Local residents and organizations are banding together in the wake of a young boy’s bullying-related suicide, news that sent shock-waves across neighborhoods, states and countries.
Danny Fitzpatrick, 13, a Staten Island resident and former Holy Angels Catholic Academy student, was found dead in the attic of his West Brighton home on Thursday, August 11.
Picked on by his peers, Fitzpatrick wrote a letter in July detailing his experience at Holy Angels. In his account, the 13-year-old wrote about the “constant” bullying he dealt with and the lack of response from teachers and school administration when he came to them in confidence.
Fitzpatrick’s mother, Maureen Fitzpatrick, planned to send the letter to the school, 74th Street and Third Avenue, but still had it in her possession at the time of Danny’s death on Thursday.
“Danny, your pain will not go unheard,” Maureen wrote in a Facebook post. “Your pain will be my vehicle to keep driving your words forward. Daddy, your sisters and I vow this to you. We are wrecked from your suffering and pain that drove you to give up. We will never give up, we will always have your back, no matter where you are.”
In an effort to raise funds for Danny’s funeral arrangements, his sister Eileen Fitzpatrick started a GoFundMe page with a $10,000 goal. The page had garnered over $118,000 in donations in four days – a sum that, after funeral costs are covered, the family plans to donate to organizations that fight bullying.
“I created this campaign to assist my parents in the burial and services for my brother,” Eileen wrote on the donation page. “My brother was thirteen years old, he did not have life insurance, because he wasn’t supposed to die. This was a very unexpected tragedy for my family and we were not prepared for it.
“We had NO idea we would go past our goal and receive so much feedback,” she continued. “With all these responses and support we would love nothing more than to donate to a organization that fights bullying and encourages suicide awareness. We have not chosen any yet, seeing as we are still dealing with preparations for my brother. We have every intention to help other families never go through what we are going through. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us and hearing his story.”
Community organizations and others touched by the tragedy have plans in the works to spread the word about bullying and rally behind the Fitzpatrick family in their cause to bring awareness to the issue.
Justin Brannan, community activist and founder of Bay Ridge Cares, a local organization dedicated to making the community a better place for all, will be organizing an event in the 13-year-old’s name.
“Bay Ridge Cares is going to organize an event in Danny’s name to raise local awareness about bullying,” Brannan said. “Will have details soon. For now, just prayers for the family. This is unfathomably sad.”
Owner of Powerhouse Gym in Staten Island, Mike Cuciniello, has offered to take three kids under his wing every month and provide them with free training at his facility.
“I am personally going to do something about this,” Cuciniello wrote on Facebook. “I already have moms contacting me to help their kids with this program. I want to make Daniel and [the Fitzpatrick] family proud. We are gonna help as many kids as we need with working out, building body mind and spirit.”
While Danny’s school has not directly responded to requests for comment, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn/Queens Diocese spoke out on Friday.
“In light of this tragedy we are reexamining all bullying prevention policies and training,” said spokeswoman Carolyn Erstad. “The principal, teachers, and staff of Holy Angels Catholic Academy are heartbroken over the loss of Danny Fitzpatrick. We take the issue of bullying very seriously and address every incident that is brought to our attention.”
While Danny was reportedly offered counseling at Holy Angels – the school can offer up to three unsupervised counseling sessions before a student’s parents are notified and further counseling is recommended – the family did not want him to continue counseling at a school that, they believe, caused his suffering in the first place. The Fitzpatricks instead sought help from a licensed therapist whom Danny was regularly seeing.
Danny, who leaves behind his mother Maureen, his father Daniel and three older sisters Eileen, Shannon and Kristen, was set to attend the Sacred Heart School in Staten Island and had hopes of later attending Xaverian High School. He was very close with his family; he loved football (particularly the Jets), was a huge fan of Iron Maiden and really loved eating waffles.
The New York State Department of Health Suicide Prevention offers a list of signs that may indicate that a child or teen, age 10 to 19, may be considering suicide.
According to DOHSP, these include:
•Depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often combined with other mental disorders);
•Feeling hopeless and worthless;
•Previous suicide attempt(s);
•Feeling detached and isolated from friends, peers and family;
•Family history of suicide, mental illness, or depression;
•Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse;
•Access to a weapon in the home;
•Knowing someone with suicidal behavior, such as a family member, friend , or celebrity;
•Coping with being gay (homosexuality) in an unsupportive family, community, or hostile school environment; and,
•Incarceration (time in prison).
For information regarding suicide prevention, specifically in children ages 10-19, visit http://on.ny.gov/2bavcKf.
A suicidal person urgently needs to see a doctor or mental health professional. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273 – 8255.