Tennis star Madison Keys empowers young girls through anti-bullying campaign

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - When Rebekah Pace learned Madison Keys was also bullied, she felt a connection.

"I've been bullied an awful lot because sometimes I'm in and out of my wheelchair," Pace explains.

The Bettendorf middle schooler, though in a wheelchair, plays adaptive tennis.

"I'm happy doing it and playing with all my friends," she says. "I'm really competitive against them."

Pace, along with dozens of other girls from area schools, attended the FearlesslyGirl event at Augustana College as part of a nationwide assembly to kick-start the campaign in the United States.

Keys shared her own experience with cyber bullying, mostly on Twitter and Instagram platforms following her matches.

"For the longest time, I would just stay silent about it, not doing anything or say anything," says Keys. "It felt like there were no steps forward."

Keys wants to spread the FearlesslyGirl movement across the country, but found it was important to start it here where she has roots.

"This is kind of where everything started for me so there was really no place to start something else that means so much to me," she adds.

As for her tennis goals, Keys is planning to head to Australia to compete at the end of this year.

She explains her exceeded her expectations from last year through her success in the U.S. Open.

"I played almost every match on Arthur Ashe so that was kind of a big jump for me," she recalls. "But it was amazing and every single moment on that was incredible in it's own way."

Keys knows the Quad Cities community has been watching her success along the way and acknowledges the encouragement she's gotten both on and off the court.

"No matter what I've done or how far I've gone, I've always had this amazing support from home," Keys says.