A heated boys' basketball rivalry played out on the floor of the Taconic High School gymnasium in Pittsfield, Mass., on Monday night. But off the court, a group of four Taconic students diligently encouraged fans of both teams to sign a pledge against bullying via the national "Stand Together" campaign, which has ties to the state.
According to iBerkshires.com, Makenzie Astore, Alex Carusotto, Quinton Cookis and Kirsten McNeice - all members of Taconic High's Business Professionals of America chapter - took on the project as a service-learning initiative and at one point during the game asked all participants to stand with their downloadable pledge numbers in hand.
The Stand Together effort was created in memory of 11-year-old Carl Walker, a severely bullied boy from Springfield, Mass., who committed suicide in 2009. The story caught the attention of Ty Pennington, host of the recently canceled ABC-TV series "Extreme Home Makeover," which together with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network developed the "Stand Together" online campaign to register commitments from individuals pledging to discourage bullying. Pennington and his co-stars made their pitch in an episode that aired Dec. 2 and featured the Walker family. (Carl took his own life on the third floor of the Walker home, which prompted his single mother and other family members to request the assistance of the show in building them a new home free of macabre memories.)
With a goal of registering one million people, the web site keeps a running tab on the number of pledges and provides people the opportunity to upload a photo of themselves showing their support for the cause. As of Tuesday afternoon, almost 165,000 individuals have stood up against bullying, including celebrities and professional athletes.
The simple pledge reads:
I pledge toâ¦ 1. Refrain from bullying of any kind, for any reason.2. Treat others with respect.3. Intervene, if I safely can. Or tell someone who can.4. Encourage others to Stand Together against bullying.
Every registrant is given a number that can be downloaded, printed and posed with when submitting photos of pledgers to the Stand Together website. The event at Taconic, which can easily be duplicated at any high school or youth sports event, was filmed. But footage has not yet been made public, nor has final word on how many fans made the pledge.