Tonya Sandis

Fabulous People: Tonya Sandis

Tonya Sandis is the founder of Free2Luv, a Seattle-based nonprofit she founded 12 years ago with her wife, Kym. The youth-empowerment nonprofit focuses on utilizing the arts to uplift, engage and transform the lives of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth. Learn about Tonya Sandis…

Follow at: @Free_2_Luv

Hometown: Born in L.A., live in Seattle.

First job: My first job was at 16, working at Big 5 Sporting Goods.

Favorite ways to spend your free time in WA: Being a Seattle transplant, my family and I, along with our pooch, Rigley, love exploring the exquisite WA beauty, from the ocean and Sound to the rainforests. Right now, we’re having a blast troll-hunting and discovering the amazing and whimsical trolls created by Thomas Dambo throughout the state.

Your biggest accomplishment and why: I’ve recently been named a L’Oréal Women of Worth Honoree and have also been the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Humanitarian Award. The most rewarding accomplishment is holding a space for a young person to thrive. We mentor a lot of young people who are struggling at times with their identity, mental health and self-harm. It’s extremely rewarding to receive a DM, email or hug letting me know that we helped someone through a dark time and how important our support was. One person believing in someone is life-changing.

The biggest obstacle you overcame: The first thing that comes to mind is self-love and knowing that I’m perfectly imperfect. It’s a lifelong journey to self-acceptance.

Someone who inspires you and why: I’m so inspired by the young people living their truths unapologetically today. Their empathy and compassion for others is beautiful.

Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Do YOU! Surround yourself with people who believe in your purpose and who excel in areas you may not. Build your team thoughtfully. Be passionate, and don’t be afraid to ask! As a person who runs a nonprofit, remember you are asking for all of the people you serve and the vision you hold. I recommend reading “The Ask” by Laura Fredricks.

Favorite quote: Anything by Brené Brown. Love this one: “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.”

Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I was a starter on the varsity softball team as a sophomore and recognized nationally as an MVP shortstop.

What makes someone fabulous: When someone is unapologetically authentic, spreads kindness and compassion everywhere they go and does their best to make the world a better place, they are fabulous. We all have the opportunity to live from this place and sprinkle more joy in the world.

Photo credit: Alexis Hunley

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