Young people, families, and communities often struggle to address the challenges of today, including what truly matters and if they, themselves, matter. Do they have the ability to help someone else, especially if they’re struggling to help themselves?

The Be Strong community shares countless stories that inspire us, and we love to share them with you to continue to remind you that each one of us can make meaningful differences in our own lives and in the lives of others. You never know in that moment – when you say hello to a stranger, speak up for something you’re passionate about, when you share a challenge you’ve overcome or the help you’ve found, and wear it as a badge of honor and not one of shame – you never know who is listening and who will benefit.

Longtime friend and advocate of Be Strong, Kechi Okwuchi, MBA, Author of 2022 Memoir More Than My Scars and motivational speaker, rose to fame after placing as a two-time finalist of America’s Got Talent & America’s Got Talent: The Champions. As a judge favorite and incomparable talent, she captivated the audience with her powerful voice, illuminating kindness, grit and resilience.

When Kechi amazed the judges in the AGT auditions, burn survivors all over the world were filled with pride and hope. As she advanced to the finals, Kechi demonstrated again and again that she is proud of who she is: a survivor and so much more than her scars.

Kechi was one of the two survivors in the Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 crash on December 10, 2005. Her recovery is documented in her memoir, and she often speaks about her close relationship with her mother, Ijeoma Okwuchi. “She was my rock and she was my person. Until four months into my treatment, I couldn’t talk at all. They had a tube in my throat that took away my voice. Whenever she came to see me, I would mouth, ‘Talk, talk.’ The sound of her voice helped me escape. She talked and talked and talked, and I took comfort in that.”

Last month, Be Strong CEO, Ashleigh Cromer received a call from Kechi saying that she had some exciting news about a recent event she had spoken and performed at. She shared that she had spoken a lot about her passion for the work of Be Strong, and it led to a pretty amazing conversation following the event with Galderma’s US Head of Communications, Jeff Smith.

“I have always had deep admiration and a soul connection with Kechi & Ijeoma Okwuchi, they’ve always advocated for our meaningful work of providing hope, help and healing, and embody our mission.” Ashleigh Cromer

Kechi was invited by Galderma, Inc. (leading dermatology company for consumers, patients and healthcare professionals) to be a speaker at their annual conference in Orlando, FL. Galderma’s mission is advancing dermatology for every skin story, which resonates with Kechi and Be Strong. As a result of the plane crash and her recovery, Kechi has areas of her skin without pores, as well as life-long itching. Galderma’s Cetaphil has a soothing effect that helps Kechi.

Be Strong hears often from our thousands of student volunteers, stories of bullying and emotional, mental, and relational challenges for those people living with skin challenges – from acne to burn survivors.

Jeff Smith shared, “When I was meeting with Kechi in advance of our meeting, I was moved by her story.” He asked her what charity she was passionate about, leading her to share about her heart for Be Strong, and how she loves that work is student-led. As her younger sister has also faced bullying, Kechi wants students to not have to endure the same.

Galderma group photo

Photo: from left to right, Bob Zimmerman, Head of Commercial Training Excellence, Jeff Smith, Head of U.S. Communications, Kechi Okwuchi, and Silvina Nordenstohl, Head of Galderma U.S.

After the event, Kechi was meeting with additional Galderma team members, when Silvina Nordenstohl, Head of US for Galderma, shared how moved she was by Kechi’s passion and that Galderma would be pledging a donation to Be Strong in Kechi’s honor, in the amount of $10,000. “It was so shocking I cried.” Kechi shared.

What Kechi and Galderma’s team didn’t know was that five days before their generous act, Be Strong launched a $100,000 match gift fundraiser – initiated by two families who, like Kechi, want young people to have the help they need to thrive – meaning all donations received will be matched up to $100,000.

You never know how much a moment can be amplified when you act, when you choose to use your voice, passion, and influence to help another. Ijeoma Okwuchi lent her voice to help when Kechi was without her own. Kechi uses her voice for the students she deeply wants to see supported and grow, and now, Galderma using their influence by investing in Be Strong, helping those who need it most.

This donation in honor of our beloved Kechi will support 80 student leaders and their peer groups on 80 school campuses – through resilience training, interventions, and volunteerism – will positively impact 40,000 young people.

Today and every day, remember that you have incomparable influence within your home and community. You have the ability to be loud about what makes your heart beat and where you find hope, as you never know who needs your voice, but we can promise there’s someone. Never underestimate the difference YOU can make.

“Our deepest gratitude and love to our Kechi and our new friends at Galderma. I’m eager for the lives that will be saved & improved because of these inspiring people.” Ashleigh Cromer, Be Strong

To learn more about our ongoing match gift fundraiser, click here.

Galderma is the pure-play dermatology category leader, present in approximately 90 countries. We deliver an innovative, science-based portfolio of premium brands and services that span the full spectrum of the fast-growing dermatology market though Injectable Aesthetics, Dermatological Skincare and Therapeutic Dermatology. Since our foundation in 1981, we have dedicated our focus and passion to the human body’s largest organ – the skin – meeting individual consumer and patient needs with superior outcomes in partnership with healthcare professionals. Because we understand that the skin we are in shapes our lives, we are advancing dermatology for every skin story.

At Be Strong our mission is to save & improve the lives of our youth using a peer-to-peer approach strengthening mental, emotional, relational health, building resilience, and preventing bullying.

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