Before Courage in Action existed as a charity, we started with a once-a-year conference.
Cindy Stradling, our founder, tells the story of how the idea came to be:
“In the spring of 2012, I heard a statistic that 7 in 10 women returned to abusive situations because they didn’t see an alternative.
I thought to myself: ‘I am successful; I run my own business, have my own home and raised my two sons as a single mother – what helped me get here?’
Here’s my story: I was married at 19. In 1978, my boys were 8 & 6. I remember sitting on the porch of our small semidetached house. One of the women across the court had a baby. I walked across to see the baby. My husband went nuts because I didn’t have his “permission”. This is just one small example of the abuse I endured.
In 1979 my sister Susan treated me to a Jack Canfield conference on Peak Performance. After leaving the conference, I felt a shift in my thinking. I could see I could choose how to move forward in my life. We purchased the cassette tapes (remember those?), and the messages on these tapes helped us learn new ways to live our lives.
Before this, I had never had access to this type of learning. I had a grade 8 education.
I went back to school to become a florist. I learned office skills. I became an administrator in a manufacturing company, partly because I knew Lotus 1-2-3. I got certified as a coach through Erickson College.
It was that conference that planted the seeds to change the course of my life. To leave an abusive relationship and make my way in the world.
As a coach, I love the “What if” exercise and I started to ask myself, “What if I could create a one-day conference where we could invite women to attend, do fundraising, gain sponsorship to support the initiative. The women could come for free, and volunteers would do everything.”
Cindy shared her conference dream idea with colleagues and friends. Within a few weeks, she formed a volunteer committee. She gathered support from other women who believe that education is the key to making different choices.
The original name for the conference was Women Moving Forward. On June 1, 2013, the first conference was held in Toronto, Ontario. We had 68 women in attendance. The women came by invitation only through various women’s shelters and agencies that support women. The comments from the attendees and the volunteers were nothing short of miraculous, some stating this was the best day of their lives.
Initially, we didn’t talk about continuing, but it was clear that the need was great and unanimous that we would continue. Over the next six years, we held our annual conference, expanded our reach to other women’s agencies, held fundraisers and expanded our sponsors. The women that attended loved it, and often we heard it was the highlight of their year. Women volunteered because they wanted to make a difference for other women and loved being of service.
In 2018 we made two critical changes. We were informed that the name Women Moving Forward was it was trademarked. Cindy spoke with the owner of the trademarked name, and she issued a license that would expire in two years. This gave us time to create a new name and branding.
Also, in 2018, the local bank manager at TD Bank nominated Cindy as a local hero for the work she and her team was doing in the community. TD Bank donated $50,000.00 for the event, which was a game-changer!
Here is a link to the video when TD Bank awarded us the money: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yh0smkzuxQs
It was clear we needed to step up and expand. We registered as a non-profit with our new name “Courage in Action” and received our charity status in February 2020. We formed a board of directors and decided to expand across Canada, with a goal to initially impact 1,000 women. A new board member challenged us to think bigger. We decided we could do more, and our new impact goal is 10,000 women.
In 2019 we ran two conferences: one in Toronto ON and one in Ottawa ON. In 2020 we had scheduled four conferences in Toronto ON, Ottawa ON, Saint John NB and Halifax, NS. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, they were all cancelled.
In 2021, we ran our first virtual conference and 72 women attended. The focus of this conference was self care and based on the feedback from the attendees it was a huge success.
We have started our podcast http://courageinaction.podbean.com/ mentor circle and online educational programs designed to support the women we serve to live their best lives. We have positioned Courage in Action to expand and reach the women of Canada who need our services.