“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
You probably remember the coined phrase from grade school. The one that was created to combat bullies and other mean kids on the playground. Instead of raising fists, kids are supposed to say this and everything should be fixed.
It’s devastating really, the weight that such a small phrase holds. Especially when words and other forms of bullying don’t just hurt and break bones—they end lives.
On Thursday August 11, a 13-year-old Staten Island boy, Daniel Joesph Fitzpatrick, ended his life after facing relentless bullying at school.
Danny was found Thursday evening by his 17-year-old sister, Kristen, the youngest of his three older sisters. He had hung himself in the family’s attic with a belt around his neck.
Before taking his own life, Daniel, who was bullied for his weight, grades and innocence, wrote a letter explaining that nearly no one tried to help him. He pleaded to his school for help, and only one teacher advocated for him.
“I gave up,” the teen wrote. “The teachers…they didn’t do anything.”
He listed the names of boys who tormented him, and one who he got in a fight with, which resulted in Daniel having a fractured pinky.
“My son shouldn’t have to die to be heard,” Daniel’s mom, Maureen Fitzpatrick, said in an interview.
It’s an important message for all of us. Parents, teachers, family and friends, we need to know what bullying looks like.
To anybody out there facing the daily brutality of bullies, you are not alone. You should never have to go through anything like this. Even when it seems impossible, there are ways to get people to listen. We can’t afford to lose another soul to the deadly effects of bullying.
It’s not just sticks and stones. It’s life and death.
A GoFundMe campaign was created by Daniel’s oldest sister, Eileen Fitzpatrick, to raise money for a proper memorial. She wrote:
“On Thursday, August 11, we lost our son, brother and friend, Daniel Joesph Fitzpatrick. At just 13 years old, he took his own life because of the years of bullying took on his otherwise happy, caring and loving spirit.
We want to give Daniel a proper memorial, as well as shine a bright light on the bullying that killed him.
Please, if you can, find it in your heart to help our family lay our beautiful baby boy to rest, and allow for his legacy to live on.”
Danny wasn’t supposed to die. He was 13 years old with his entire life ahead of him. But the GoFundMe campaign has finally given Daniel a voice. The original monetary goal was to raise $10,000 for Danny’s memorial. In only three days, the fund has reached almost $108,000.
But the value of what Daniel Fitzpatrick has to teach us has nothing to do with money. It’s started a conversation, and gotten the attention of people everywhere who are heartbroken over Daniel’s story. Danny’s unfortunate death is a reminder of the awareness that needs to be spread about bullying in all forms.
One mom who read about Daniel wrote:
“A few days ago my husband and I donated, and with us having three boys ourselves, couldn’t imagine the pain, the anger, and the heartbreak that this family must be feeling. So after we donated, we sat our boys down, and we shared this tragic story with them. To hear my teenage sons tell how bad bullying really is in school now, drove my husband and I to tears again and again. And after sharing Danny’s story with them, our boys decided that they wanted to donate all the allowance they had saved up. It broke their hearts, and even though we’re states away, they said that they wished they could have been a friend to him.”
Another donor wrote: “The kids and I talked about Danny Fitzpatrick this morning at breakfast and decided that they are committed to taking a stand against bullying in their schools, because bullying teaches children early in life that disrespecting other people is a way to ‘make themselves feel better because they are making other people feel bad.'”
Overwhelmed by the support and response of complete strangers, Eileen took to the GoFundMe page with this message:
“We had NO idea we would go past our goal and receive so much feedback. With all these responses and support we would love nothing more than to donate to an organization that fights bullying and encourages suicide awareness. We have not chosen any yet, seeing as we are still dealing with preparations for my brother. We have every intention to help other families never go through what we are going through. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us and hearing his story.”