Both Statesboro City Council and the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners took action Tuesday to support a local Anti-Bullying Day event in July. Invitations were then sent to the first ladies of the United States and the state of Georgia.
Citizen organizer Jeff Klare appeared before City Council to obtain early backing for the event being planned for 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. July 27 at Mill Creek Regional Park. Mayor Jonathan McCollar confirmed that he has agreed to be perched, and probably drenched, in a dunking booth.
Klare and his wife, Dr. Amy Kitching, chiropractor, owners of Southern Chiropractic and Statesboro Thrives Wellness Center, are lead sponsors for the second annual event. Last year’s, which they also hosted, happened two days after a hurricane, affecting attendance. City officials then suggested scheduling this next event for just before the start of the 2019-20 school year, Klare said in an interview.
“The whole goal is to show the children and young adults that parents and older people, adults, are not the enemy,” he said. “We want to teach them that social media can be used correctly instead of being used to make bullying even worse.”
The council voted unanimous approval for city participation in the event. The county commissioners, who met later the same day, did not have a motion on the agenda but instead presented a proclamation, which Chairman Roy Thompson signed.
In addition to the dunk tank, bounce houses and festival food, the event will feature exhibits and demonstrations by a variety of organizations, such as school anti-bullying clubs, groups that practice self-defense skills and wellness organizations, Klare said. The intended participants are children from first grade up, and also adults, who inevitably set an example, he said.
“What I’ve said to the City Council was kids aren’t born being bullies or racists, they learn that activity from people around them,” Klare added.
Organizers want officers from the Statesboro Police Department and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office to take part to show that “that these men and women are there to help,” and counteract perceptions of law enforcement as a threatening presence, he said.
With the timing as a back-to-school event, organizers also plan to distribute backpacks containing school supplies.
First ladies invited
The suggestion to invite Melania Trump, wife of President Donald Trump, came from Statesboro District 5 Councilman Derek Duke. The first lady, who pledged in 2016 to lead a campaign against online bullying, invited some young bullying victims as guests to the president’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
“Everybody’s excited about the idea,” Duke said at midday Tuesday. “Whether she comes or not, who knows, but it would certainly empower the day, just the fact that she has been invited.”
He then added the suggestion of inviting Marty Kemp, wife of new Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. The city emailed invitations to both Mrs. Kemp and Mrs. Trump, and a quick reply from staff for Kemp suggests that her participation is a real possibility, Duke said Thursday morning.
“She, of course, as the governor of Georgia’s wife, is very interested in what we are doing, and this is all part of a program to win one person at a time,” Duke said. “We’re developing that as a theme for this, one person at a time to do right for themselves, their mom and dad, their network, their church, their school, and that’s the way we make a real difference.”
Mayor McCollar’s name went on the invitations.
“It was Councilman Duke’s idea to invite the two first ladies, and I thought that was a good idea.… ,” McCollar said Wednesday. “If one of the two could show up, that would be great. If both could show up, that will be wonderful.”
He said he is also excited that proceeds from the dunking booth will go to a nonprofit organization of his choice.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.