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January 29, 2013 > Encouragement for those with physical differences

Encouragement for those with physical differences

By Julie Grabowski

At some point in our lives, all of us have felt the hurt and embarrassment of being stared at, teased, or laughed at because of the way we look. Most of the time, these are stages that can be changed by time or rectified by different clothes, a new haircut, or makeup. But what if there was no way to grow out of it? Or, if under the changes that could be made, hurt still remained?

Boldly Me addresses the questions and needs of those who are physically different, providing support, education, and guidance in order to help them learn to love themselves and enjoy their lives. The Fremont-based nonprofit was established in 2012 and welcomes people suffering from the emotional trauma of hair loss, burn injuries, birth defects, weight issues, degenerative disorders, and other physical challenges.

"I have a very full, rich life now but it took me a long time to get here," says Founder and President Alanna Powell, who has had alopecia universalis (hair loss over the entire body) since she was two years old. Powell says people hide under clothes, wigs, or prosthetics, and inside, they are in pain. Boldly Me provides a comforting environment; classes, counseling, and recreation build self-esteem and inspire joy and the confidence for people to go after their dreams.

"We want to help people love and accept themselves the way they are," says Powell. This love and acceptance also extends to siblings and parents who suffer just as much or more than their loved one. In these kinds of situations, the entire family is trying to adjust, and the aim is "figuring out how the entire family system can cope and transcend the difference," says Powell.

Boldly Me is 100 percent volunteer-based and offers a number of classes including: Theatre, Image and Beauty, Yoga, Dance, Basketball, Communication and Self Esteem, Baton Twirling, Relaxation, and Business Self Esteem. Many instructors are already coaches and teachers in their outside lives, but must go through an application process to ensure that the organization maintains a high level of quality and provides a great experience. They are willing to work with people who are interested in participating, who may have worked in a teaching capacity years ago, and get them up to speed on necessary requirements.

Classes and instructors are always evolving and changing, growing with the ideas and involvement of the community. "It's really about bring the community together, figuring out what talents they have and letting them unleash their passion to serve others," says Powell.

The schedule follows the school year calendar, offering classes September - December, January - March, and April - June. In the summertime, they host various recreational events such as a day at the pool or hiking, where attendees can just relax without worrying about their appearance or the stares of others.

Functioning on a shoestring budget, Boldly Me looks to the community for class space, relying on the generous offerings of elementary schools, community centers, churches, and businesses. Club Sport and Mission Peak Fitness are among those who have offered assistance. While the long-term vision is to have their own facility, for now the use of community venues helps keep costs low. (Due to this arrangement, class locations may shift.)

A new session of classes begins on February 2 for all ages including individuals, family, and friends.

Boldly Me is also organizing a talent show event on April 12, which will include performances by their classes, along with a silent auction and dinner. They are looking for people or organizations to donate gift baskets or sponsor the event.

Boldly Me looks to the new year with the goals of fundraising, raising awareness of their program, and growing their base of support. As a 100 percent donation-based organization, they greatly appreciate any community support in their efforts to help those in need live boldly.

For more information about Boldly Me, to register for classes or make a donation, call (408) 768-9257, e-mail info@boldlyme.org or visit www.boldlyme.org.

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