On Oct. 5, Friend Movement founders Elliot London and Ronnie Kroell tightened the laces on their walking shoes and began venturing eastward from Chicago on a 921-mile walk for bullying prevention. Their goal is to reach New York City’s George Washington Bridge on the three-year anniversary of the death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide there in 2010 after being bullied. Along the way they’ve been meeting with leaders in schools and community centers to get a fill for what’s happening around the country to prevent bullying.
"The experience has been eye-opening," says Kroell, male fashion model (Who Wants to Be a Supermodel) and Friend Movement co-founder. "What we've found is that people want to talk about this, but there’s a lot of fear in the community around the subject. There’s a lot of pain. For instance, we comforted a mother in Indiana whose son came home from school one day and told her he didn't want to live anymore." In Napoleon, Ohio, they talked with parents who are using social media to raise bullying awareness. And at Heritage Middle School they met a counselor who focuses on reaching out to bullies, trying to find alternate ways to approach the situation.
"That's why we established the Friend Movement — to turn the tables on bullying, by bringing a pro-friend solution to the table," says Kroell. "Imagine if we all could be better friends to others around us, not to mention to ourselves. Imagine if we could rise up above fear, and stand up against injustice. If we all do our small part, then our communities, schools, homes and offices can become safer places."
Along the way, they've been marking every mile with a purple ribbon, which symbolizes the lives of Clementi and the countless others who have committed suicide because of bullying. Philly got its first purple bow this morning when London and Kroell arrived in town after a late-night walk from King of Prussia. For the next two days, they'll meet with local folks to get a feel for Philly's bullying-prevention climate, and tomorrow they're inviting people to meet them for a ribbon-tying at the Liberty Bell on Wed., Nov. 6 between noon and 3 p.m.
From here they're heading to New York, where, on Nov. 10, they'll join Tyler Clementi's mother and brother at George Washington Bridge for a grand-finale candlelight vigil. Kroell says their intention is to "paint the bridge purple," so they're asking for anyone to donate purple ribbons for the cause. For information on how to give, visit their Indiegogo page here. Interested in joining them on the bridge? Find details on the flyer below: