It's something billions of us turn to for news, information, keeping up with friends and celebrities. It's also a source for raising awareness and that's exactly what is happening in Brookings, SD.
After an 11 year-old is injured in a bully incident at his middle school, friends and strangers turn to the one place they know they can start making a difference.
Tonya Benyon is the owner of Reflections Hair Design in Brookings and uses Facebook frequently to connect with friends and clients. Just a few days ago, something stopped her in her tracks.
She came across a page called "Stop Bulling and Help Austin" about a boy right in her hometown who had been bullied just a few miles away.
"Just got kinda angry and decided that the awareness needed to be made," Tonya Benyon said.
She doesn't know the family, or the person who created the page, but she wanted to help spread the word.
"There's a lot of bullying going on, it's a nationwide thing. Our kids need to be protected," Tonya Benyon said.
Benyon is a complete stranger to the family but says it hits close to home.
"It's right here in a town we grew up in as kids. I think Austin needs to know he's not the only one. There's been a lot of bullying, suicides, it's sad. It's heartbreaking," Benyon said.
KSFY found 11 year old Austin Bromaghin at home, he appears to be the happiest 11 year old on the block. As he explains, it was the careless actions of another boy, just two years older, that left his mouth bloody and teeth chipped.
"My tooth broke off and I got stitches in my mouth," Austin said.
His mom, Athena Bromaghin, explains it was October 15 when she got that phone call from George S. Mickelson Middle School that Austin was hurt, but she didn't know why.
"It makes my heart sink. He's covered in blood, his teeth are messed up, he's crying 'mommy, it hurts' and my heart sunk. No mom should have to see their kid look like that," Athena Bromaghin said.
She was told an older boy approached Austin at recess, picked him up by the legs and threw him down.
"Who did this to my son? Why did this happen. They said 'we can't tell you because he's a minor'," Athena said.
She says Austin suffers from two common disorders: ADHD and mild Autism.
"They might fidget, stir in their seat more, kids pick up on it and they're cruel because of it," Athena said.
She knows the support through friends and strangers is unending and even brings tears to her eyes.
Regardless of whether Tonya runs into Austin one day, she wants him to know he's not alone.
"It's every school, it's all children, it's all shapes and forms of bullying. Kids get hurt. I'm a mom of two and if it was my child, I don't even know what would happen," Benyon said.
A fund has been set up at First Bank & Trust in Brookings, SD (all locations) if anyone would like to donate money to help defray the dental costs for Austin and his family. The fund is called Benefit for Austin Bromaghin. You may mail donations to First Bank & Trust, P.O. Box 5057, Brookings, SD 57006.
Here is the full message from the Brookings School District:
"In regards to the incident at Mickelson Middle School, the district has an obligation to maintain confidentiality when children are involved in incidents at school. I can share, however, when an incident occurs in the schools, the district administrative staff addresses these issues: caring for the injured child, completing an investigation of the incident, providing appropriate consequences, meeting with parent(s) and children involved and notifying appropriate authorities, including the police department.
The Brookings School District takes bullying incidences very seriously. Our district has had a policy in place since September 2009 which addresses how the district handles bullying. In addition, our schools provide training to staff on bullying awareness and interventions. A link to our district policy is provided below:
The Brookings District is committed to ensuring the safety of all children in the district and we sincerely appreciate the confidence of our parents and community as we carry out our responsibilities."
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