“To: The Next Generation Foundation is dedicated towards providing financial support for adolescents who can’t afford extracurricular sports or activities. I am privileged with the opportunity to promote my foundation as my platform competing for the title of Mrs. Utah America. My goal is to raise at least $10,000 to help many of our youth in need, providing them with opportunities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
My husband, Travis Brady, and I started the To: The Next Generation Foundation because extracurricular sports and activities were a crucial part in our development as youth.
Most of us remember our high school years. Some, as we remember them, are the ‘popular’ kids or the kids ‘in’ the group. You know the ones, the ones who seem like they had everything going for them. I was not that kid. In fact, not only was I not in the ‘popular’ kids group, I struggled to “fit in” with any group.
Because I didn’t have many friends in school, I became an extremely easy target for bullying...being the odd misfit without a group to associate with. This ultimately led me to experiencing consistent feelings of loneliness and ultimately deep depression.
One day I came home to a surprise: my parents had gotten me a horse, named Sunchaser. I suddenly had a best friend. A way to not stay stuck at home alone and crying. Instead, I’d be riding Sunchaser among the beautiful Utah mountains, embracing the beauty of nature.
Shortly after, I was given an opportunity to join 4H and to compete in Rodeo Royalty (the equestrian version of pageants), and finally for the first time in my life I was a part of something. I was a part of a group. A part of a team. I could connect with a whole new group of people who shared my passion for horses. We’d ride trails together, prep for competitions and even take trips with our horses!
In Utah, the most common cause of death between the ages of 10-24 is suicide.
Why is suicide the most common cause of death? Because kids who, like me, when I was in their shoes, feel isolated, alone and ultimately become depressed. The pandemic has only made this situation more extreme. This statistic is unacceptable, especially when the cause is so avoidable.
While an “anti-bullying” assembly at school may be effective for a day or even a week, the impact and awareness they create only lasts a short while. Assemblies are reactions to things that have already happened and they do not create lasting impact. They are reactionary. Defensive. Think about it: can you remember a single school assembly you had growing up?
Often, I’m left wondering one key question: what if I had not found horses? What if I had not found acceptance in the 4H and Rodeo Royalty groups and teams? Would I have ended up just another number in the suicide statistic? The regrettable answer is: likely. Likely I would have been just a statistic rather than standing before you today in this pageant, the beautiful, strong, entrepreneurial woman and mother I am now.
I want to give that same gift to all of the youth of Utah.
The pandemic has only made this situation worse. Isolation and feeling of loneliness have been at an all time high...and yet the majority of efforts to fight the pandemic are reactionary. How do we stop the spread? How do we cure COVID? How can we keep people separated to prevent infection? These are all reactionary actions. When you’re investing in youth, you can’t be reactionary. You must be proactive. You can’t ‘win’ just playing defensively, you’ve got to have an offensive strategy as well. You’ve got to take action before it’s too late. This foundation is our way of facilitating that action.
To: The Next Generation Foundation believes that participation in sports and extracurricular activities gives youth access to social groups and teams that eliminates feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression. Even people who participate in individual sports and activities are usually a part of an organization or team that helps you prepare, improve your skill and get ready for competition.
Youths who have access to participate in activities and sports that grow their confidence, it makes them feel a part of a team and improve their ability to handle diversity are not only happier and more content in life, but also become better leaders in the world. I know many of the most valuable lessons I learned in life came through participating in the 4H and Rodeo Royalty. Not in books and assemblies.
And yet, because of financial limitations many kids simply don’t have access or a way to get into these groups. To: The Next Generation Foundation is dedicated to making sure no child is left behind simply because of their family’s economic status. Empowering our youth’s experience of enjoyment through being a part of a group, unity through teamwork and accomplishment through sportsmanlike competition.
It’s time we start implementing an effective offensive movement. Join us in this fight to provide our youth with equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular sports and activities!
Co-Founder and Co-CEO Next Gen Coaching, Inc.