The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 24, 2011

Standing for the silent: Father of dead teen speaks at Enid Pride 2011

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — The crowd of people who came to hear Kirk Smalley speak at Enid’s Meadowlake Park Saturday listened in rapt silence.

Not a word was spoken during the half hour the Perkins father spoke about the suicide of his 11-year-old son, Ty, and his mission to stop bullying — but several listeners cried during his talk.

“I knew within 7 days after my baby took his own life — it was Father’s Day — I knew that I would stop bullying in my world,” Smalley said. “If you’d told me 500 days ago that my boy would take his own life, I’d have called you a liar.”

His organization, Stand For the Silent, creates awareness of the human cost of bullying. Smalley visits schools, churches and civic groups spreading the word that bullying must be stopped. He’s even taken that message to the White House.

It’s possible to change what’s happening in the schools, Smalley said. Smalley is scheduled to speak at 104 schools between now and Dec. 20.

“That’s become my message. It’s become my mission,” Smalley said.

It’s something Smalley told his listeners he simply had to do.

“My mother told me, you’ve got three kinds of people in this world,” Smalley said. “Those who wish for something to happen, those who make things happen and those who sit around and wonder what just happened. Which one are you going to be?”

Smalley’s appearance was part of the Enid Pride 2011 observation.

Hosted by the Enid LGBT Coalition, the event was sanctioned by the It Gets Better Project.

Videographer Jeff Hoopingarner, owner of Raptor Media Group, was on hand to record videos.

“The reason I’m doing it is, I hope it will save a life somewhere,” Hoopingarner said.

The It Gets Better Project, launched in 2010 by syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage after he heard about the suicides of two young men who had faced bullying and harassment, focuses on recording videos to show LGBT youth the level of happiness their lives will reach.

But the movement is not directed only at LGBT teens, but at all teens.

The videos recorded during Enid Pride 2011 will be uploaded to YouTube as part of the It Gets Better Project.