John Halligan has made it his life's mission to travel to schools and present his son's story, hoping it will save lives. Ryan Halligan was 13 and being cyber-bullied, according to his father, when he committed suicide on Oct. 7, 2003. Over the past seven years, Halligan has traveled to more than 750 schools across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Colombia. He said in every school he has visited, he has encountered students in the same position as Ryan.
"Ryan's story unfortunately is all too similar to a lot of students."
Halligan bring his anti-bullying message to students in Poland with two seminars this week. Both open to the public, he'll speak at 8:15 a.m. Friday, Nov. 30 at Poland Seminary High School and again at 1:15 p.m. at McKinley Middle School.
When he gives his 90-minute talk, he targets everyone concerned from the bully, to the bullied and the bystanders.
"I think every person at some point in their life has been at least one of these," he said.
He said he has found that young students are fearful of going to adults about cyberbullying. He said most fear the adult will just make things worse. His mission is to present Ryan's story in a way that others can relate to and gain from the lesson it teaches.
"I know I have others by the hundreds of emails we have received stating this," John said. "Here is to quote just a recent one: 'When I was in seventh grade you visited my middle school. It's been three years since then. My stepsisters told me that you went to their school this year. I was thinking about when you came to my school. I want you to know that you saved my life. I was suicidal back then. It never occurred to me how my family and friends would feel if I went through with it. I just want to take this time to say thank you for making me realize that my decision didn't only affect myself. I'm so much happier now and I can't thank you enough for what your presentation did for me'."
It was just that kind of outcome from the talks that made Springfield Police Department juvenile diversion specialist Aimee Schweers realize that Ryan's story was needed in the Valley. She arranged for Halligan to visit Springfield Schools and was able to schedule in Poland as well. Schweers' children attend Poland schools.
"I have been working on this for the past two years," she said. "Any message about bullying is important."
She said this is John's second trip to Ohio since his program began.