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Springfield Declares Anti-bullying Weekend

A number of activities to raise funds and awareness to combat bullying will take place this week in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the suicide five years ago of an 11-year- old student focused national attention on bullying in schools.

The Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover Foundation has scheduled a series of events that began Wednesday with a mayoral designation of the second weekend in September as “Anti-Bullying Weekend” in the city of Springfield. 

Alluding to the death five years ago of  Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, who hanged  himself after repeated bullying and torment, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said something positive had come from tragedy.

" It takes a lot of perseverance, intestinal fortitude, brave and courageous."

The foundation, which was created in 2010, has awarded $63,500 in scholarships to 61 high school seniors from across the country who composed essays on how they’ve dealt with bullying.  The foundation has begun a national campaign to encourage mayors to issue anti-bullying proclamations to coincide with the annual start of school.

Foundation board member Sheila King Goodwin said the organization has enjoyed strong local support for its mission to prevent bullying.

" This will live on, so we are excited."

Sirdeaner Walker, whose vocal chords have been weakened as a result of chemotherapy, said she is humbled by the work of the foundation that was set up in her son’s memory.

" The foundation, knowing that Carl wanted to go to college, approached me with the idea of setting up scholarships for students. It encourages young people to be aware of their environments in school and to make their schools a better place."

Walker became a national anti-bullying activist and has has met with President Obama at the White House.  She said it is a tough issue to tackle.

"What we need to do is all work together when an issue is identified. Teachers, administrators ,the parents of the victim and the parents of the bully need to come together on a grassroots level."

The death of Walker’s son Carl, and the bullying-induced suicide of Pheobe Prince galvanized the Massachusetts legislature to pass a law requiring all schools in the state to enforce strict anti-bullying policies.

Events scheduled for this weekend in Springfield include a fundraising road race and walk, a sock  hop, and a promotional day at Six Flags New England.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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