Get REAL was founded in 2011, inspired by our experiences volunteering in the Welcome Week program at Western University. As older mentors to hundreds of students each year, we began noticing that we were having success talking to our first years about derogatory (homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc) language, and creating a safe space for marginalized students who were looking to express themselves safely. The reason was in our approach: we were close in age, friendly, non-judgemental, and personal -- we often opened up about our own lives to build a genuine, honest, human connection. And it worked. We saw countless students changing their language within days, and countless others coming out to us and feeling more comfortable being themselves.
With a bit of tweaking and content development, we wondered whether it could be possible to translate our experiences and approach into a high school, or even a middle school setting, and achieve the same results. Could we create the type of program we wish had been around while we were growing up? We settled on a name (REAL stands for Reaching Equality At Last) and a fellow student-run business donated 50 bright pink hats, with our logo on the front, so we could start fundraising for small expenses like gas to get to schools.
People were drawn to Get REAL right away, and we started seeing pink hats all over campus, worn on the heads and on backpacks of students who identified with our goal of combatting prejudice, challenging stereotypes, and promoting acceptance and compassion for all. At the end of an exciting first year of operation, we produced a video titled "To My Grade 7 Self". Intended merely to be content for our old teachers to use in their classrooms, TMG7S went viral. Within days, CTV and Global News had aired stories, students from other universities were asking to bring Get REAL to their campus, and high school and middle school teachers were asking us to come and speak to their students. We incorporated a few months later as a non-profit, and the dream of a small group of passionate students became, officially, a reality.
Since then, Get REAL has evolved in amazing ways that we couldn't have imagined. We have spoken to over 150,000 students in 8 provinces and 3 states, we have a core full-time staff based in Toronto, and have been featured on Global News, CTV, Much Music, and the National Post. We have university chapter and high school after-school programs that we are proud of, made up of creative, courageous, and hard-working young people across the country. Our videos and curriculum pieces are used by teachers from Canada to the UK to Australia, and our clothing line REAL Apparel is worn by supporters and customers from around the world. Most importantly, we have seen the results we had hoped would translate, in the middle schools, high schools, summer camps, and companies we've worked with.
Get REAL was a simple idea that came from a genuine place. It has been developed by working hard, and never taking our focus off why we started in the first place. And by having a bit of fun doing it. We are very proud of what we have achieved, together, and we are grateful to all those who have helped us along the way. If you are new to Get REAL, that's ok. We love meeting new people and bringing them together; it's one of the best parts of what we do. Shoot us a message. It's never too late to reach out, to support your friends, or to just be yourself.
Chris Studer & Marley Bowen
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
IS THE GET REAL WORKSHOP A GOOD FIT FOR MY AUDIENCE?
We offer a number of different workshops, keynotes, and presentations to fit different needs. Our three overarching themes are kindness, uniqueness, and support, which we believe are universal concepts that everyone can connect to. Our facilitating team is friendly, diverse (a mix of orientations, gender identities, races, religions, etc.) and highly experienced delivering their unique messages and stories. Because of this, we have received excellent reviews in front of virtually every different type of audience imaginable, across eight provinces and three states. For more details, such as logistics, group size, and pricing, please email Marley at: email@example.com.
WHO CAN JOIN ONE OF OUR UNIVERSITY CHAPTERS? DO YOU HAVE TO IDENTIFY AS LGBTQ+?
We believe there is a place for everyone at Get REAL. You do not have to identify as any particular gender identity, sexual orientation, or anything else to join. If you are a student who: is passionate about combatting prejudice, promoting acceptance, and creating allies; has lots of ideas and the drive to make them happen; wants to give back by sharing your own personal story and/or a skill you possess to help others; you would be a fantastic fit. For more details about joining an existing chapter, please email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in starting a chapter, click here to apply!
WHO CAN TAKE PART IN OUR AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM?
Because our After-School Leadership Program (also known as the GR Squad) is a local initiative, there are a limited number of spots. For more details about joining the program, please email Max at email@example.com.
HOW DO I BUY YOUR CLOTHING?
All of our clothing can be purchased from our online store at www.wegetreal.ca. If you do not see your size, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will notify you as soon as it’s back in stock.
DO YOU DO BULK CLOTHING ORDERS FOR LARGER GROUPS?
We do bulk orders on a case-by-case basis, but yes for larger orders (conferences, sports teams, staff shirts, etc.) we do have bulk options. Please email email@example.com for bulk orders, and for all other merchandise-related questions.
WHAT ARE THE EXISTING VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES?
We have a many different types of volunteer opportunities that can vary depending on age, location, skill-sets, etc. But there is a place for everyone to contribute in some form! Please email Chris at chris.Studer@thegetrealmovement.com for volunteer opportunities near you.
IS GET REAL A CHARITY OR A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION AND CAN I MAKE A DONATION?
Get REAL is a Canadian registered non-profit organization (non-profit number 813423-5). We also have a charitable partner, Sketch Toronto, who is able to accept donations on our behalf.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
With a direct donation to Get REAL, made via cheque or e-transfer, 100% of the funds will go to our programming. With direct donations to Get REAL made through the Causevox website, a 4.5% processing fee will be applied and removed by Causevox. However, as we are not a charity ourselves, we will not be able to issue a charitable tax receipt for the above types of donations (although we are able to offer a written receipt that confirms the funds were received).
