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Bringing hope: "You Are Enough"

Towering above a cluster of one-story shops on Pacific Coast Highway in a small town in southern California, the sign stands as tall as the nearby palm trees.

With bold white letters on a deep blue, the words say, simply: YOU ARE ENOUGH.

There is no tagline or hashtag. No website link or Twitter handle. Just those words.

“Anyone driving by is going to see it, even if it’s for a millisecond,” said Cathy Caplener, the Redondo Beach woman who has been working since September 2020 to raise money to get the billboard up.

“Those words are going to hit people in one way or another,” she said. “How often does that happen when you look at a billboard?”

While most billboards are advertisements for products — Buy this! Do this! Want this! — all Caplener wants to broadcast, she said, is hope.

“What it’s saying is, ‘You are OK right now. You are enough right now,’” she said. “There are a lot of people out there needing help, needing that hug, and needing to feel connected.

“Hopefully,” she added, “this is going to bring people together.”

The billboard, which will be up for 30 days, cost $1,700 to rent (a reduced rate due to the coronavirus pandemic). Caplener paid about $1,200 of that from GoFundMe donations; she paid the rest out-of-pocket.

She also used her own funds to make hundreds of YOU ARE ENOUGH wristbands she gave out to spread the word. And she’s not stopping there.

Caplener is hoping to work with local companies to sponsor more billboards throughout Los Angeles, with a goal of getting one sign in every state.

“I’m hoping it creates a buzz,” she said. “I’d love to keep this going.”

It’s not as crazy an idea as it may sound. In 2016, life coach John Pogachar sparked a worldwide movement from Spokane, Washington, when he put up a billboard with only the word LOVE on it. His subsequent “Love On Every Billboard” campaign inspired 107 billboards in 11 states, as well as three Canadian provinces, Russia, Austria, the Ukraine and New Zealand.

“Initially, it was just going to be a social experiment to see what was going to happen,” Pogachar said. “I’m in awe every time I look at what it’s become, not just by all the love out there, but in looking at how it has impacted people.”

Like Caplener, Pogachar had no ulterior motive to his larger-than-life message.

“For me, it wasn’t about pushing it and saying, ‘Everybody has to see this. Everybody has to understand this,’” he said. “Not everybody is going to understand it, and that’s OK.”

As for Caplener, she’s no stranger to getting a message across.

A public relations executive for more than 30 years, she said she has worked with big companies like Cisco and Compaq as well as public figures including Patricia Arquette. In 1997 she founded her own company, Be Cause PR, which is dedicated to helping organizations pursue more altruistic goals with their products and messages.

Ceplener is fervent that this isn’t an advertising campaign or a form of self-promotion.

“People are like, ‘Why are you doing this? How are you going to make money with it?’” she said. “But it’s not about that.”

What it is about, she said, is breaking a pattern.

“We are constantly getting these messages making us think we have to do more, that we have to buy more,” Caplener continued. “But I want people to drive by that billboard and just feel good for a second — not think that they have to do or buy something. I am not selling anything.”

Caplener said she was inspired to give back after decades of depression and anxiety and what she called a “traumatic” childhood.

“This is a way for me to heal,” she said, adding that 10% of all donations will go to the Crisis Textline for suicide prevention, an organization for which Caplener is studying to be a volunteer.

“There are a lot of people out there who are going through what I went through and who are feeling helpless and lost.”

And while the idea for the YOU ARE ENOUGH billboard came long before the coronavirus pandemic or the subsequent protests over systemic racism across the U.S., she said its message has never been more important.

“I think the timing is perfect,” Caplener said. “We’re all right now facing a spiritual and mental challenge. The words might not be perfect, but I think if we remember the fact that we’re all together and we’re all enough, we’re going to be OK.”

It’s a message San Diego resident Kerry Martin wished she had gotten in her youth. A three-time suicide survivor, Martin is now a suicide prevention activist and the CEO of the Hope Xchange, a nonprofit which works to help prevent suicide and improving mental health outcomes in high-risk individuals, particularly in the LGBTQ community.

Martin recently recruited Caplener to be a strategic advisor for the Hope Xchange and said she is inspired by her efforts.

“We are all struggling with hopelessness, then here Cathy comes along with this innovative concept,” Martin said. “There is no ulterior motive behind this. Sometimes people just do things because it’s good for other people.”

Martin said she donated to the billboard’s GoFundMe campaign and also bought several YOU ARE ENOUGH wristbands from Caplener to distribute throughout her community.

With suicide rates on the rise in the U.S., she said, the message comes at just the right


“It’s really going to strike people, especially now when they’re thinking all these anxious thoughts,” Martin said. “It’s a complete shift from negativity to positivity. Have you ever seen a billboard like that? I haven’t.”

The first YOU ARE ENOUGH billboards is located between Avenue B and C on Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles, California. To learn more about and contribute to Caplener’s YOU ARE ENOUGH campaign, go here.

[originally reported by Melissa Heckscher, Daily Breeze]

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