ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Rock Island native Madison Keys returned to the Quad Cities to take a break from tennis and talk about bullying.
Keys is a professional tennis player who made her first trip to the finals of the U.S. Open in September. She's also a 22-year-old who's faced her share of online attacks.
"I've been getting it since the first day I signed up for Twitter and Instagram. It's obviously worse after matches that I lose, and for the longest time I would just stay silent about it, not do anything, not say anything really. It felt like there were no steps forward with creating a safer online space," said Keys.
Now, Keys has decided it's time to talk.
She returned to Rock Island on Friday, November 11, to launch the U.S. arm of FearlesslyGIRL, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young women.
"This is obviously where I was born and raised and starting tennis. This is kind of where everything started for me, so for me, there was really no other place to start something else that means so much to me," said Keys.
Keys, along with speaker Kate Whitfield, hosted an anti-bullying assembly for girls from various Quad City high schools. The event was also live-streamed to more than 7,000 viewers from Augustana College. Topics ranged from female role models to how to ask for help.
"It's just kinda self-empowering and not letting someone else, or something that you hear someone say, break you down," said Georgia Nissen, a sophomore at North Scott High School.
Keys took time to pose for pictures and meet with girls after the assembly.
She said she'd love to return next year, and they are already thinking of ways to make the event bigger and better.
"I feel like we just made the world a little bit better today. Even if it's just girl world, we made it a little bit better, and that was the whole point behind this," said Keys.