HOPE Week: Stand for the Silent

Kirk Smalley, whose 11-year-old son committed suicide in 2010, embraces Yankees General Partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on Friday at Yankee Stadium. New York Yankees

NEW YORK -- Kirk Smalley needs help.

On Father's Day 2010, a little more than a month after his 11-year-old son, Ty, killed himself following incessant bullying at school, Smalley declared he would halt the cruelty that affects so many people.

"I made a promise to Ty that I will stop bullying in our world," Smalley said, his voice rising with passion.

Three years into his pledge, Smalley realizes how ambitious his task is. He knows that what he set out to do is nearly impossible for just one man from the small town of Perkins, Okla.

That's why he asks others to enlist in his movement when he speaks with Stand for the Silent, as he did Friday in front of approximately 500 people at Yankee Stadium.

"I can't keep my promise to my baby," Smalley said, his voice cracking. "I can't do that alone. I need your help. I need you to help me keep my promise."

The Yankees flew Smalley to New York to speak Friday, the final day of the team's fifth annual HOPE Week. Smalley talked about his son and other victims of bullying while urging a crowd of local youths from the tri-state area to make a difference.

The Yankees and Delta Air Lines each donated $10,000 to Stand for the Silent, a group led by Smalley and his wife, Laura, that aims to eradicate bullying.

The Yankees were represented Friday by team executive Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, GM Brian Cashman, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and players, including Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Travis Hafner. WWE's "Big Show" also was in attendance.

"Knowing that we were able to work with the New York Yankees to spread our message means the world to us," said Kirk Smalley, who was wearing a Chamberlain jersey. "They can reach so many people and impact so many lives."

Smalley said Ty had been picked on for two years before retaliating against a bully on May 13, 2010, resulting in a suspension. Laura Smalley drove her son home from school but had to return to work. She arrived back at the Smalley house at 2:38 p.m. to find Ty dead on the bedroom floor.

Stand for the Silent began in the aftermath of Ty's death, created by students in Oklahoma enrolled in the Upward Bound program. For the past three years, Kirk Smalley has spread his message across the United States, as well as internationally in places such as Australia. He said he speaks up to five times a day.

"Our main message is to teach these kids they are somebody. They have a right to be here and be who they are and we love them no matter who they are," Smalley said. "Let them know they can be themselves and don't have to conform to what everyone else thinks they should be."

On Friday, with pictures of five youths who took their lives because of bullying resting on chairs behind him, Smalley used their stories to stress why this problem has to end. He taught the crowd how to say "I love you" in sign language, using it as a way to show support. As Smalley talked about Ty's death, people in the crowd flashed the signal back at him.

"This was helpful. I know someone this happened to, a little girl from Queens that took her life. I took my kids out so they could understand, see what others go through," said Queens resident Syvel Orlando, who attended with the Woodside Warriors football program and brought her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. "This is very powerful. [The message] should be spread throughout the schools."

The event concluded with a video, set to "I'll Stand by You," showcasing how individuals can reach out to others and help, and the reciting of the "I Am Somebody" pledge.

"It was extremely powerful," Cashman said of Smalley's presentation. "He and his family's pain and what they have lived through and gone through every day, they don't want others to suffer through that. The fact they are standing up and being such difference-makers in choosing to stand up and fight, they are true angels from heaven."