Students throughout Canajoharie Middle School donned capes and masks and stood up for what was right in the gathering place on Monday.
They stood up to play-acting bullies and conquered fears with self-confidence with the help of Tom Murphy, Rick Yarosh, and Amos (Yarosh’s black labrador assistant) from the Sweethearts and Heroes motivational speaking program.
The speaking duo and four-legged assistant are part of a group that brings a message to students around the country about the impact bullying has on schools, neighborhoods, and individuals. On Monday, they spoke about bullying and the ABC’s of stopping it.
“Through knowledge and communication, we are committed to bringing our message to communities — not only to help the victims but especially to empower bystanders to make a difference,” the group’s website sweetheartsandheroes.com says. “We all have the potential to be someone’s hero. The message is so universal that it can help create climates of empathy, kindness, and leadership in all settings.”
Murphy, who graduated from Cooperstown High School, was an academic and athletic star at the State University of New York at Brockport. With a variety of professional interests – he is a railroad control specialist, martial artist, and restaurateur – he brought passion and comedy along with his message of heroes having empathy and compassion for others.
Yarosh, who was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2006, delivered his own message about sweethearts giving him self-confidence and how Fort Plain students can do that for each other. He told a story about a five-year-old girl accepting him even though he looks different due to his injuries.
“Sweethearts like her are unforgettable. A five-year-old girl changed a 24-year old guy’s life,” he said. “You can do that too. You can do that every day. You can help make another person’s life better.”