THERE was a time when bullying meant Katelyn Hickey dreaded going to school. 

But now the 18-year-old has achieved the confidence to sing at the Freedom Festival, an event to raise money for Reach Out.

From Grade 5 to high school, Katelyn experienced insulting name calling and online bullying.

It was intimidating and upsetting for the enthusiastic student.

But today, the mature young woman says she can draw positives out of the whole ordeal.

"What happened in primary school led me to become a stronger person and I became more mature," she said.

"As I got older I knew how to handle it."

In Grade 8 she made friends who accepted her for who she was.

"It was great. I felt special, like I was important to someone. There's not many people out there who make friends that actually make a real difference to their life," she said.

"I don't know how, but from (being bullied) I became a bubbly and happy person.

REACHING OUT: Katelyn Hickey will perform at the Freedom Festival, an event to raise money for Reach Out.
REACHING OUT: Katelyn Hickey will perform at the Freedom Festival, an event to raise money for Reach Out. Paul Braven

"I don't know how, but I know that it can happen. You've just got to remember to hold your head high, and be the person you are and don't let anyone put you down," she said.

Although she is nervous, Katelyn is looking forward to sharing her love of country music with the Gladstone community when she sings at the Freedom Festival next month.

She will sing nine songs, varying from Leanne Rimes to Lindsey Haun.

Katelyn said she had been singing for as long as she could remember.

"I think it's amazing what they're (organisers of Freedom Festival) doing. I wanted to volunteer in any way I could … being part of this cause makes me feel like I'm doing something good for the community," she said.

Reach Out is an online support network for children and adults who are battling tough times from bullying to depression.

The Freedom Festival will be held at the Gladstone Showgrounds on March 21.

It will feature a meet and greet with Home and Away stars Philippa Northeast, George Mason and Andrew Morely, and The Bogan Hunters, plus more than 100 market stalls, competitions and live music.

For more information visit freedomfestivalgladstone.com.



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