Port Coquitlam mayor seeks support for texting program for bullied youth

Barb Henham, Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore and Debbie Murillo of the I Am Someone Society are promoting a walk to end bulling this Sunday, Dec. 8 in Leigh Square. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Barb Henham, Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore and Debbie Murillo of the I Am Someone Society are promoting a walk to end bulling this Sunday, Dec. 8 in Leigh Square.

A texting program that links bullied kids with resources and counsellors could be beta tested in the Tri-Cities as early as next year if funding can be arranged to support the program.

And on Sunday Dec. 8, the community is invited to take part in the I am Someone Walk to End Bullying to help raise cash for the program.

Taking place at Leigh Square in Port Coquitlam, this is the second year for the walk which started in 2012 as an outpouring of support for youth after the death of PoCo teen Amanda Todd.

The I am Someone group was formed by Gary Mauris, a local business leader, and Mayor Greg Moore with partners the PoCo Youth Society and since then the fledgling group has become an official society with a mission to end bullying through cultural and legislative change as well as practical solutions, such as a texting platform.

Moore said the texting platform is necessary to connect youth with resources because that's how youth communicate, noting that similar programs exist already in the U.S. A partnership with a provider is close to being reached, but he acknowledged that more funding is needed to make the program a reality.

He wouldn't say how much the project will cost - except to say it will be in the six figures" - but he is confident the community will come tougher to make it happen.

"This is not a city initiative," he stressed. Instead, businesses and community members are coming together to create the I am Someone initiative.

"Fundraising helps us to be able to do this," Moore said.

Mauris, who came up with the idea of the I Am Someone campaign and promoted it using his business resources at Dominion Lending Centre, says he hope the walk becomes an annual tradition that leaves a legacy.

"We want to build on the success of our first I Am Someone Walk to End Bullying to create greater awareness of the harm of bullying. Each of us is a someone who has a role to play in ending bullying,"

Barb Henham, who is helping the group develop its strategic plan said the over-arching goal of I Am Someone Society is to create a culture where bullying doesn't happen and where young people feel supported. "We want to create a kinder and more caring community," Henham said.

The texting platform is a key component of the plan whereby youth who feel vulnerable could text their concerns and someone would text back with information and links resources in their community.

Sunday's walk is by donation and there will be an opportunity to purchase t-shirts, pink umbrellas with the I am Someone logo. As well, there will be an I Am Someone Kindness Tree on which people can pledge their support for youth and to end bullying.

As well, the event running, from noon to 3 p.m. (the community walk is at 1 p.m.), will feature entertainment by Bobs and Lolo, presentations on online safety by expert Jesse Miller, improv by Second Storey Theatre group, children's art activities and a food court, including hotdogs, coffee, juice and hot chocolate. It takes place at the Leigh Square Community Arts Village.

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