One Day – Three Schools – GFB Morgan!

GFB Morgan is so excited to be given the opportunity to work with high school students in Illinois next month!  It is so impactful to get the Girls Fight Back message across BEFORE college, as we have witnessed with the many 6-12th graders we have had the pleasure of working with this year!  Morgan will be teaching the terminator tango at three Illinois high schools in one day (Glenwood, Springfield and Township) – go Morgan!  The Chicago Tribune has written this article in praise of the program.  We have had a long history of teaching district 214 to fight like girls, this is our fourth time back in just two years!  Can’t wait!

Third Annual DePauw “Throw Down”

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DePauw and I go waaaaay back. Well, three years. This crew knows how to kick it. And seeing as how this was my third time speaking at DePauw, thanks to Delta Sigma Theta, we had a lot of up close, personal and REAL talk. These ladies are all about fun, spirit and WOMEN empowerment. Heck, a few of the guys showed up solely out of support. It doesn’t get better than that. DePauw, thank you so much for having me back and I’m looking forward to round 4.

Love and Hugs,
GFB Bree

St. Francis = Bomb.com

 

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Can I tell you how much I love these ladies at St. Francis? Good, cus I’m gonna. I mean these girls made my month. The energy in the room was insane. We were vibin. Crowd participation? Please. These students were ready to jump up on stage and teach the badass ballet themselves they were so pumped. The epitome of being your own best protector. But I think the highlight of the day was when one of the students approached me (who was probably 90 pounds soaking wet, mind you) and exclaimed “I feel SO empowered!” Friends, this is the equivalent to finding $20 in your jeans from last year. Times a million. I can’t tell you what a gratifying feeling it is knowing the skills a student learned at a Students Fight Back seminar has affected her outlook in such a positive way. It gives me goosebumps. And based on the feedback, I’d say she wasn’t the only one who walked away feeling a little taller that night. Hell yeah St. Francis. That’s what kickin’ ass is all about. Thank you to the stellar Student Government team at St. Francis for putting on such an awesome and memorable event. I hope to catch you all on the flip side (aka next year!:) Peace and love sistas!

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GFB Bree

Wishing Loads of Wonderful for Jacksonville University!

 

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Had a super fantastic time at Jacksonville University! Thanks so much to the incredible Kelsey Martin and Dolphin Productions for hosting me and also to all the badass ladies of Alpha Epsilon Phi! Also huge ups to Ryan for volunteering to be my partner in crime (fighting) and also to his family for serving our country!!! Such an absolutely amazing group of students – I wish you all loads wonderful!!!

-GFB Leah

Roanoke College Knew We Were Coming and They Baked a Cake!

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What can I possibly say about Roanoke College? After a back injury earlier in the week left me wincing in pain with every step, this program had every reason to go down in history as one my most difficult ever. But an amazing staff, dedicated students, and a Super Scary Bad Guy (SSBG) made it one of my favorites of all time. First of all, the campus is beautiful with views of the mountains everywhere. My coordinator, Stephanie, had every thing set and ready to go, so all I had to do was plug in my computer. Then I was whisked away to a lovely pre-show dinner with representatives from their Panhellenic council, the student health services, the counseling center, and HEAT, their peer education group. The program itself was fabulous! My SSBG, Cody, was hilarious. The audience was completely engaged. I barely even noticed my back pain. And to top it all off, they had a cake! A cake, y’all! Definitely one of my favorite campuses of all time. Thanks for everything, RC!

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-GFB Heather

Graduation Time!!! – GFB Morgan Has Been Promoted from Speaker in Training to Junior Speaker

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The GFB Team wishes to extend congratulations and a warm welcome to the Speaking Team to Morgan. The process of becoming a GFB speaker is an intense one that includes graduation from our Summer Academy, FAST Defense training and graduation, quite a bit of reading and studying, a series of conference calls and consults, two complimentary practice gigs that are taped and reviewed by the rest of the team, and unanimous approval from the current team. We really want to be sure that the women who are chosen to represent us and the GFB message are the best of the best and we couldn’t have made a better choice with Morgan.

Morgan is based in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned a B.A. in Art History with an emphasis in gender & critical race. Morgan studied improv and comedic writing at The Second City Training Center and iO Chicago. She is a graduate of the GFB Speaker Academy 2013, with training in FAST Defense. She already has some events booked for Spring 2014, so coming soon to a campus near you . . . . meet Morgan!

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GFB-Girl in Progress Morgan

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GFB Girl Today – Morgan – Junior Speaker

Shout out to GFB from Ellen Snortland and Gavin de Becker!

