Ava will be a Peyton Heart Project Ambassador for Fargo, ND for a third year. She will be an ambassador until January 13, 2021.
Essay for year 3
(Dec. 2019) posted January 2020
In the fall of 2015 I attempted to take my own life. Since that moment, I have made it my mission to raise awareness for suicide prevention. By becoming an ambassador for The Peyton Heart Project I have not only had the opportunity to raise awareness for a cause that affects millions worldwide but I have been able to see how hope and kindness can truly change the world and that there are truly infinite reasons to live.
Since becoming an ambassador in 2016 I have made approximately 15,000 hearts scattering them in 25 states and 3 countries. Along with hosting heart making events and discussing The Peyton Heart Project, I also created Hearts for Hope Presentations that are geared toward all ages from 3-65+. With my Hearts for Hope school tour, I have been able to present The Peyton Heart Project, raise awareness suicide prevention and discuss mental health awareness with thousands of people locally, nationally and internationally.
My main event I hold as an ambassador is my 500 Heart Tour. The 500 Heart Tour is an event that I hold during Mental Health Awareness Month in May. This was my second year hosting this tour and it was an absolute success! I was able to scatter hearts in 11 states and 1 country. I also had the opportunity to discuss the mission of The Peyton Heart Project on multiple Television shows and radio stations, host heart making events, attend walks, and present Heart for Hope in schools across the country. Of course, while scattering 500 (or more) hearts along the way.
I had the opportunity to travel to Managua, Nicaragua twice this [past] year for mission trips. On these missions our purpose is to provide food and necessary items to members of the community and form relationships with members of the church. Between the two trips, I have hosted three heart making events with the members of the church. The children and even many of the adults spend hours making Peyton Heart Project Hearts. It was wonderful going back to Nicaragua for a second time and seeing Peyton Heart Project Hearts hung up in homes and business. One of the families from the church have hearts hung up in front of their bakery so that they can talk about me and The Peyton Heart Project to anyone the comes in.
Seeing the impact that being an ambassador has made is overwhelming at times. Every school that I visit, I have students that share their stories of how they have struggled and how this project has given them hope. I have been able to visit a third world country and leave seeing children wearing their hearts and carrying them with them until I returned again. I receive messages and phone calls from people all over the country asking how they can get involved and start their own heart making groups in their communities.
Being an ambassador has been incredible and being awarded The Peyton Heart Project Ambassador of the Year is an absolute honor. The Peyton Heart Project has opened up doors and so many opportunities that I never would have imagined before. It has allowed me to take my experience as a suicide attempt survivor to do my part to raise awareness for suicide prevention, be a voice for those who have been affected by suicide, and spread hope internationally.
I am excited to continue representing the Peyton Heart Project as an ambassador and Miss International 2019! I will be visiting schools all over the country, sharing hearts for hope on my international tour and of course, scattering hearts along the way!Heart Making Event in Fargo, ND. We made over 300 hearts to be sent on my Hearts for Hope school tour.
Essay for year 2
(2018) In Ava’s own words:
Being an ambassador for The Peyton Heart Project has be nothing short of remarkable. I had the opportunity to share the message of The Peyton Heart Project and spread kindness in my community and across the country. We are living in a world that is divided and hurting; there is of course no simple solution, but throughout this year, I have learned that kindness has more power than you think.
As an ambassador I have hosted several heart making events in my community of Kindred, ND. At these events we make hearts, raise funds for suicide prevention, and spend the afternoon enjoying each other’s company. Along with heart making events, I have personally made 7,000 hearts and have scattered 2,500 along my travels across the country this year.
My favorite event that I have held as an ambassador was my 500 Heart Tour. During Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to raise awareness and support The Peyton Heart Project in a special way. I decided to hold a 500 Heart Tour where I visit 5 North Dakota cities in 5 days and scatter 500 hearts in the process. During this tour I was able to speak about The Peyton Heart Project on radio and television stations, attend a Kids and Mental Health panel, discuss mental health and present hearts to 3 North Dakota mayors and North Dakota governor, Doug Burgum.
One of the highlights of this year has been presenting my Hearts for Hope presentation to schools across the state of North Dakota. I have created three presentations geared toward all age groups to discuss The Peyton Heart Project. I have had the opportunity to travel the state and share The Peyton Heart message with over 3,000 students [in] k-12.
