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Middlebury school taps Sweethearts & Heroes to help battle bullies

Photo courtesy Sweethearts & Heroes

Sweethearts & Heroes co-founders and presenters from left Jason Spector, Rick Yarosh, and Tom Murphy.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 1:55 p.m.—MIDDLEBURY— Sweethearts & Heroes, the nation’s most unique and effective anti-bullying program, has partnered with Denecker Chevrolet to bring a powerful and timely message to students in Middlebury later this week.

The media is invited to learn more about Sweethearts & Heroes, which helps save young lives across the U.S., during a 1:55 p.m. presentation for seventh and eighth graders at Middlebury Union High School on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Sweethearts & Heroes is co-developed by Tom Murphy, a former professional MMA fighter and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran from St. Albans, and Jason Spector, an educator and coach in Glens Falls, New York. Sweethearts & Heroes has caught on nationwide because it emphasizes an action-based approach – going beyond awareness – to an issue that affects schools, neighborhoods and individuals. Murphy’s engaging, energetic and interactive presentation focuses on victims, bullies and the bystanders who can be empowered to make a difference. He call his UFC career his “delicious hook” with students.

The crux of the Sweethearts & Heroes presentation, and all of the organization’s efforts, is a literal A-B-C approach to bullying. In addition, Rick Yarosh, a retired sergeant with the U.S. Army – injured in Iraq with burns over most of his body – gives a message about overcoming adversity and turning a negative situation into a positive one.

Murphy and Spector call Sweethearts and Heroes “the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of bullying”; their message is about H.O.P.E. (Hold On Possibilities Exist). Since 2011, Murphy has presented Sweethearts & Heroes to more than 1 million students in several hundred schools from New England to Hawaii. Murphy and Spector also tailor Sweethearts & Heroes for businesses, colleges/universities and camps.

“Just talking about awareness doesn’t fix anything,” said Murphy, a husband and father who competed on the second season of Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter.” “What separates us from other anti-bullying presentations and projects is that we have the plan to curb and even stop bullying in your school, or wherever it exists for you. But we go beyond bullying. We are about humanity, giving H.O.P.E. to the hopeless and making the world a better place.”

Murphy and Spector are New Yorkers who wrestled (All American) for premier Division III college wrestling coach Don Murray at SUNY-Brockport. Murphy and Spector eventually became mixed martial arts (MMA) competitors. “We use Einstein’s quote: ‘The world is a dangerous place not because of those who choose to do evil, but because of those who choose to do nothing about it’,” said Spector. “We offer a unique perspective on bullying and leave audiences with an A-B-C action plan to fight it. Bullying isn’t the problem. Bullies have been around forever. The problem is we don’t have enough Sweethearts and Heroes in the world.”

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