Ellen Snortland author of Beauty Bites Beast and Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear recently mentioned Girls Fight Back and the importance of a self-defense education for college students in this article published by The Huffington Post.

Virginia Tech – Samanata’s Legacy

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You know, we have a lot of fun here at Girls Fight Back, but ultimately our work is about healing. One of our core values revolves around resiliency and states: “Though the statistics are shocking, we are here to say that we will not conform to the violence. Our world and most of our individual lives have been wrongfully altered by violence. We believe in recovery on individual, societal, and world levels.”

Last night, I presented Students Fight Back at Virginia Tech, a campus very much in recovery. Of course we all remember the horrifying mass shooting that took place on April 16, 2007 and even more recently, a charismatic and well-loved VTech student named Samanata Shrestha was murdered. It was Samanata who was very much on my mind last night as I took the stage to present. I didn’t know her personally, but in conversations with students and faculty before the program, I really got a sense of her energy and the legacy she left behind. It is in memory of all those we have lost to pointless violence that we do this work. And I like to think that the laughs we have in our programs serve as reminders that we can triumph. Evil does not win. We can choose to take back our peace.

Many thanks to everyone who came out in the snow and cold. Your presence was a gift to me.

-GFB Heather

Fight Back on Spring Break!

Recently our own Bree Swartz joined HLN’s Lynn Berry on Weekend Express to discuss how to make a game plan for a safe spring break.
You can make a game plan too! Watch the interview for helpful tips on how to be a spring break badass, and check out the Girls Fight Back spin-off program website, SafeSpringBreak.org. Now is the best time to book Fight Back on Spring Break for 2015!

Bree Swartz

Davidson County Community College – Sassy!

Nothing kicks off a busy week quite like spending your Monday morning with some smart, sassy gals that live life large and in charge! Thanks to Davidson County Community College for getting my week off to a great start. I’ll be at Virginia Tech tomorrow night and Roanoke College Thursday. Then it is spring break, peeps! Holla!

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-GFB Heather

Reserved for Girls Fight Back

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The crew at Everett Community College rocked my socks off. I mean really.. check out the crowd they had. They brought treats. They gave away GFB swag.

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They promoted the pants off their badass event. And did you see the “reserved for girls fight back” parking sign??

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Um.. this pretty much made my year (yes, it is the little things). But this sign stood for me than just a parking space. It made me realize that the leaders at ECC are reserving space on their campus for the kick-ass Trojans who are the Girls Fight Back spirit. The Trojans who are fighting to take back their power. The Trojans who are fighting for equality for all. The Trojans who are making their campus a safer place. The Trojans who are worth fighting for. Yes, this “space” is reserved for you mighty Trojans. It is all about YOU and your fierce spirit.. thank you for letting me join in on the ride. Till next time…

GFB Bree

Thank you Morehead State University!

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It was an absolute joy to open a can of whoop ass with the fearless students of Morehead State University! I would like to thank LaShayna Sawyers, Nate (our fantastic SBG) and their super fans for putting together this awesome event. Everyone rocked the Badass Ballet and I have to say that these ladies really are dangerous!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe spring break!

-GFB Morgan

You’re Gonna Hear Me ROAR!

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Size really doesn’t matter when it comes to the audience. It’s all about the energy, the connection, and the engagement. Tonight at Texas A&M Commerce, this small pack of lionesses ROARED! They laughed, grunted, and brought some serious good energy. We were vibin. Thanks Lions for throwing such an awesome event. Your passion and enthusiasm were fierce and inspiring.

-GFB Bree

Don’t mess with Texas Christian University!

This group of gals were super fun and had a hella supportive community behind them: the crowd was of all ages, including young daughters of a coach on campus. The whole TCU bunch deserves some serious high fives for engaging the youth, students and faculty to impress the Girls Fight Back message across the board. Well done friends. And thank you for letting us be a part of your fierce community!

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-GFB Bree

Georgia Southern University #nailsit!

When it comes to spring break safety awareness programming, Georgia Southern University #nailsit! (Yes, I just used a hashtag in a blog post. Roll with it.) Their greek organizations are focused on educating about the importance of designated drivers; they have FREE campus-wide HIV testing today; and last night, campus health services brought our Fight Back on Spring Break program to about 350 of their students. We had a blast!

