Fortitude. It is defined as courage and strength in the face of adversity or difficulty. This definition is not only present on the Family Fortitude home page, but it imbues the very fabric and goal of the organization.
“We are so excited to develop a program that will teach principles that will strengthen families mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially,” says Tessa Wade, founder of Family Fortitude. “These principles will strengthen and fortify us.”
On November 11th, Wade and her group of partners and volunteers that comprise the Family Fortitude Community will celebrate fortitude at the Fortitude Festival.
The origins of Family Fortitude have deep roots in Wade’s own past. She cites her parents’ announcement that they were getting divorced, when Tessa was 13, as a pivotal moment in her life. And one that would eventually prepare her to organize the program.
“My whole world crashed,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do. There was so much I didn’t know, and so much that was out of my control.”
When both her parents eventually remarried, she was faced with the demands of a blended family, including the seemingly trivial question of what to call her stepdad.
“Should I call him dad?” Wade recalls thinking. “That seemed so awkward because I had just met him. But I didn’t call him Ryan because that seemed so distant.”
She came up with a compromise that ended up shaping her future. She would call him “stad,” a blend between “stepdad” and “dad.”
“Even though it was something as simple as a nickname, it really helped our family a lot,” Wade says. “When you have a nickname with someone, it just puts you on good terms with them.”
It wasn’t until years later that, at the suggestions of a friend, she took strides to trademark the name. Doors began opening up to even more doors, as she says, and opportunities began to arise.
“I started to feel like there was something more to it,” she says. “Something else that it needed to be.”
Family Fortitude is a program that allows struggling and broken families and individuals to mentor and help one another through tough situations. Whereas it can be hard for even professional counselors to reach the heart of an issue and truly empathize, Family Fortitude allows the broken to lift one another up.
Tessa Wade refutes that she holds any semblance of owner-or-foundership over the organization of Family Fortitude, attributing it to God. During the interview, she wondered how “religious” we hoped to make her story. The truth is, however, that it was the next several months of Tessa turning to prayer that helped her realize what it all should become.
The answer, to her, was clear. She was supposed to help families. Tessa felt completely unqualified; she had come from a broken home, she didn’t have a family of her own, she didn’t know how to help families, and she was just a business major.
But she persisted in discovering what she should do.
“After 5 or 6 months of praying or fasting — I remember exactly where I was sitting — it all came to me,” she says. “I knew what it was supposed to be, how it was supposed to work, who it was going to help, the reach it would have…everything.”
Now Family Fortitude is in the developmental stage, in a completely different iteration than it began. And it has become much more than Tessa could have imagined when she was 13.
By next summer, Tessa plans to have a full curriculum developed and to take Family Fortitude on the road. She hopes to take buses of 20-30 people to YMCAs and communities around the country, performing service projects, putting on Fortitude Festivals, and offer coaching services to families.
And it all began with a simple nickname for her stepdad, to help unite her family.
“I had called my stepdad ‘stad’ for years before I decided to trademark that,” she says. “I feel like I needed to start somewhere in order for us to end up where we are now.” If you are interested in following Tessa’s personal journey to create fortitude, you can visit her blog.
The Fortitude Festival
Morgan Soelberg is currently an intern with Family Fortitude, doing social media, coordinating, marketing, and content creation.
“I found out about Family Fortitude this past spring at the Power to Become conference,” Morgan says. “Tessa came onstage and shared her little spiel…I was really inspired and thought it was a great idea.”
Currently, Morgan’s big task, as with the team of volunteers and full-time Family Fortitude organizers, is to organize this fall’s Fortitude Festival.
“We have a group of volunteers that we’re working with right now,” she says. “A lot who are volunteering went to the festival last year.”
This will be the second annual Fortitude Festival, which will take place at the Rexburg Tabernacle and will include performers and speakers. Attendees can expect it to be a “high energy event.”
“We’re also hoping to make it very family friendly,” adds Morgan. “It’s going to be an upbeat, very inspiring time. All of the music, speakers, and even giveaways will all have the underlying theme of courage and fortitude.”
The Fortitude Festival will take place November 11th at the Rexburg Tabernacle, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. You can get your tickets to the event for $4 here or pay $5 at the door.
Joining the Family
Wade emphasizes that now is the time to join the Family Fortitude Community, while it is in its infancy. It is an exciting time for the program. All the time, more and more licensed therapists, as well as content and data providers, come on board to help develop the curriculum.
“The CEO of People Acuity, under Gallup, found out about Family Fortitude,” she reports, “and I’ve been meeting with her regularly. They’re helping us with data, content, and research that is backed credibly.”
This truly is a unique opportunity for all who are looking to join the community. There are exciting opportunities and plans on the horizon. If you want to learn more, you can visit their website. But it would also be beneficial to attend the Fortitude Festival in two weeks.
“It will be so much fun,” Wade says. “I know you’ll be seeing more of it and you can have this experience here.”