I AM SOMEBODY: A Message of HOPE
Be nice. Most of us have heard it time and again, whether at playgrounds, in classrooms, cafeterias, you name it. No matter, how simple it sounds, so many of us have experienced bullying in some manner.
But whether you were the victim, an innocent bystander, or the bully, perhaps this story will convince you to take a stand.
Ty Smalley was 11 years old. He grew up in the small town of Perkins, Oklahoma, just 15 minutes outside of Oklahoma State University. Small for his age, like so many of us, Ty became a victim of harsh bullying. After years of torment, Ty couldn’t take it any longer.
On May 13, 2010, Ty was provoked into a fight at school. He was suspended for 3 days and sent home early. Left alone because his both his parents had to work, Ty Smalley took his own life.
After hearing of Ty’s tragic story, a group of local high school students banded together as part of the Oklahoma State University Upward Bound program, to bring a stop to bullying in their respective schools. Their initiative “Stand for the Silent” swiftly took hold. In just over three months, a moment of silence was held on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capitol and similar ceremonies were held simultaneously in 20 other states and six other countries across the globe.
Ty’s parents, Kirk and Laura Smalley, joined the movement and soon assumed leadership of the program. They began traveling to school after school, taking Ty’s story with them wherever they went. After visiting almost 700,000 students in the U.S. and abroad, their story finally came to Yankee Stadium.
On Friday, July 12, 2013, the final day of the Yankees HOPE Week, Ty’s father Kirk Smalley spoke to an audience of 500 kids and adults in the Great Hall of Yankee Stadium (pictured above). On stage sat Yankees General Partner/Vice Chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, Senior Vice President/General Manager Brian Cashman, and Yankees players Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Travis Hafner, Boone Logan, Lyle Overbay and Austin Romine. Next to them were five chairs, occupied by five photographs of others who suffered the same fate as Ty.
Before he began, Kirk showed the kids the symbol for love in sign language. As he told the heartbreaking story of his son’s death, Kirk and others were overcome by emotion. They would get through it together by raising their hands in the sign for love. As one particular child began to shed tears, Kirk offered him a gentle touch and some warming words.
At the end of the presentation, the Yankees joined their voices to the chorus of 500 kids as they took the pledge to "Stand for the Silent”, ending with the words 'I AM SOMEBODY'.
What does that mean? Kirk believes everyone deserves a right be who they are. Everyone has a place in this world, no matter how different they may be. So as HOPE Week comes to an end, remember you may only be one person, but you are SOMEBODY. So even if you can’t do everything…do something.