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You may not know much about our Spring Break program because we only roll it out once a year, but it is a fantastic co-ed event that includes all the awesome info from our Students Fight Back program, but also focuses on travel safety tips, as well as, how to make smart decisions about just how much fun you are planning to have on your spring break. It’s one of my favorite programs to teach because I get to tell some great (and some horrifying) stories from my junior year spring break trip…… Ah, memories….

It’s never too early to start planning for next year, so give us a call if you want to bring Fight Back on Spring Break to your campus! And if you want to have an amazing turnout like GSU had last night, here’s a tip: connect with greek life on your campus. Our program was brought in my health services, but through their connections with greek life, we had a turn out that required us to order extra chairs….TWICE! Nice, huh?

Thanks to all the students who came out last night! You were so much fun! Bird.

-GFB Heather

Bad Ass Ballet at Anna Maria College!

I had an absolutely amazing time doing the Bad Ass Ballet with the wonderful women of Anna Maria College! Thanks so much to Lisa Saverese for being such a terrific hostess, Theresa “Smalls” for the great intro and good laughs and to our awesome volunteer Franco for not only being my fight partner but also for helping with the song mix. :)

Wishing everyone at Anna Maria a safe and happy spring break. And best of luck to everyone with all the incredible summer internships I heard about! What a bunch of super women!

And thank you all ever so kindly for my awesome AMC shirt!

-GFB LeahAnna Maria 2

FALL IN LOVE WITH..

 

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The day of love. Hallmark or not, even as badass women, the holiday evokes some kind of feeling from all of us. Whether you cry when your father leaves you a voicemail in an attempt to make you feel better because he got sad at the thought that you don’t have anyone on Valentine’s Day (yes, I’m still waiting for this phone call again this year.. thank you Dad for your thoughtful effort) or you wake up early, giddy because you can’t wait to surprise your lover with the gift you’ve schemed up. Regardless, this day doesn’t go ignored.

However, today my feisty friends, I started viewing St. Valentine’s special day quite differently. I have decided that I am choosing to love myself the way I love someone I’m in-love with.

That’s right. I’m going to fall in love with myself. Now before you get all judgy on me, this isn’t a conceited, take “selfies” of myself all day kind of love (puke). Allow me to explain.

Not too long ago I was in a wonderful yoga class when I had a moment of “holy crap, I get it.” Very zen, I know. But there were several things that lead up to this “ah’ha!” light bulb. First, the energy in this specific class (Yoga to the People) is so giving and inspiring. Basically, badass soul brotha and sistas unite.

Second, prior to my epiphany, we were in a strenuous pose for the third time (chair-pose for you yogis out there). And as everyone’s thighs are burning and it is showing on our faces, the instructor says something to the affect of “now take this energy you’re feeling to stay grounded and send it to someone who needs it today. Maybe it’s someone special in your life, maybe it’s the person you flipped the bird to who cut you off this morning or maybe it’s yourself.” Immediately dismissing her suggestions, I knew I wanted to send it to my momma, because, well, I think she deserves the world. But I didn’t even THINK of myself (and I hadn’t flipped the bird.. yet).

Now several minutes later, I’m laying on my mat as we are in a the few final poses of class, which are very relaxed. And I suddenly start… crying. Yep, I’m that cool person crying next to you in yoga. You’re welcome. But it just hit me all at once: What if I could love myself the way I love others? Now I know, I’ve heard it before, “love yourself.” But what would it be like to truly be in love myself? Treat myself with compassion, kindness and understanding. Give myself a break the way I do others. Instead of beating myself up because, well I seem to find a million different reasons, what if I truly adored myself the way I’ve adored men I’ve been in love with? Believe in myself and encourage myself the way I do for the loved ones in my life. Wow. That could be pretty wonderful, huh?

Still resistant to the idea? Think of it in relation to the instruction you get while waiting to take off for a flight. The flight attendants are describing that in the very rare event there is a loss in cabin pressure (aka the plane is crashing) they instruct you to first put on your oxygen mask and then assist those around you. That’s right, even before your children. Because if you pass out trying to help others, including your children, you’re pretty much useless.

So if we take care of ourselves first, love ourselves fully as if we are in love with ourselves, imagine all the good we can do for others. Imagine how much more love we can give to others if we are full. It’s limitless!

Thankfully, I’m surrounded by a beautiful group of people right now and one in particular is leading me on a journey of healing. Literally the day after my yoga class, we talked about self-love (there are no coincidences). So this concept, although I’m working on it, is something I am truly accepting.

