maybe they aren't going to suffer for 25 years, 30 years having this really painful memory. They're just making it into something good instead of seeing the bad all the time."

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