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Hales Corners — Neither rain nor sleet nor a snowstorm kept Live Out Loud Charity from selling baked goods and promoting the organization's anti-bullying efforts in Hales Corners.

The Dec. 17 bake sale was the first Live Out Loud awareness event in the Hales Corners area, and one of the first Nancy Steinle organized as the newly appointed Mrs. Worldwide Wisconsin Ambassador for the organization.

Live Out Loud, which began as a non-profit in Illinois in 2010, focuses on suicide prevention, anti-bullying, and core character development. Through their many ambassadors in 20 different states and eight countries, Live Out Loud seeks to "serve those at risk of committing suicide and help stop this preventable cause of death from continually happening across the world," according to their mission statement.

On a mission

Steinle hopes to spread Live Out Loud's mission throughout the area where she grew up.

She was born and raised in Wisconsin and has lived in Franklin, Hales Corners, Greendale, Greenfield and West Allis. She currently lives in Oak Creek with her husband and two children.

"Their mission is important to me because I experienced bullying throughout grade school, which impacted me greatly," Steinle said. "Being bullied due to my hair, my clothes, and my friends all added up. I did not know how to handle bullying back then, so I was became antisocial and kept to myself, hoping it would end.

"The fact that Live Out Loud Charity provides people with an outlet to speak and not be judged is huge and I relate to that. That is why this charity means so much to me; because everyone needs to be heard.

As an ambassador, Steinle organizes and attends awareness events, fundraisers and chamber events and also speaks to groups of children at schools about Live Out Loud's programs.

More than a sale

The bake sale was in part a fundraiser and awareness event. Each visitor received a packet of information with statistics about bullying, suicide prevention resources, and places to find mentors.

The money raised, a total of $127, will go toward bringing Live Out Loud's presentations to low-income schools in the greater Milwaukee area, either in assemblies, afterschool programs, or small group presentations.

Through these presentations, the organization seeks to teach kids about different character development or anti-bullying tactics, split up into four different programs, each for a different audience or age group: Core Character Development, Take a Stand Movement, QPR Institute, and STAR Anti-bullying.

Reversing effects

Sherrie Gearheart, Live Out Loud's founder, says that bullying, which can often inspire youth to commit suicide, is a critical problem for youth, especially in today's digital age.

"Statistics show 80 or 90 percent of all people have been cyberbullied. It's so prevalent," Gearheart said. "I hear the cries of the parents and the cries of the teens and the girls and boys who have to get off Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter (because they are being bullied.) It isn't just one social media platform; it's many. And there's no escaping it (social media) if you want to have a life."

Live Out Loud's different programs focus on helping kids who have been bullied, giving resources to those who cannot deal with it anymore, and teaching kids core character development, so hopefully they can stop bullying before it even starts.

In addition, many of the programs try to re-form one's self image. One exercise in their 28-day program encourages standing in front of a mirror and say thinks like, "I'm beautiful," "I'm unique," or "I'm special."

"A majority of people who stand in front of the mirror cry, because it's not something they think anymore," Gearheart said, "The whole idea is that you become a new improved you, because you learn a new habit, and the habit is speaking positively about yourself."

School message

Gearheart said the group is currently contacting schools in the area and making connections so that it will be able to start bringing the programs to the area this spring. In these programs, Steinle will have a main role speaking to the kids.

One of the things Steinle also hopes to do in these talks is break down the stereotypes about bullying.

"There is common misconception that bullies are 'tough.' They are not," Steinle said. "Tough is going up to someone to apologize or protecting someone else from being bullied. That takes real courage. That is 'tough.' We need to educate people that bringing someone down will not make you succeed. We, as a community, need to stand together and be the support system for our youth."

She added: "We all have heard the phase, 'It takes a village to raise a family.' Our community is the village. Let's be the light at the end of the tunnel when someone is struggling to break through the darkness; we have to provide the chance they need."

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