A "No H8 Skate" anti-bullying skating evening, sponsored by the Jim Thorpe High School chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, will be held Friday, June 8 from 7-9 p.m. at the Memorial Hall Rollerskating Rink, 101 E. 10th St. in Jim Thorpe.
The skate, a fundraiser with the proceeds helping to support the Dimmick Memorial Library and the JTHPA, celebrates the conclusion of its yearlong anti-bullying campaign.
The JTHPA is a 50-member nonprofit organization that engages Harry Potter fans in social activism. There are currently 70 active chapters with six chapters in Pennsylvania. The Alliance uses a metaphor of Harry Potter's journey to overcome evil to inspire his fans to act as heroes in the world. The Alliance has sent five cargo planes to Haiti with food, water and medical supplies. They have donated over 88,000 books and have made contributions to the anti-genocide, held the LGBTQ, environmental and media reform movements.
They are inspired by the words of J.K. Rowling, "We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."
The Jim Thorpe High School chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance is completing its first year. In April 2011, Keith Blackwell, a junior at the high school, contacted the alliance about starting a chapter.
"I got together with 10 or 15 kids who wanted to help me run the organization," Blackwell said. "I wanted to tell them what the Harry Potter organization was all about and what we were going to do."
The chapter was organized, and became active when the school year started in September. They created a Facebook site: www.facebook.com/JTHPA, and decided that for this year's project to work on an anti-bullying campaign.
"We try to do good things for the community and the school," Blackwell said. "One of the things we thought that would be a good issue is bullying because constantly on the news over the past year and a half, we see how many kids have killed themselves over being bullied both online and face-to-face in school."
Members of the JTHPA placed photographs of seven or eight of those who had committed suicide around the school. The following week they noted why each of them had done what they did.
"One of the major reasons that these kids killed themselves was because they were bullied about their sexual orientation," Blackwell noted. "A girl, who was a lesbian, received many negative comments on Facebook and Twitter. After a while, she wasn't strong enough to deal with it anymore.
"Jim Thorpe High School doesn't seem to have a major problem with bullying," Blackwell noted. "I'm not going to say there isn't one. There is always something going on that's hiding behind the scenes or is happening outside of school.
"If you had asked the parents of those kids in the schools they attended, they would've told you the same thing. They didn't think it was a problem until it was already too late and those kids had already killed themselves," said Blackwell.
"We thought it was best that there are things in place, rather than wait until it is too late and somebody would kill themselves," Blackwell said. "Besides causing suicides, bullying can lead kids to use drugs or other bad decisions."
The JTHPA looked at the bullying policy that Jim Thorpe High School has in place.
"We noticed there wasn't a lot in there about cyberbullying, which was one of the major issues with those kids who were bullied online," Blackwell said. "We did a lot of research and we had statistics. We took them to the Jim Thorpe Area School Board and we told them why we think it is a major issue. They're working on including them in next year's student handbook."
Asked why Harry Potter is an inspiration to Alliance's students, Blackwell said, "The Harry Potter character shows that a lot of bad things can happen, but you can come back and do really good things. He grew up parentless in a household where his aunt and uncle hated him, yet he went on to save the world."
The JTHPA's "No H8 Skate" anti-bullying skating evening is a fundraiser to mark the end of the one-year campaign and its success working with the school board to include cyber anti-bullying language in the student handbook.
The skating fundraiser is open to the public, ages 14 and older. The donation covers the entrance fee, skate rental, and music by a D.J. There will be raffles of merchandise provided by Jim Thorpe businesses including: Venus and the Moon, Serendipity, Dreisbach House, and Rainbow's End. The event is sponsored by local author Michelle Gallagher, and supervised by the Blue Mountain Paranormal Society.