Weekly Feature

2018-10-10 / Front Page

SPAR Self Defense launches anti-bullying project

by ALAN RIZZO Editor

Law enforcement officials, educators, sponsors and politicians were at SPAR Self Defense in Tonawanda Friday morning for the launch of the WNY Anti Bully Project, a region-wide effort aimed at preventing all forms of bullying through education and sharing resources.

Bill Long, owner of SPAR Self Defense and creator of the project, said recent suicides caused by bullying were the impetus for wanting to bring about change, which will come through educating all corners of the community.

“We have experienced some awfully, awfully bad things with young people committing suicide, which is totally unacceptable and we need to do something about it,” he said. “We are going to get the resources and information that’s readily available into the hands, the minds and the hearts of educators, parents, and ultimately our children.”

Long said he plans to do that by creating a digital newspaper that will include contributions from bullying experts, a publication which will be shared with school districts and youth groups in Erie and Niagara counties.

The project will also work to create in-school and after-school enrichment programs that will teach students how to safely respond to bullying, and actively seek out the most current information on bullying prevention to share with educators, students and parents.

“How do you identify if your kid is being bullied? He may not tell you. What do you do if you suspect that your kid is a bully? How do you deal with that, and if you do have an incident, how do you report that to the authorities,” Long asked. “There are procedures involved, there’s a proper way to do it. And we’re going to make all that information and those resources available.”

Long said he also plans to schedule monthly seminars, and is working to create a scholarship program so that students who can’t afford self defense classes can take them at SPAR and other self defense schools, and reap benefits such as increased courage and academic improvement.

One student who has already benefited from SPAR’s classes is Kenmore West High School junior Racquel Tornambe, who attended the project’s launch event to share her thoughts and demonstrate her self defense skills with her sister, Victoria. Racquel said after she was cyberbullied and physically attacked approximately two years ago by a group of girls in front of Kenmore West, she chose to take self defense classes, and it changed her life. Now she wants to share that transformational experience with others.

“I have more self confidence, I feel great about myself, I’m mentally healthy, physically healthy, and now I get the chance to share that with the children that I teach,” she said. “It’s just a great thing to see them growing and changing and improving in their skills, and it makes me feel great that I can help, because I would hate to see anything that happened to me happen to anyone else.”

Friday’s launch event was attended by state Sen. Chris Jacobs, Erie County Legislator Ed Rath, representatives from project sponsors Lake Shore Savings Bank and the Fuccillo Automotive Group, law enforcement officials from the City of Tonawanda and Town of Tonawanda police departments, as well as local elected officials, educators, and other members of the community.

Rath read a proclamation in which the Erie County Legislature declared October “an- ti-bullying prevention month,” acknowledged Long’s project, and encouraged residents to “join the fight to prevent all forms of bullying.”

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