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Students meet with Campaign for Bully-Free Communities spokesman Donny Marshall at the Oct. 3 rally. Photo courtesy of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County

Students meet with Campaign for Bully-Free Communities spokesman Donny Marshall at the Oct. 3 rally. (Photo courtesy of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County )

Spotlight Award Presented at Rally for Bully-Free Communities

Published Oct. 31, 2019

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Students, educators, business owners, and community leaders came out in large numbers to rally for bully-free communities on Oct. 3, in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Organized by the Community Foundation of Middlesex County (CFMC) and its Council of Business Partners, the sixth annual Rally for Bully-Free Communities was held at Sports on 66 in East Hampton. The event included team building activities, guest speakers, pledge taking, and the presentation of the Bully-Free Community Spotlight Award before a crowd of more than 400 people.

In attendance were educators and students in grades 5 through 12 from schools in Clinton, Chester, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Middletown, Durham, Middlefield, East Hampton, Portland, North Haven, and Cheshire. School bus transportation was funded by the CFMC Council of Business Partners. The morning program kicked off with a marching performance by the Middletown Police Benefit Association Pipes and Drums Corps and included team-building and self-empowering activities led by the staff at EMPOWER Leadership Sports, Rushford, First Tee of Connecticut, and volunteers from Xavier High School, Mercy High School, Haddam-Killingworth High School, Durham Middlefield Youth & Family Services, North Haven Middle School, the CT Youth Excellence Project, and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.

Liam Knapp, a CT Youth Excellence Project program participant, spoke about how he overcame a difficult home life and was able to develop self-confidence and positive life skills. Dave Director, chairman of the CFMC Council of Business Partners and owner of Connecticut Lighting Centers, then presented the Bully-Free Communities Spotlight Award to the CT Youth Excellence Project and its founder Damion Grasso in recognition of the volunteer-run organization’s efforts to empower teen boys who have faced significant life challenges to build resilience, navigate life obstacles, and emerge as strong, community-minded young adults.

The CT Youth Excellence Project partners with several non-profit organizations to offer a series of adventure and leadership opportunities for boys age 13-16 who live in Connecticut. Across the year, the boys establish strong, healthy, and lasting relationships with positive adults and peers. These connections serve to provide a valuable resource as the boys attain personal goals and fivnd direction.

Sportscaster and former NBA/UConn Basketball star Donny Marshall, the campaign’s spokesperson, shared his personal experiences as a victim of bullying, wrapping up the day’s events by joining event emcee and campaign ambassador Renee DiNino in leading the group in reciting the campaign pledge, with each individual promising to be an agent of change and to stand up to mean-spirited behavior.

For more information on the Campaign for Bully-Free Communities, go to or call the Community Foundation of Middlesex County at 860-347-0025.

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