Through the lenses of five talented local photographers, United Way’s Stronger Together project documents Quad Citizens coming together to celebrate each other — and the simple acts of kindness — that inspire us during these unpredictable times.
This installment of “Stronger Together With…” tells the story behind a photo — how one Quad Citizen is helping others live their best life. Meet Haley DeGreve, pictured at center of this photo by Jaawan Arrington.
Haley was born and raised in the Quad Cities. She has always loved it here, but things have not always been easy for her. In middle school, she experienced feelings of isolation and was bullied by peers. As she entered her teen years, she felt more alone as her depression and anxiety reached a point that was nearly intolerable. A neighbor friend was her one solace and confidante as they were both battling suicidal thoughts and self-harm addiction.
Haley’s friend fell deeper into depression and attempted suicide. Thankfully, Haley was there to guide her friend while still struggling on her own. After high school, Haley enrolled at Augustana where she was educated on mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Little by little, she found her voice. That’s when she initiated The Gray Matters poster campaign. In four weeks, over 60 students from across the campus participated. In February 2019, the posters went live all around campus and on social media shining a light on mental health.
Since then, The Gray Matters has become a collective of students/community members with one goal: to empower everyday people to share love, connection, empathy and hope to help save lives. Haley knows you don’t have to be a licensed professional to make a difference — it can take just a phone call to save a life, because that’s what saved her.
When asked what being united means to her, Haley shared, “There’s a story I often tell about sunflowers: We all know they normally face the sun to receive the energy they need to survive. Yet when they cannot find the sun, sunflowers then stand facing the same direction, surviving together. Against a mighty storm, no sunflower can make it alone — yet standing together, there is resilience. I believe human beings are like sunflowers: We need each other to weather the storm. Because it is in each other that we find hope.”