Bullying isn’t a new problem. It has been an issue for years. It does feel though as if it has increased dramatically. Too often we read stories of kids who are bullied so relentlessly that suicide becomes the end result.
I know two kids who have been bullied relentlessly. One child left school last year. His suicide attempt was unsuccessful. The other one speaks openly about it among his friends but doesn’t have any hope of the bullies facing consequences.
There is always talk after these incidents, people saying, “we have to do better.”
This past weekend two local moms showed us what “we have to do better” means. They have worked tirelessly over the past few months, first creating an anti-bullying group on FB where people could get together and share stories, seek comfort, and offer comfort.
In this group they gathered support and volunteers from the community and planned an event to help increase awareness and find solutions. In the process they brought the community together and empowered victims.
Social media is filled with inspirational memes about creating positive change in the world. Kim Garcia and Kathleen O’Connor were examples of being that change.
Kim’s nephew, Kyle Benson, was one of the speakers at this event. He shared his story. He has Tourette Syndrome and was bullied relentlessly. Yet this kid stood on a stage in front of a group of strangers and gave a part of himself and, through sharing his story and then performing a song, empowered himself and also showed other victims that they are not in this alone.
There was a bounce house and face painting for kids but also support services for families. Just a few out of a very long list were Project Hope, YES Community Counseling Center, Long Island Crisis Center and Tourette Syndrome Association.
Legislator Michael Venditto, Assemblyman Joseph Saladino, Councilman Joseph Pinto, Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr. and School Board Member Tim Taylor were just a few of the elected officials that came to offer support as well.
It was a gathering of the community in the greatest sense. The stories in the news are going to continue and that is unfortunate. There are stories that don’t make the news. Every day there are kids who are afraid to go to school. Every day there are kids who are tormented in school. More unfortunate is that there will be more suicides. We have to do better.
We can only do better by working as a community. We saw that this past weekend through the hard work of two local moms and a vast group of volunteers all hoping that there will be a day that events like this are no longer necessary. Sometimes people deserve a public "rah rah" This one is for Kim Garcia and Kathleen O'Connor.