By Tamas Mondovics
Newsome High School PTSA and SGA, along with local Parent Teacher Associations, were pleased to join forces in order to bring the community what they consider an important and ever urgent message of “End Bullying.”
For the second time in as many years, Kirk Smalley, a sheet-metal worker from Still Water, Okla., spoke to students and parents last month about school-bullying as he shared his heart-wrenching experience of losing his 11-year-old son, Ty, to suicide.
“1,680 days ago, I left for work at 4:30 in the morning,” Kirk began his nearly 90 minute speech, as students listened to the emotionally charged recount of the events that left up to May 13, 2010, the day Ty, a naturally happy, energetic young boy, took his own life after being bullied. “Kids had been picking on him for two years, but that day Ty had enough. He retaliated against the bully and was suspended. At home, he was supposed to do his chores, but instead at 2:30 that afternoon, my baby took his own life to escape the years of constant bullying at school.”
From the anguish following the death of their own son, Kirk and his wife, Laura, founded Stand For The Silent (SFTS) with the purpose of preventing any further bullying-induced loss of life.
“Our mission is simple: End Bullying. Save Lives,” he said.
Stand For The Silent was founded in 2010, as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Just within the past two years, the Smalley’s message has reached almost 2 million students in 1,000 schools across the country, while it continues to reach many more around the world.
During the three meetings held inside the Newsome High School auditorium in Lithia, Kirk has reached more than 2,700 students, including those invited from Randall Middle as well as from Bevis and FishHawk Creek Elementary.
The statistics included a 6-year-old boy from England being the youngest child on record who killed himself due to being bullied at school, and one out-of-four children not only think about suicide but actually have a plan.
As in the past, Kirk drew attention to the solution, which came down to three simple words.
“You are somebody,” he repeatedly called out to those present, followed by the words “You are people, you are people we love, and if you are going to be part of a statistic, than be among those who stand up for the silent and stop bullying.”
Kirk emphasized that within the last seven years more than 55,000 children have taken their own lives because of bullying.
“It’s not five,” he said, while pointing to the photos of five children on the stage. “It’s 55,000 lives lost and families ruined.”
Hoping to appeal to those that may wonder about what they could possibly do to help, Smalley said, “Don’t ask me what you should do, but use your imaginations as the thousands of young people around the country that have already stood up and joined the fight.”
As a special recognition of what Stand For The Silent does for all the lives that it touches, Newsome High School PTSA President and Honorary Mayor of Brandon, Liz Brewer presented Kirk with a proclamation of December 18, 2014, as Stand for the Silent Day.
Brewer pointed out that to foster a local connection to STFS, event organizers also invited Donna Witsell of Warriors for Hope Thrift store located in Riverview.
“Donna lost her daughter to suicide due to bullying,” Brewer said, adding that she has turned her pain into helping those around her.
Kirk summed up the campaign and his fight against bullying while looking at his son’s photo he said, “You see, I promised my boy that I will fight against bullying and, I won’t break my promise.”
For more information about SFTS and how to get involved, visit www.standforthesilent.org.