A 12-year-old Freedom girl is using her love of art to bring hope and happiness to those struggling with mental illness.
Abby Bredael frequently scours her yard in search of the perfect canvas. For her, it's a round rock with a smooth surface. It's something she can transform into a work of art.
"It gives me something to do, and it's fun," she said.
Abby uses paint, nail polish and a permanent marker to decorate the rocks.
"I'll just think of different words that are inspiring."
What started as a hobby, though, now has deeper meaning.
"It's really rewarding to be able to help people in some of their most difficult life challenges," said Abby's mom, Lisa.
She's a mental health therapist at ThedaCare Behavioral Health in Menasha. She helps patients who are enrolled in the Adult Mental Health Day Treatment Program . It's a six week long series of sessions that help those who are having difficulties set goals, develop new coping skills and find healthy ways to deal with emotions.
"The suicide rate has certainly been going up in recent years and our program really hopes to help people not choose that option," explained Lisa.
When participants successfully graduate from the program, Lisa makes sure they leave with more than a certificate.
"When I saw how cute the rocks were, I thought that would be a perfect thing to offer our patients as they're leaving," she said. "I always say, 'Just pick one that speaks to you.'"
With messages such as 'Life is Good,' 'Be Brave' and 'Smile Big,' Abby hopes to give the graduates strength and positivity as they continue their journey.
"My mom has told me a few stories, like some of them will start crying when they're leaving, and then when you give them the rock, they always feel really happy," Abby explained.
The most popular rocks the patients choose have 'Hope' written on them.
"I think it's something to leave our patients with to hopefully remember their time with us and to just remember that somebody cares about them," added Lisa.
It's motivation that keeps Abby on the hunt for that perfect rock.
"It makes me feel pretty good."