Rick Yarosh and Tom Murphy with student wearing lone ranger mask

Sweethearts & Heroes, a student-empowerment and empathy-activation team, was back in Chatham on March 9 to share their powerful anti-bullying message with Mary E. Dardess Elementary School. 

Tom Murphy talking to students in MED gym

Co-founder Thom Murphy led separate, age-appropriate presentations for our students in pre-k through grade 2 and again for grades 3 through 5. The presentations emphasized H.O.P.E. (Hold On, Possibilities Exist!), empathy, and action. He involved students in fun challenges and interactive skits designed to get them to step outside of their comfort zones and become action takers rather than bystanders, and to get help from their classroom heroes (teachers) if they witness others being bullied.

Murphy, who is a former professional mixed martial arts fighter and Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor, also introduced the students to one of his heroes, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh. Yarosh was severely burned and lost a leg while serving in Iraq. At first, Yarosh struggled with going out in public because of how people initially reacted to his appearance, but he soon discovered that, by just talking with them and telling them his story, they very quickly were able to look past his scars and see him for the person he really is. When he learned that, Yarosh knew he was going to be alright. Nowadays, he has dedicated himself to bringing that profound message of H.O.P.E. to students and others across the region. 

After the presentations, each grade had an opportunity to have a discussion with Murphy and Yarosh in the cafeteria, where they built empathy together by getting to know themselves and each other a little better. 

Sweethearts & Heroes was last in Chatham in October when they visited CMS and CHS.

Rick Yarosh and Tom Murphy with student wearing lone ranger mask