Fort Safety is a dream that became a reality. A dream that a father could honor the short life and legacy of his daughter by creating a charitable organization that planted seeds of hope where there is only fear, courage where there is only despair, and light where there is only darkness.
Grief at the loss of his daughter Laura Gwen, but inspired to make her life matter. John was motivated to continue her legacy of changing lives for the better.
The frustration of watching his son, other children, adults, and marriages fall victim to online threats such as early and frequent exposure to pornography, cyberbullying, online infidelity, and other technology-born issues.
Anger at the fact that nobody was doing anything to protect kids and strengthen families while they are online. As John explains "It is like there is a blanket of silence covering up what we do, see, and feel online. Most families and their children are trying to struggle through the technology maze themselves, due to either lack of awareness or thinking that they are the only ones that are having difficulty with a particular issue. What Fort Safety does is peel back that layer of silence and helps communities create an Internet safety environment where a healthy tech balance exists."
With the support of his family, John quit his career as a civil engineer in 2013 to begin speaking and advising schools and faith communities about internet safety issues. Along the way, he met other parents, teachers, pastors, therapists, and technology professionals which shared Fort Safety’s vision and they joined the effort. With the help of these like-minded individuals and their resources, Fort Safety, Inc. became a registered 501c3 organization in 2017.
Since its inception, Fort Safety has impacted over 12,000 parents and families around the United States by providing internet safety workshops, conference talks, fundraisers, and being featured in multiple podcasts, radio, and TV shows.
This year the board announced a new goal of increasing the impact of Fort Safety to 28,800 individuals. Every month in Atlanta, Georgia, where Fort Safety is headquartered, 7,200 men buy children for sex, fueled by online pornography...28,800 is four times that amount.
Laura Gwen Winstanley is the unofficial vice-president of Fort Safety and the primary reason why John, her father, created Fort Safety.
Why? No matter what obstacles, setbacks, challenges, or impossible odds life gave Laura, she faced them with a smile, peace beyond all understanding, and a little bit of mischief😊. It was that perseverance and tenacity in life that inspired everyone around her. It became apparent that this was her purpose in life: to change lives and to give hope where there is none.
Life for Laura was a fight against all odds from the day she was born. Due to unexplained complications, Laura was born 12 weeks early, at a tiny 1 pound 13 oz. The doctors were not confident that the baby would survive the emergency C-section...but they didn’t know about Laura Gwen yet. Laura announced her arrival by letting out a big cry and squeezing her worried Dad's finger. It took 5 very long months of 24/7 care in the Neo Intensive Care Unit care before Laura was able to come home.
At the age of 2, Laura was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, also called mito. Mito is a broad range of genetic disorders that affect many parts of the body, and to which there isn't a cure. The disease is progressive, and due to its complexity, there is no expected timeline in terms of life expectancy.
Over the next 4 years, Laura gave life all she had. She loved going to school, painting with her classmates, and watching her brother play. However, after 7 years of fighting her way through life, her little body ran out of energy.
At the memorial service (standing room only) teachers, doctors, school bus drivers, therapists, and others close to Laura got up on stage one by one to say how much little Laura, who couldn't speak and was confined to a wheelchair, meant to them.
It was during these testimonies about his daughter that John had the inspiration for an organization that what would later become FORTSAFETY. He realized that day, that if his daughter could change so many people's lives without saying a word...why couldn’t he with a voice and various life experiences do the same.
It became clear to John that when it comes to our children, there is no “tomorrow”. Parents cannot be passive when it comes to keeping their children safe. This mission of “Protecting Kids and Strengthening Families” would continue his daughter's legacy of impacting lives and giving those who are facing hardships hope. FortSafety was born. Rest in peace little princess.
"Happy Life Advice: Find some suffering in the world and go do something about it."
- John Winstanley
John Winstanley, the founder and CEO of Fort Safety, is what you would call an "interesting character.” He was born in northern England, raised in southern Germany near the alps, educated in the United States, an honors engineering graduate of Purdue University, a retired professional engineer, a former vice president of a construction company, a former atheist, a former addict, a husband and father, captain of the trustees of his church, and an information junkie. Some hobbies include adult coloring, model shipbuilding, acting, long-distance running, exploring the world with his wife and son, and finding an excellent bottle of wine for under $15.
For reasons he reveals in his talks, blogs, and webinars, John became determined to shine a light on what we see, do, and feel while online. With the full support of his wife and extended family, John left his engineering career behind in 2013 to become a stay-at-home dad for his son and to begin building a charitable organization that would become Fort Safety in 2017.
John uses his unique blend of English humor, passion, and storytelling, to empower and equip his audiences with practical internet safety tips, tricks, and hacks.
Paul is the President of Paul Baccas Tax & Accounting Service. He is a certified enrolled agent (EA), and Bookkeeper (CB)...in other words, FortSafety could not have asked for a more qualified person to volunteer his time to be our treasurer. A couple of fun facts about Paul: he is an avid soccer player and loves anything Jamaican. (Ya Mon)
I would also like to list our advisors, but not in the same detail as the board...just name, picture, and organization. I'm still asking permission but should have that list soon.
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING
Drew Donaldson is a life-long technologist and advocate for early childhood technology education.
A self-taught programmer and career marketing automation specialist, Drew credits his success to a relative unrestricted upbringing in the digital world. As a new father, though, Drew questions if the non-stop digital deluge facing our kids is doing more harm than good.
Drew joins the Fort Safety Board to better prepare him as a father and to explore the fine line between giving his kids the digital freedom that led to his success while maintaining their safety in this new all digital world.
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