In an effort to bring the community together and raise awareness about the importance of treating others with kindness and respect, the “Hit the Trails Against Bullying” walk will take place on Sunday, Oct. 4, at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center and Welwyn Preserve, at 100 Crescent Beach Rd.
The event is being organized by the Bully Proof Project, the Glen Cove Youth Bureau,the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County and the Robert Finley Middle School PTA, with other sponsors committed to the cause.
“The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center seemed like the perfect place to hold this inaugural event,” said Maria Rivera Hlatky, Teresa Leotta and Coleen Spinello. Together they started the BullyProof Project.
Hlatky said they met with Tracy Garrison-Feinberg, director of the center’s Claire Friedlander Education Institute, and HMTC came on board as a sponsor and organizer of the event, as the center has programs about teaching tolerance and gives out the Friedlander Upstander Award annually to students who demonstrate their commitment to standing up for the rights of others.
The Bully Proof Project is a community based anti-bullying committee that was started as a way to raise awareness about bullying and to help improve the lives of children. The goal is to let children know that adults and other kids are helping to watch out for them. When Hlatky and Leotta realized the negative impact bullying was having on their own daughters, they felt they needed to do something to stop it.
“Middle school is tough,” said Leotta. “But, it starts even earlier.”
In the six months since this project was started, they both said they noticed a difference in the confidence levels of their daughters and how the motto “be a buddy, not a bully” is helping to unite them with others who have experienced bullying.
“Each of our kids has their own personal story about bullying that has been with them and is still with them,” said Hlatky. “I have been working hard to fight this for years.”
The Bully Proof Project officially kicked off with the formation of the committee in April; the group also includes Carmelina Papasidero, Mary Spoto, Norma Iona, Laura Perfetti, Luigi Greco, Michelle Khodai and Tiziana Cicace; they have been promoting it at various events, including National Night Out in August.
Another aspect of the project is the “not in our town pledge,” an initiative members of the group are working on to designate Glen Cove as a bully-free community. They are also working on training local businesses to become “bully free zones.” Once the store managers get on board, they will have stickers on display in their windows.
“This will allow kids to have a place to turn to if they are being bullied when they are out in the community,” said Spinello. “And, it will help store managers become aware of what to look for and what to do if they should witness bullying.”
The free event on Oct. 4 begins with a yoga session at 8:30 a.m., an introduction at 9:30 a.m. and the walk from 10 a.m. to noon. There will be three different trails to choose to walk on, including a paved path that is wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly. Refreshments will be served and sponsors who will be on hand include Astoria Federal Savings Bank, the Nicholas Pedone Foundation, SAFE, Vito’s Pizzeria, Pro Health, GMA Martial Arts, Glen Dance, Matinecock Rod & Gun Club, Pollo Campero and the Downtown Cafe. Other sponsors include Glen Cove High School Hero Group, Frank’s Beverage, The Children’s Tumor Foundation, All in 1 Graphics and Glen Cove Beer Distributors.