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About Us


Mission Statement

An organization supporting student 'Upstanders' working to save the lives of their bullied peers and build kinder communities using Empathy, Education and the Arts!

Be A Friend Project, Inc. | 501c3 Organization | Federal Tax ID # 84-2802576

Our Team

Jennifer Young
Executive Director
& Co-Founder with 
January Akselrad (left)
Rick Landry

The Be A Friend Project was founded in 2015 by business partners and playwrights Jennifer Young (right) and January Akselrad (composer), to carry into action the "speak up, reach out and be a friend" message of their 8x Broadway World Award-winning middle school show, "IT'S EASY! The Friend Strong Musical."


From 2009 to 2019, the Founders were Co-Presidents of SEE THE WISH, their educational company created to teach and inspire in an entertaining way - including through original plays and musicals. “IT'S EASY!” first debuted in 2015 in collaboration with the Riverdale Rising Stars in the Bronx, New York. Those Junior cast members asked the Playwrights for a way to continue the show’s message off-stage.


Jennifer has directed the Be A Friend Project since 2015 as it grew national. In 2019, the BAFP came into its own as a 501c3,  superseding See The Wish, with Jennifer as Executive Director.


January remains active as a Theater Consultant and Creative.

Amy Duver
Office & Program Manager
Rick Landry

We first met Amy in 2017 when her son, Aidan, starred as JED TRAVIS in our Broadway World Award-winning production of "It's Easy!" and we have been enamored ever since! Amy was dubbed a Be A Friend Project SUPER Ambassador in 2018 for her on-going efforts to bring the show and Project to the local school district where she was President of the PTA. Her background spans from managing a large non-profit Foundation in NYC to being the Coach for school swim teams. Amy INSPIRES and we are thrilled she is working her philanthropic acumen and can-do enthusiasm for the BAFP mission - and gifting her warmth and kindness - as Secretary of the Board. 

Heather Pinieri
Development Director
Rick Landry

Heather Pinieri (she/her) is thrilled to join the BAFP team in 2023, marking a return to the wonderful world of nonprofits. Throughout her career she has raised millions of dollars for exceptional organizations, beginning in the Capital Region with positions at the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Egg Center for the Arts and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall before relocating to Vermont to serve as the Director of Development of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, where she also directed their capital campaign. 

More recently, Heather was the Director of Development for Spring Lake Ranch Therapeutic Community before moving back “home” in 2017 to the Hudson Valley where she was born and raised. Heather is an established Realtor with Century 21 Realty Center, working alongside her childhood best friend to make the dream of home ownership a reality for many grateful clients. 

Heather has served on the Boards of the Association for Fundraising Professionals Northern New England Chapter and the Northshire Day School and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from SUNY Oneonta.  In her free time Heather loves to laugh with her three children and husband Marc, while cooking, camping, and trying to keep their garden alive. 

Kimmie Edge
Kindness Club Coordinator, Speaker 
Rick Landry

Kimmie (she/her) started as a Volunteer BAFP Office & Event Assistant and member of the "Letter Review Crew" in 2019.

In 2020, she was awarded Super Ambassador, and accepted the interim role of Social Media Teen Ambassador helping us post content on the Project's Instagram and Twitter pages. 

Kimmie was selected to serve on the Teen Kindness Board in 2021 and has been a part of the Moderating Team for quarterly virtual Board meetings.

A powerful voice for victims of bullying, Kimmie has been a Speaker at our annual Gala and at our Broadway Kids For Kindness Benefit at 54 Below in NYC in 2023.  She speaks on the impact of bullying and the BAFP on her life.

Kimmie accepted the Kindness Club Coordinator position, working to inform and inspire BAFP Kindness Club members nationwide while she attends Rutgers University in the Nursing Program.

Brielle Withers
On-Air Teen Super Ambassador/Vlogger
Essential Teen Volunteer
Rick Landry

Brielle was 11 when she auditioned for "It's Easy!" in 2017 and scored the leading role of "STACEY" in what became an 8x Broadway World Award-winning production.  Brielle initiated the role of "On-Air Teen Ambassador" on Youtube, making it easier for schools across the country to introduce each Friend Mail Recipient. Awarded SUPER Ambassador in 2018, Brielle hosts letter-writing parties and has led elementary school assemblies to introduce the BAFP.  In 2019, she met with Cornwall Central School District Administration and Educators to seek district-wide participation, and succeeded! Brielle was recognized as a "Student of Achievement" by NY Assemblyman Schmitt after being nominated by the CCSD for her BAFP Ambassador work. In 2022, Brielle was awarded the world's most prestigious Humanitarian and Social Action Award for youths ages 9-25: the Diana Award.

Board of Directors

Board of Directors and Officers

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Gary Bernstein
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Lillian Diaz-Withers
Amy Duver-2.png
Amy Duver
Board Secretary
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Jennifer Kennett
Board Chair
Brian McNicholl
Theater Advisor
Shante Skyers

History of BAFP

Honors & Awards

Partners & Supporters

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