Area Basketball Players Look To Fight Bullying

By Ryan Butler

The Riverview Hurricanes travel basketball team has strived for excellence on and off the court.  Frequently involved in service projects across the region, players and coaches are taking another step to better the community, this time by hosting “Riverview Hurricanes vs. Bullying”.

As part of an initiative to curb bullying, the Riverview Hurricanes will host an anti-bullying event at the AMC 20 Movie Theater in Brandon on March 23 beginning at 10 a.m. Hurricanes players and coaches are reaching out to area leaders, including police officers, military personnel, school officials and concerned citizens to attend the event.

“My approach is looking at teachers, principals, armed forces, police officers. When they put on their uniform they have to serve the community,” Hurricanes head coach, Fred Spencer, said. “Why, as athletes, should we be any different?”

The event will feature a showing of “Bully”, a critically-acclaimed 2011 documentary about bulling in United States schools. Spencer said several of his players were in tears after watching the “powerful” documentary.

Former Superintendent of Schools, Earl Lennard, will also speak at the event and Hurricanes’ players will show their own anti-bulling campaign documentary.

Coordinated by Spencer, the event will look to equip community members to “R.E.A.C.H.”- an anagram standing for React, Equip, Accept, Challenge and Hope- as a way to combat bullying. The anagram goes along with a broader message to encourage students that “I Am Who I Am”, a self-esteem-building mantra to empower bullying victims.

Spencer said managers at the theater were quick to support the event, allowing the team to use a 150-seat theater free of charge. The Hurricanes, a 501c non-profit organization, are also hoping to use the event to drum up financial support and awareness for its charitable outreaches.

Even before the event, Hurricanes’ players have been reaching out to bullied students in the community. With athletes from nearly every high school in eastern Hillsborough County, including Brandon, in the program, Spencer has encouraged his players to step into leadership roles at their respective schools and to help bullied students. The idea behind the program is for athletes, as some of the school’s most admired and respected students, to lead a trickle down of support to the rest of the student body.

For more information about the Hurricanes or the upcoming event, please visit riverviewhurricanes.org.