By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — It is a story that has been told time and time again — one of a young student being bullied and ridiculed at school and feeling like there is no way out.
For Rita Walton, now is the time to stand up and say there is a way out and there is support for those affected.
“I just saw so many of these kids that felt like they had no way out,” Walton said. “I wanted to do something to create awareness to show them that they can talk to someone.”
Walton’s drive to raise that awareness has come in the form of the first Anti-Bullying Glow Walk, that will be Friday from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the Eagle Point Park Lodge in Clinton.
The theme is to “glow up the park,” bringing hope and support to kids affected by bullying and suicide.
“It’s a cause that so many people believe in. (They) have been affected by it so much, that I think they really need this,” Walton said.
Although the idea came in to existence by Walton, she said without the support from her friends, local business and the community as a whole, she never could have done it.
“The community has been amazing,” Walton said. “I haven’t even needed to ask for anything, they have just been flooding me with support.”
Some of that support has come in the form of donations, like the 500 hotdogs and buns from Maid Rite; a recliner for the silent auction from Slumberland Furnature; and a grill and volunteer to cook from HyVee.
Therapists from Bridgview Community Mental Health Center will donate their time to speak with kids and community members at the glow walk about the importance of understanding mental health.
One particular speaker, David Sievers, feels the glow walk delivers an important message to people and is glad he could get involved.
“Awareness for bullying is such a hot issue right now,” Sievers said. “I want to get the message out there that we need to care for one another and start doing a better job of (that).”
Bridgeview’s continued effort in anti-bullying in schools is one reason why Walton actively sought out its support for the walk and her ensuing decision to donate all the proceeds to their school-based services.
The center currently offers counseling to students in every public school district in Clinton County, sending therapists to talk to students who feel they have no one else.
Jocelyn Meyer, a youth educator at Bridgeview, leads those efforts and is thankful for what Walton and others like her are doing.
“The glow walk is donating all of the money they raise to to offset costs of bullying prevention and suicide prevention,” Meyer said. “Their support helps to keep these school-based services functioning.”
Although there is no direct connection between bullying and suicide, Meyer and Sievers both recognize that bullying does cause issues of self-esteem and feeds into the overall mental health of a person.
“We cannot say that bullying causes suicide because it is just not (medically) supported,” Meyer said. “But I can say that 90 percent of suicide victims had a mental illness at the time of their suicide.”
Which is one of the reasons why Walton and her team have organized the glow walk: To raise awareness for an issue that too many young people suffer from.
“I just want to make a difference,” Walton said. “This is to help our kids, in our community.”