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Anti-bullying rally informative
Organizers thank community for its support
People listened to inspirational music and jazz by the New Hope Jazz band at Veterans Park on Saturday during the anti-bullying rally.
Booths related to suicide prevention, bullying and other issues impacting children, adult health and welfare were organized by Michelle and Omar Reneau, together with the Porterville Boys and Girls Club, Mothers United Against Gang Violence and many other local clubs and organizations, as well as the Trevor Project, the Suicide Prevention Task Force of Tulare and Kings County and Tulare County Children’s and Adult Mental Health Services located in Porterville.
The rally was held in reaction to the recent suicide of two young girls.
“I wanted to get as many resources together for people to find answers to prevent bullying and suicide. People need to know they have a support system,” Michelle Reneau said.
A mother came up and thanked Reneau, saying that they had been looking for information about bullying.
“We wouldn’t have been able to hold the rally without the help of Youth Pastor Matthew Giffords, and my husband, Omar,” Michelle Reneau said.
Carla Sawyer and Noah Whitaker from the SPTF Task Force said their team provides free training in the community and they have distributed 40,000 HOPE comic books throughout county school systems that discuss the warning signs of depression, hopelessness and anger that can lead to suicide, and ways to help people at risk.
“People have to do what is right for their children,” Mary Martinez, from MUAGV, said. “Anything to do with violence, parents and any adult has to step up and redirect their children from being bullies.”
Christina Agda and Rita Santos of Tulare County Children’s Mental Health Services said they have seen children starting as early as 3 years old. They have parent-child interactive therapy services, and provide anger management classes for youth. They teach love and logic parenting, and can provide individual, family, and group services.
Olivia Carrillo, coordinator of Porterville Boys and Girls Club, and Matthew Keel, club director, contacted a presenter from the Suicide Prevention Team and the Trevor Project that gave presentations at all their clubs and schools in the Porterville Unified and Burton school districts.
Tamara Seymour said she wanted to be a voice for children at the rally and said bullying interferes with their education.
“When children are in fear, or are fearful about what will happen to them when they go to school,” Seymour said. “Bullying damages children’s self-esteem and talking to counselors and being able to go to their parents and express their concerns about bullying will help them.”
Seymour attends New Hope Christian Fellowship where Giffords showed the movie “To Save a Life” at their church on Saturday night. He said the movie dealt with hope and suicide, and what people need to be aware of to prevent it.
Two sisters, Trina Arbello and Brandi Guinn, attended the rally with friends, and said they found help and information to help their younger sister deal with bullying.
“We’ve been able to get a lot of good preventive information. To know what signs to look for, and ways to support her with the bullying she is encountering right now. She is only 18,” said Arbello.
“It is such a vulnerable age. My sister and I are going to follow this through and get our sister the help that she needs, either through the school, the police, or the community, to deal with these bullies.
We are grateful for this event and think there should be more community and parental awareness.”
Council members Brian Ward and Greg Shelton helped break down the booths along with other volunteers.
“Due to the recent losses in our community, I think it is fantastic to see everyone come together and support each other and educate themselves to prevent bullying and learn about suicide prevention,” Ward said. “So hopefully nothing like this will ever happen again. We’d like this to be a continuous type of event at the various festivals in town, to keep the focus on our kids.”
Giffords said that his 7-year-old son had to deal with bullying this year, and that he and his wife often “see the pain and desire just to be loved in these teens. Sometimes someone just letting them know that they are wanted and loved changes everything.
“I think it is very important that we continue to keep suicide prevention and bullying in the news and continue to work together and try and bring hope to our community. Our church is here to support, love, and help bring comfort, too.”