Kids getting resources to overcome bullying, peer pressure at ‘Celebration of Hope’

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - More than 200 teens and children were connected with resources and tools to overcome challenges like peer pressure, bullying, and loss on Tuesday.

The Huntsville Hospital Foundation's "A Celebration of Hope" happened at First Baptist Church on Governors Drive. Children ages 5-18 who were sponsored by organizations like Girls, Inc., PACE Academy, and Inner City Learning Center participated in activities and heard stories from others who have faced and overcome similar challenges and adversity.

"Sometimes it's easy to spot a friend who's in trouble and struggling. Sometimes it's not," Huntsville Hospital Foundation president Candy Burnett said.

Most of these kids are just a couple weeks from enjoying their summer vacation.

"They can reach out and make lifelong friendships and kind of lean on each other during hard times," The Caring House volunteer Kayla Thompson said.

Around 200 parents and kids were invited to First Baptist Church to meet some new friends and join in a conversation of hope.

"I think often times our children are known as the forgotten mourners because they do bounce back so quickly. Often times they keep things to themselves," Lee Shaw with Hospice Family Care said.

The gathering happens less than a week after Huntsville teen Nigel Shelby took his own life. Kids showing up to the church say they didn't know Nigel, but know others like him.

"Maybe we should say things differently or do things differently because it could affect somebody else's life," Lee High School senior Lauren Edwards said.

"People have started talking about this and how to help their friends and assist a friend who's in trouble. And how to be kind to someone who may be different than they are. I think that's a real lesson to be learned from this," Burnett said.

Former state senator Bill Holtzclaw spoke at the event, sharing his personal story of hope and how he overcame adversity to become a leader. Holtzclaw was in a children's home until he was adopted at five years old. He went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps and at NASA before becoming a state senator in 2010.

Children also learned about free local resources available to them, like The Caring House and the SPEAK program, which was established to address suicide in the community.

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