And I challenge all of you strong, independent women to embark on this journey (because it is a process that takes work) and give yourself permission to genuinely fall in love with yourself. Just try it out. See how it feels. Stop yourself mid-beat-myself-up-session, and treat yourself the way you would a dear friend, a lover or a family member. Go look in the mirror and say “I love you!”

Love your beautiful, strong, badass self and know you are taking a step towards being a happier you. Which the world not only wants, it needs.

Happy Valentine’s Day from us to YOU.

With love,

GFB Bree

 

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings Book Cover

Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

 

1865 – The 13th Amendment is ratified abolishing slavery

1870 – The 15th Amendment prohibits the denial of the vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude

. . . . . .

1920 – The 19th Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex

 

The Grimke Sisters (1792 – 1873 – Sarah & 1805 -1878 – Angelina) lived to see slavery abolished but not long enough to see women get the right to vote over 50 years later.  They are two of the earliest outspoken American feminists and two of the best known female abolitionists.  Both women were born in Charleston, South Carolina to a plantation owning and slave owning family.  Going against their family’s way of life and also against all standards for women of their time, they became leading abolitionists and later feminists by speaking in public, publishing pamphlets, and assisting with the education of many of the children of the abolition and feminist movements.  Their combination of these two passions was controversial in their adopted faith of Quakerism as many feared it would split the abolition movement into two groups—those who also felt that women and slaves deserved equality and those who were passionate about ending slavery, but still held fast to male superiority.  And, so it did.  At a time when women had no legal rights and were relegated to the roles of wives and mothers only, these two sisters dared to speak in public on political issues to both women and men.  Their published works include, “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes,” “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” and “An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States.”

 

The strength and conviction that it takes to stand up for what one feels is right despite the views of those around you is awe inspiring, especially at a time in history when women had very few role models to look to when forging an unconventional path.  In Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings,” the story of the Grimke Sisters is beautifully told in the form of a novel.  Though some aspects of the narrative were created to fill in the gaps, many of the characters, facts, and historical events are true with quotes from the writings of both women included.  If your background in feminism doesn’t stretch much past the 1970’s, exploring the original works of the Grimke Sisters and the ground they gained for all of their sisters is a must.

 

Sue Monk Kidd’s novel is a story of courage that brings to life the ugly history of slavery in our country through the eyes of Sarah Grimke and a slave owned by her family, Hetty “Handful” Grimke.  The alternating narratives of the two main characters speaks volumes about civil rights and brings to mind the words of Emma Lazarus, author of “The New Colossus,”, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”  This applies to the dual struggle of Hetty, who was bound by the terrible shackles of slavery, and Sarah who was blessed to be free, yet still not truly free due to the limitations placed upon her sex; and it applies today to remind us to continue the fight to end oppression in whatever form it appears.

 

“The Invention of Wings” gets a GFB Thumbs Up.  — GFB Gina

 

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Whatever is morally right for a man to do, it is morally right for a woman to do. I recognize no rights but human rights—I know nothing of men’s rights and women’s rights; for in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female.”

― Angelina Grimke

 

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“Here now, the very being of a woman, like that of a slave, is absorbed in her master.  All contracts made with her, like those made with slaves by their owners, are a mere nullity.  Our kind defenders have legislated away almost all of our legal rights, and in the true spirit of such injustice and oppression, have kept us in ignorance of those very laws by which we are governed.”

― Sarah Grimke

 

To read the book: http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Wings-Sue-Monk-Kidd/dp/1472212746/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1390612592

Obama creates the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

Yesterday, this report was prepared by the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of the Vice President.  The report contains this quote. “College students are particularly vulnerable: 1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college. . . .”  President Obama signed a memorandum yesterday to create the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  I encourage you to read the words from his press conference and the report itself.

President Obama:

I think that conviction and that passion brings us all here today — because this is not an abstract problem that goes on in other families or other communities.  Even now, it’s not always talked about enough.  It can still go on in the shadows.  But it affects every one of us.  It’s about all of us — our moms, our wives, our sisters, our daughters, our sons.  Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity.  And for survivors, the awful pain can take years, even decades to heal.  Sometimes it lasts a lifetime.  And wherever it occurs — whether it’s in our neighborhoods or on our college campuses, our military bases or our tribal lands — it has to matter to all of us.

Because when a young girl or a young boy starts to question their self-worth after being assaulted, and maybe starts withdrawing, we’re all deprived of their full potential.  When a young woman drops out of school after being attacked, that’s not just a loss for her, that’s a loss for our country.  We’ve all got a stake in that young woman’s success.

