SPRING HILL - Anti-bullying advocates and the local liaison to national watch-dog organization, Bully Police USA, will hold a 3K walk-run fundraiser in October to offer financial assistance to families in need, and to help establish a scholarship fund in West Hernando Middle School student Miguel Rodriguez's name.
Rodriguez was 12 when he took his life this winter, and his death followed separate documented instances of physical violence involving him being kicked in the head and groin, warranting visits to the school's clinic, as well as teasing about his height.
Documented requests for Rodriguez to transfer schools due to "constant bullying" were also disapproved by the superintendent's office and director of student services about one year prior to his death, citing "overcrowding of schools" as the reason.
The district maintains no incidents of bullying exist regarding Rodriguez, although any written or oral reporting of an act of bullying or harassment shall be considered an official means of reporting such acts, according to school board policy.
According to Bully Police USA Florida Liaison, Robyn Hartman, the 3K walk-run fundraiser called "Take a Stand, Lend a Hand" will be held Oct. 19 at Anderson Snow Park, and organizers are asking $15 per person and $25 per family.
"We're still looking for vendors, but we're asking vendors to be there by 7 and 7:30 a.m. to set up their tents," Hartman said. "People that will participate in the walk, we need them there between 7:30 and 8 a.m. to register, and get situated."
The 3K event begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., Hartman said. Hartman also said she's been working with Miguel's mother to organize the event, who created a Facebook page called "Miguel's Challenge" in his memory, challenging visitors to apply the acts of kindness posted on the account's wall to their own lives.
"However long it takes for someone to walk that two miles: go for it," Hartman said. "I know we're going to have a DJ. Hopefully we'll have a face painter there, and the kids can wear their costumes and have a costume contest. All the proceeds that are donated do stay here in the state, and some will be donated to 'Miguel's Challenge,' because (Rodriguez's mother) does want to start a scholarship fund in Miguel's name, and the rest of the proceeds will be kept here in Florida if somebody needs help with something, and can't afford it: if we have the funds we're going to help them."
As of Friday morning 57 people have already pledged to attend the fall fundraiser via social media, Hartman said.
"Word has been spreading pretty quick through the grapevine on Facebook," Hartman said. "(The fundraiser) is for kids that have been bullied and terrorized at school. They can go and have fun and not worry about what's going to happen next at school, and it's to give them a chance to relax and unwind."
Anyone interested in providing donations or gift certificates for raffle at the event, or wish to be a vendor are asked to call Hartman's cell phone at (352) 238-4525. Hartman said she will email interested donors a hyperlink to a donation page, and the same for vendor registration.
According to Florida's "Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act," bullying means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students, and may involve: teasing, social exclusion, threat, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, theft, sexual or racial harassment, public humiliation or destruction of property.
Bullying reports must be filed with Hernando County Schools within 30 days of the last alleged incident, according to school board policy, otherwise the complaint could be deemed abandoned.