Students, educators, business owners, and community leaders came out in large numbers to rally for bully-free communities on October 3, in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. While the weather forecast, for the first time in six years, worked against an outdoor event, the Community Foundation and its Council of Business Partners are incredibly thankful that the rally site could move from EMPOWER Leadership Sports Center’s outdoor facility in Middletown to Sports on 66 in East Haddam.
The sixth annual Rally for Bully-Free Communities included team building activities, guest speakers, pledge taking, and the presentation of the Bully-Free Community Spotlight Award before a crowd of more than 400 people.
In attendance were educators and students in grades 5 through 12 from schools in Clinton, Chester, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Middletown, Durham, Middlefield, East Hampton, Portland, North Haven, and Cheshire. School bus transportation was funded by the CFMC Council of Business Partners. The morning program kicked off with a marching performance by the Middletown Police Benefit Association Pipes and Drums corp and included team-building and self-empowering activities led by the staff at EMPOWER Leadership Sports; Rushford; First Tee of Connecticut; and volunteers from Xavier High School, Mercy High School, Haddam-Killingworth High School, North Haven Middle School, Rushford Academy, the CT Youth Excellence Project, and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.
Liam Knapp, a CT Youth Excellence Project program participant, spoke about how he overcame a difficult home life and was able to develop self-confidence and positive life skills. Dave Director, Chairman of the CFMC Council of Business Partners and owner of CT Lighting Centers then presented the Bully-Free Communities Spotlight Award to the CT Youth Excellence Project, and its founder Damion Grasso, in recognition of the volunteer-run organization’s efforts to empower teen boys who have faced significant life challenges to build resilience, navigate life obstacles, and emerge as young adults committed to bettering society. The CT Youth Excellence Project partners with several non-profit organizations to offer a series of adventure and leadership challenges for boys age 13-16 who live in Connecticut and are facing adversity. During the year, the boys establish strong, healthy, and lasting relationships with positive adults and peers. These connections serve to provide a valuable resource as the boys attain personal goals and find direction.
Sportscaster and former NBA/UCONN Basketball star Donny Marshall, the campaign’s spokesperson, shared his personal experiences as a victim of bullying, wrapping up the day’s events by joining event emcee and campaign ambassador Renee DiNino in leading the group reciting of the campaign pledge, with each individual promising to be an agent of change and to stand up to mean-spirited behavior.
Check out all the fun in the Rally Photo Gallery!
For more information on the Campaign for Bully-Free Communities, call the Community Foundation of Middlesex County at 860-347-0025.