The impact that I have seen in my community and the growing involvement in the project has been incredible. Every time I leave a school presentation I walk by groups of students who all have hearts attached to their backpacks, I get constant requests for hearts from friends and family members so that they can scatter them in their communities. I receive messages and phone calls from other’s asking me how they can get involved and what they can do to make a difference and help raise awareness for suicide prevention. Being an ambassador has allowed me to bring up the topics of suicide, mental health, and bullying in my community in a way that allows all ages to become involved in making a difference.
Being an ambassador has been an absolute honor and privilege. It has allowed me to take my experience as a suicide attempt survivor to do my part to raise awareness for suicide prevention, be a voice for those who have been affected by suicide, and spread hope in my community and across the country. It is a goal of mine to continue doing my part in making a difference and by being an ambassador I have the opportunity and ability to do just that.
Bing an ambassador has been life changing. I have learned that one small act of kindness can’t change the world but one small act of kindness can change the world for someone else. I have learned how to use my experiences as a suicide attempt survivor in a positive way by promoting kindness and by providing resources.
I am planning to continue hosting events in my community and across the state of North Dakota. I will also bring my Hearts for Hope presentation to schools and other community organizations around the state to raise awareness for suicide prevention, provide resources, share the mission of The Peyton Heart Project, and most importantly scatter hope.
2017: In Ava’s words:
I was bullied in elementary school for being overweight and, shall we say, eccentrically dressed. Despite the snide comments and exclusion, I knew who I was. I was confident, unique, and my own definition of beautiful. Unfortunately, the positive view that I had about myself began to change as I got into high school. My freshman year of high school I had posted a wonderfully edited selfie, as we all did at that time, and was struck with a comment that still resonates with me. The words “your so ugly” illuminated in my newsfeed. It mainly resonates because of the horrific use of grammar, but as a fourteen-year-old girl who had worked hard to lose weight and discovered contacts, it was devastating. I had always struggled with my image and identity. I fell into a destructive mindset believing that I was never enough. I was never pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or good enough. I became the bully to myself.
I had high hopes for college. It was a fresh start full of new opportunities and I couldn’t wait. Unfortunately, I had a high school companion that had followed me to college and quickly became a malicious presence. I had terminated the relationship and this individual was reluctant to accept the circumstances. He followed my car, stalked my social media, and was constantly trying to get in contact with me. Me refusing to respond only further ignited the fire. My social media and cellphone became a war zone.
Every day I was struck with voicemails and messages that acted as bullets firing at me from the screen. There seemed to be no escape because it followed me everywhere I went.
To escape reality, I began abusing drugs and alcohol. I didn’t know who I was anymore, I had no sense of identity and no sense of my worth. Along with abusing my self with drugs and alcohol I began self harming. I could no longer get out of bed, I couldn’t go to class, all I could do was stare at my phone reading the endless amounts of messages from people I didn’t even know telling me how worthless I was and that I should kill myself.
In September of 2015 I woke up on a park bench on campus after attempting to take my own life. I knew I was given a second chance and I wasn’t going to waste it. I have dedicated my life since then to the Miss North Dakota Organization, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and now The Peyton Heart Project to tell my story and to help prevent suicide.
I heard about Peyton Heart Project from a friend of mine, Sarah Dukart, who is another pageant title holder in North Dakota. She invited me to scatter hears in Downtown Fargo and I instantly fell in love. Immediately after scattering those hearts I went home and attempted to make my own (which didn’t go well, they resembled snowballs rather than hearts) I ended up make 100 hearts on my own and wanted to make more.
I hosted a Peyton Heart event in my hometown of Kindred, North Dakota where we made over 300 hearts for the project. My community has been struck with many tragedies, suicide being the most prevalent. Hosting this event brought hope to my community and inspired many to get involved by making their own hearts at home to send after the event. Since this event I have been able to send a total of 500 hearts.
The Peyton Heart Project has opened my eyes to the power of kindness and how so many people long for it. Each heart I’ve made is a reminder that despite my mistakes, guilt, and past I can still make a difference and share kindness with the world. Being an ambassador for this organization would allow me to become further involved and to spread light to others.
Through my platform, Beyond Measure: The Power to Prevent Suicide, I speak about my personal story and suicide prevention around the state of North Dakota. Along with my presentation I bring Peyton Hearts to scatter around the small town communities and to hand out at events. I plan to continue doing this at events and speaking engagements along with bringing them to schools and the Children’s Hospital. I am planning on hosting a Valentine’s Day heart making event in Fargo, North Dakota, smaller events in my hometown of kindred, and one in Bismarck, North Dakota. My hope is to cover the state of North Dakota with hearts with the help of my family, community and The Peyton Heart Project.