Some grants require a charitable receipt, and some individuals would prefer one; in this case, a donation can be made to Sketch, which means that Get REAL can still access the funds our programming costs, and a charitable receipt will be made available. A 10% processing fee will be applied and removed by Sketch.
HOW DO I DONATE?
For direct donations to Get REAL, please mail a cheque made out to “The Get REAL Movement Inc.” to:
For direct donations to Get REAL, please send an e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the password “getreal”.
Causevox (Visa and major credit cards):
For direct donations to Causevox, please click here and follow the instructions.
Donations to SKETCH:
For donations to Sketch, please mail a cheque made out to “Sketch - Working Arts” with “Get REAL” written in the subject line to:
WHERE ARE YOU BASED?
When we aren't on the road, we are based in Toronto, Ontario (Canada)!
" It was incredibly powerful for students who identify as gender fluid to have someone come to school who represents them. Also, the grateful/challenging activity was quite profound and I was amazed at how open and honest the students were. There was a real feeling that we are all going through something and we should be kind to one another."
" I honestly cannot think of a single thing that could have been added or done better. It was excellent, insightful and the presenters created such a safe and caring environment which was apparent by the attention our students gave as well as their personal disclosures. I would highly recommend Get Real for any elementary, junior and senior high school."
"Gordon Graydon Memorial SS was VERY fortunate to have the Get REAL movement at our school. Our presenters, Marley and Chris was absolutely incredible. They connected with each student in their own individual way. Each student and every teacher was positively impacted by their presentation. Connecting with the student on topics of bullying to lgbtq+ human rights was very powerful. The most powerful part of the presentation was the sympathy, empathy, gratitude and thankful exercise. Each student was able to realize they are not alone in the struggles of life and identity building. I have been following the Get REAL movement for the past 2-3 years. Having them at our school was a true honour!!! Keep up the exceptional work team. Spread the joy, the love and goal of ending the discrimination against the lgbtq+ community! Love is love & congratulations on ALLL your success!"
" I spoke to my students the next day and they said that they want to discuss issues and challenges that they face and are grateful that they were given this opportunity!"
"The Get Real presentations were outstanding. They did a great job to involve the entire audience while delivering powerful and informative messages related to gender and sexuality."
"[I] Just wanted to send a note to express how amazing this organization is. You should all be so proud of yourselves as you all do an outstanding job. Bravo! You came to my school (West Elgin Secondary School) on Friday... and your presentation was brilliant. As a gay student, I appreciate from the bottom of my heart that there are organizations and presentations like these. I went up after to buy a hat and speak with the presenters, and you were all so kind and approachable. Thank you so much for your support and again, you are all amazing people who will go so far in life."
"Thanks so much for your presentation today, Chris. Please pass our thanks along to Victoria and Tessa, too — you guys were just great and we have had no end of positive feedback about your role in Prayers this morning. We really appreciate you taking the time out to come and speak with the girls — you started some really good conversations that have continued into the classroom and have even inspired some further school-wide work to be done tomorrow morning during our Teacher/Advisor meetings. I hope we can work together in future, too."
"The presentation today was amazing. We felt so honoured to “rate” a presentation equal to that of the safe schools conference. It was amazing to have so many presenters with their unbridled youthful enthusiasm and passion present to the students. The students could relate to the “raw” emotion of the presenters testimonials. I watched their faces during the presentation and they were totally engaged. I wondered how many of them would be changed or make a change for someone else thanks to the good work of Get REAL. Teachers commented that it was the best presentation they have had for students. Our principal, Mary thought it was amazing. She wants to get hats for all the students and she thinks having the group back would be great. Do you ever do follow-up visits? Hmm--Get REAL is truly a movement. Thanks to you all for making the world a better place, one school at a time."
"I am not sure I have the words yet to say enough thanks to Max Denleyand Marley Bowen for the inspiring presentation they did today with our students. I have known Max since grade 7 and seeing my current students so affected was so special. Max and Marley work for a Non-Profit group called Get Real. Google it! They brought a message of awareness, self acceptance, love and connection and their experiences in the LGBTQ community. I booked this for one student in particular who came out to me about a month ago, she wanted to come out to her class. She was so brave and I just look forward to a time when kids like her just get to be. I had four other kids after the presentation say how amazing it was and they all came out in their own way. It was so beautiful. But one common message was they were all afraid to talk to their parents because they have heard talk in their house about their parents feelings about homosexuality and it was not nice talk to say the least. I think how hard must it be to not be able to be your true self with your own family. I know 90% of my friends on this list don't need any reminders about this, but for anyone that makes a joke, a slur, a passing comment that was less than thoughtful in front of your kids please stop. Don't kid yourself to think your kids aren't affected. If we love our kids, which we all do, please if we can do them all right by giving them a message of tolerance and acceptance of all human beings. I look forward to the next and every future generation being better than the previous. I will do what I can to continue to support my students and again, Max and Marley, thank you beyond thank you. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye but please msg me an address so I can send your card and treat to you! I am so lucky to have had you in my life experience Max Denley. You are the most beautiful dinosaur I have ever met! XOXO Spread love, love is love is love!"
One of our core values at Get REAL is responsibility, and for us that means delivering the best possible service and programming we can. We are proud of the work we do and we are always striving to improve in all aspects of what we do. Here are some of the things we are most proud of.