Yesterday, GLAAD hosted a nationwide campaign called #SpiritDay, where it asked people to “go purple” as way to stand up against bullying and to show support for LGBT youth. Millions took part, including a nice spattering of folks right here in Philly. Locally, we had everyone from politicians to community leaders to entire kickball teams donning purple for the cause. I round up some of the ones who crossed my radar below:
Set your DVRs. Arcadia University sophomore and Bucks County native Joey Kemmerling will share his experience being bullied for being gay tonight on the USA Network documentary NFL Characters Unite. The show couples National Football League players with young victims of bullying so that they can share their story of overcoming discrimination. Kemmerling will be paired with New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
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.
In April, I wrote a story about a father in Oregon, Joe Bell, 48, who set out on a cross-country trek to memorialize his teen son Jadin who had committed suicide after being bullied at school for being gay. The walk would take him 5,000 miles, from his home state all the way to the Delaware coastline. Along the way he stopped to lead lectures for his organization, Walk for Change, a group that stressed the importance of anti-bullying efforts in schools and communities. Unfortunately, he only made it as far as Colorado, where tragedy struck him there this week.
Karen Andresen started her Change.org after leaders in Boy Scout Troop 212 in San Francisco told her son Ryan that he’d be refused the rank of Eagle Scout after he came out as gay in an effort to address bullying. Ryan had completed all of his requirements to become an Eagle Scout, says his mom, even completing a capstone project at a local middle school where he helped construct a “Tolerance Wall.” But he was told last week by his troop leader that because of his sexual orientation, he would be denied his Eagle Scout award. The news came just a few days before Ryan turned 18.
“It breaks my heart to watch Ryan suffer for being who he is, because to me, he’s perfect,” says Karen. “Ryan has worked for nearly 12 years to become an Eagle Scout, and nothing would make him more proud than earning this well-deserved distinction. I can’t believe the leaders in Ryan’s Boy Scout troop would punish him like this, especially after all Ryan has done to serve his community and to combat bullying.”