Famous speakers promote anti-bullying at Toms River forum

Residents of Toms River walk through Washington Street during Cruisin' Downtown on Sept. 12.

A group of high-profile speakers, which included a local legendary athlete, took a hard stance on how to tackle bullying during a forum that was staged at the RWJBarnabas Arena in Toms River.

The arena at Toms River High School North was the setting on Nov. 15 when the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office presented “Unbreakable – A Forum Against Bullying.”

The program was designed to educate students and parents on issues of harassment and bullying.

Among the guest speakers was Tod Frazier, who is currently a third baseman for the New York Mets and grew up starring as a baseball player in Toms River.

Other speakers were Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Richie Sambora, actor Gaten Matarazzo and author Marie Unanue.

Frazier, who has also played for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds during his Major League career, shared his passion and enthusiasm for doing the right thing.

“It means everything to be apart of this event. In this world nowadays any type of positive is great. We are talking about bullying, something that children have seen or been a part of.  It is important to try and find people who are positive, and bring great energy to help against this issue so the children can prosper as I did. I just want to see the best out of everyone,” Frazier said.

Frazier is part of Toms River folklore.

He helped guide the Toms River team that won the Little League World Series in 1998 and then he gained All-State honors while at Toms River High School South. He then went on to star at Rutgers University before becoming a professional player.

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said challenges with social media made this forum important for the community.

“I think anyone who attended the program is going to benefit and I am happy to be a part of this forum,” Billhimer said.

Billhimer also said part of his message is not only for the children going through it, but for the parents to pay attention to what is going on at home and look for the signs that their child might be struggling.

“I think the children from tonight can take away from this forum a sense of responsibility. When you have a cellphone it gives you a lot of power that you do not realize you have. I think people have to be have more common sense, because people can still be hurt by words even though they are not spoken,” Matarazzo said.

Unanue said she wrote her book ‘The Adventures of Phatty and Payaso’ with hope that children can see and learn empathy.

“I wanted children to put themselves in the shoes of another child. I also wanted them to see it from a bully’s perspective and learn forgiveness. It was important to show how you come full circle,” Unanue said.

The forum’s main event started off with Sambora, who is the lead guitarist for Bon Jovi, and the Point Pleasant Boro High School Choir preforming ‘Livin on prayer’ and ‘Lean on Me.’

“I think peer pressure and bullying is a problem. We all have to chip in to be a part of the solution not the problem. God bless us all and let’s get this done,” Sambora said.

During the event, Toms River Intermediate East’s drama students preformed a scenario on stage about cyberbullying. Kate Ecke and Bryant Moore also preformed about their bullying story when the two were in high school together.

Gabe Hurley and his band ‘The New Black’ preformed for those in attendance. Hurley also preformed the national anthem on his guitar prior to the event starting.

Chris Clark preformed stunts for guests in attendance from his ‘Bicycle Stunt Show’ in the main gym at Toms River High School North prior to the main event in RWJBarnabas Arena.

“I am just proud of an event like this. Tonight is an important message on anti-bullying. It just makes me feel good to see the community out tonight,” Superintendent of Schools David Healy said.