Our Story

How it all started...

For years, Be The Change Youth Initiative was focused on encouraging youth to use their gifts and talents to make a difference in the world. Since 2017, with the help of children and teens from all across the country, we have raised over $100,000 for our partner organizations (including Hands & Feet Project, Guitars For Glory, Make-A-Wish America, To Write Love On Her Arms and Songbirds Foundation).

In April 2019, our family took a huge leap of faith by taking Be The Change Youth Initiative on the road. Our dad quit his job as a federal prosecutor, we sold our home in Portland, Maine, gave away most of our belongings, and bought a RV. (Did we mention our family had NEVER been camping a day in our lives before this moment?) Through our partnership with Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana, our plan was to find kids who could use their talents (baking, building Legos, running, painting, singing, etc.) to help us grant a wish for a child in Houston facing a potentially life-threatening disease.  

The following month, at a show in Austin, Texas, event organizers asked if we (Sydney and Brayden) could talk about the struggles facing teens in our society today. Sydney shared her experiences navigating social media, specifically the pitfalls of comparison and self-image, while Brayden talked about his struggles with depression and suicidal ideation. After the show, a middle-school student approached Sydney to share her own story of attempting suicide. In that moment, our lives changed forever, as we were shown a deeper purpose for Be The Change Youth Initiative. 
Over the summer and fall of 2019, we traveled through the Midwest and Pacific West Coast talking with others about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. Gathered around kitchen tables, living rooms, and a lot of backyards, these long and sometimes difficult conversations usually started off the same, but inevitably turned to other topics of conversation: racism, gender equality, issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community, immigration, gun control, and politics. The people we met had a genuine desire to engage in conversation, but an equal reluctance to share their opinions, or ask questions, for fear of criticism or confrontation.

And then there’s 2020.

In March, the Covid-19 pandemic grounded our family in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Like so many others, we soon found ourselves in a season of isolation.  Immeasurable sickness (and death), surging racial tensions, and seemingly unrelenting political divisiveness also became a part of our collective national experience.  Against this backdrop, the vision for Be The Change Youth Initiative…changed.

Encouraging and empowering youth to see the purpose and power of their gifts, talents and voices, when it comes to advocating for change in their communities, nation, and world, will always remain a part of our mission, both as a family and as a non-profit organization.  However, in a climate where it is increasingly difficult to show vulnerability and engage in civil dialogue, where suicide rates are increasing in record numbers, our hope is to create a space where a generation can begin to heal by Sharing Stories, Extending Compassion and Taking Action.  As we attempt to tackle some of the most difficult issues facing this generation, our desire is to encourage others to take a closer look at humanity. Deep down, each of us has a desire to be SEEN, HEARD, and LOVED. How do we live our lives to make this desire a reality? We hope this journey helps us find the answer to that question.