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Knoxville Focus for October 14, 2013

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A father takes a stand

By Tasha Mahurin

Tasha@knoxfocus.com

Just over three years ago, Kirk Smalley was a construction worker living in Perkins, Oklahoma. His wife, Laura, worked in the cafeteria at a local school. Things weren’t perfect; they faced challenges common to any middle-class family living in rural America. But, life was good- that relatively quiet life was shattered when their 11-year-old son, Ty, took his own life.

Smalley describes Ty as a big-hearted boy who always had a smile for everyone. He loved to hunt and help others. He was also small for his age and was bullied relentlessly at school. The Smalleys repeatedly reached out to school administration and filed complaints, however, the problem never ceased.

Eventually, Ty retaliated against the child who had emotionally and psychologically tortured him for two years, and he was suspended for it. That afternoon, on May 17, 2010, Ty went home and shot himself in his parent’s bedroom.

While in the midst of paralyzing grief and agonizing despair, Kirk Smalley knew something had to be done. Since that day, as leaders of the Oklahoma-based Stand for the Silent organization, Kirk, and wife, Laura, have become internationally recognized anti-bullying activists- traveling to the furthest corners of the globe to spread their message.

“We’re trying to keep another family from going through the nightmare that we live every day after we lost our baby to bullying,” Kirk Smalley told The Focus.

Although he and Laura have been invited to receptions that include Harvard and the White House, Smalley (dressed in jeans, cowboy boots, and baseball cap) maintains he is just a construction worker not a public speaker.

“I lost my job because I was constantly out speaking to kids, doing what I can to put an end to this epidemic,” he said.

His message is real and raw, and, as is evident by a speaking itinerary booked through 2015, it resonates with his audience. The caveat is profound and simple- “this has to stop”- and it comes straight from the broken heart of an impassioned father.

Although to date, the Smalleys have visited over 752 schools and spoken to more than 760,000 kids, they do not charge speaking fees. Donations range from gas money to a couple thousand dollars.

“We try to get local Stand for the Silent Chapters started in the schools and communities we’re invited to visit,” he explained. “Laura and I are here to do what we can to help in any way we can.”

The Smalleys were in Knoxville last week to do just that. To date there are over 475 chapters of the organization spread across the globe.

Traveling with the Smalley’s to Knoxville last week was aspiring singer-song writer Morgan Frazier who wrote a song entitled “Hey Bully.” For Morgan, the issue is deeply personal.

“When I was in middle school, I had warts all over my face,” the strikingly beautiful, 20 year-old told The Focus. “I was picked on constantly. There were three girls who made my life so miserable that my mom took me out of school.”

Frazier sat down years later with a group of girlfriends, and one by one they began to tell their stories.

“We cried, we shared, and then we sat down and wrote this song,” she explained.

Frazier reached out to the Smalleys and the Stand for the Silent organization and now travels and performs with them. She, along with the Smalleys, is committed to ending bullying and the nightmare it is for thousands of children universally.

“It’s past time for this to stop,” Kirk Smalley finished.

For more information visit www.standforthesilent.org. “Hey Bully” is available for download on iTunes.

 

 

 

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