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Super Heroes Rock at Fallsburg Central School District
Sweethearts & Heroes presented their anti-bullying program to over a million school children during the past eight years. Thanks to the generosity of Phil Vallone and Rolling V Bus Company, FCSD received the full presentation. Presenters Tom Murphy was a champion on the Mixed Martial Arts circuit; Rick Yarosh was an Army Sergeant and Wounded Warrior in Iraq.

Bullying is mean and scary behavior done over and over again against smaller and weaker people. In the 1500’s bully meant “sweetheart’ or serving to make someone a better person. In less than a century, it took on the modern meaning; and now America suffers from a bullying epidemic. Sweethearts & Heroes demonstrates what schools and communities can do to eradicate bullying behaviors.

In two full days and one evening, grades K-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, staff from both buildings, and parents participated in age appropriate programs. Everyone hears the impact of bullying on peer groups, positive ways to confront the behavior of bullies and how to empower bystanders. Tom and Rick teach the Five Bully Buttons: #1 Perspective; #2 H.O.P.E.; #3 Sweethearts: #4 Jump into Action: and #5 Heroes.

Social alienation and isolation creates bullying. 58% of Americans believe kids deserve to be bullied! Every school day 170,000 kids are “sick” and many of them are afraid at school. Eighty percent of bullying happens in front of bystanders. Most dramatically, intones Murphy, “A half million to one million young people will consider suicide this year. The main reason is hopelessness. These kids can be bullies or victims. Why have 10 to 14 year olds reached this level of despair and what can we do?”

Rick Yarosh shares his story of hope. In 2006, his tank in Iraq ran over an IED. The ensuing explosion and fire caused Rick the loss of the bottom part of his right leg, loss of his ears and most of his nose, and scar tissue on his face and most of his body. He lost hope only for a brief moment when saw himself dying in the intense flames. But he continued to roll on the ground outside the burning tank until he doused the flames. He endured many months of surgeries, setting of a prosthetic lower right leg, and more months of rehabilitation.

Once he was able to leave a hospital, it was an effort for him to venture out in public because of his appearance. In a restaurant a five year old girl saw Rick and asked her grandfather about him. He suggested she go say hello to him. She walked towards Rick, and he said, “Hey.” She hurried back to her grandfather and said, “He’s really nice.” Three words changed Rick’s life forever. He told the children in the audience, “You may not recognize it yet, but you possess the H.O.P.E. that many seek. You can save or change a life. You can create an environment of HOPE—hold on, possibilities exist.”

Like a 16th century Sweetheart that girl awakened Rick’s innate hopefulness. Sweethearts in our lives push us to be better as Rick and Tom acknowledged in their own lives.

In role playing with students, Murphy reveals their inner Sweethearts, how to jump into action, and how to transform into Heroes. He shows them how to intervene with a bully, how to take the victim away to safety, how to befriend the victim as a buddy or how to call for help immediately to end the bullying.

Students see that are empowered to take a stand—not just stand by! Murphy quotes Albert Einstein: “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” Murphy looks intently at the faces of the children and says: “You are willing to do what others are not willing to do. Kids are going to solve the problems of other kids. You are the true Sweethearts and Heroes.”

This program can go a long way to help change the climate in a school building. Ask those from the Fallsburg community that witnessed Tom Murphy and Rick Yarosh. Tom and Rick showed that Sweethearts and heroes can and do exist in real life.