When a mother struggles to hold down a job after a traumatic assault, or is assaulted in order to keep a job, that matters to all of us because strong families are a foundation of a strong country.  And if that woman doesn’t feel like she has recourse when she’s subject to abuse, and we’re not there supporting her, shame on us.  When a member of our military is assaulted by the very people he or she trusted and serves with, or when they leave the military, voluntarily or involuntarily, because they were raped, that’s a profound injustice that no one who volunteers to defend America should ever have to endure.

So sexual violence is more than just a crime against individuals.  It threatens our families, it threatens our communities; ultimately, it threatens the entire country.  It tears apart the fabric of our communities.  And that’s why we’re here today — because we have the power to do something about it as a government, as a nation.  We have the capacity to stop sexual assault, support those who have survived it, and bring perpetrators to justice.

And that’s why, last year, I was proud to sign the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which improved the support we gave to cities and states to help end sexual assault.  And that includes funding to train police officers and nurses, and to speed up the processing of untested rape kits so we can reduce that backlog, solve unsolved cases, get justice for victims.

We pushed for the Violence Against Women Act to include more protections for immigrants; for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans; for Native Americans.  Because no matter who you are or where you live, everybody in this country deserves security and justice and dignity.  And we have to keep reaching out to people who are still suffering in the shadows.

As Commander-in-Chief, I’ve made it clear to our military leadership that we need to deal aggressively with the problem of sexual assault in our armed forces.  It has been going on too long, and we have an obligation to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us.  And Secretary Hagel and Chairman Dempsey have already taken steps to reduce violence and support those who have been harmed.  But I’ve made it clear I expect significant progress in the year ahead.  These crimes have no place in the greatest military on Earth.

I’ve directed agencies across the federal government to do more to help members of their workforce who have been assaulted — because employers have a role to play too, and I want my administration to lead by example.  That’s why we’re releasing a new report today that outlines all of our efforts and where we intend to do more.  And I met earlier today with Secretaries Sebelius, Hagel, Duncan, Attorney General Holder, as well as Vice President Biden, as well as members of my senior staff to discuss how we implement going forward.  Because I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to spare another American the trauma of sexual assault.

Today, we’re taking another important step with a focus on our college campuses.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there — 1 in 5.  These young women worked so hard just to get into college, often their parents are doing everything they can to help them pay for it.  So when they finally make it there only to be assaulted, that is not just a nightmare for them and their families, it’s an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve.  It’s totally unacceptable.

Three years ago, we sent every school district, college, and university that receives federal funding new instructions clarifying their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault.  And we have seen progress, including an inspiring wave of student-led activism, and a growing number of students who found the courage to come forward and report attacks.  That’s exactly what we want them to do.  And we owe all these brave young people an extraordinary debt of gratitude.

But we cannot stop there.  There’s obviously more that we have to do to keep our students safe.  And that’s why here today, I will sign a presidential memorandum creating the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  And we’re going to work with colleges and universities and educational institutions of all kinds across America to help them come up with better ways to prevent and respond to sexual assault on their campuses.  And then we’ll help them put those ideas into practice, because our schools need to be places where our young people feel secure and confident as they prepare to go as far as their God-given talents can carry them.

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Please read the full report here . . .

 

GFB Gina

It’s a New Year, GFB Friends! What Will You Do to Live Your Best Life in 2014?

Holla, 2014!!!!!!!!!!!

Sassy Self-Defense Guide -- UPDATED for 2014!

Have you set any New Year’s Resolutions?  We really hope part of your 2014 goals will be to continue your self-defense education, or if you haven’t taken a class yet, to sign up.  We are here to help!  This summer several of the GFB girls will be joining Bill Kipp and Debra Thomas of FAST Defense for a great weekend training in Colorado.  More info here.

Wherever you live, we have a class for you.  Download our Sassy Self-Defense Guide for an updated list of IMPACT and FAST courses nationwide.  So many of us wait until we experience a tragedy to take that first step.  Be proactive and remember that an education in self-defense isn’t just about fighting.  It’s so much more than that.  Knowing and being empowered to protect yourself can change everything about the way you view your world, the choices you make, the relationships you enter into, everything . . .  Ladies, you ARE your own badass.  You ARE your own best protector.  You don’t have to live in fear another day.  So, download the guide and join us in Colorado next summer or join any of these wonderful instructors listed in our guide and take that first step toward living your best life.  It’s a lot more important than losing five pounds and a heck of a lot more fun!  You ARE Worth Fighting For!

Best Wishes For an Awesome 2014 from the GFB Team!2013 academy GFB