Bullying prevention in the limelight
Richard Hagy stood for the underdog until the very end.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2011, the Lee County school teacher, principal, and football coach broke up a fight in the school cafeteria.
Hagy, 64, later suffered a massive heart attack in the parking lot.
He always stood up for what he believed in, those who knew him say.
His legacy continues to live on during October’s National Bullying Prevention Month campaign in Lee County, spearheaded by his wife, Nancy, and local NFL hero Earnest Graham.
“I’ll never understand why he had to (pass away,)” said Mrs. Hagy, a longtime Lee County Public School teacher. She is currently at Island Coast High. “I feel so strongly about what he stood for. It makes me feel like he’s bringing something to these kids, the fact that he has a scholarship.”
This Saturday, Oct. 12, Mr. Hagy’s sacrifice will be memorialized with the third annual Richard Hagy Memorial Golf tournament at Magnolia Landing Golf Club. Foursomes can buy-in for $300 for a buffet lunch and round of golf. Proceeds benefit the Richard Hagy Memorial Scholarship fund. The fund awards a $500 grant to college-bound students who submit an essay about how bullying affected their childhood.
Support from the school district and local businesses has been immense. Even former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Mariner High School product Earnest Graham became the de facto spokesperson for Lee County’s anti-bullying campaign after he recorded three public service announcements stressing the importance of preventing a hostile school environment.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is getting Earnest Graham from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to help us out,” Mrs. Hagy said. “He was in school when I was teaching at Mariner High.”
Hagy also said many local middle and high schools, as well as universities such as Hodges, Georgetown University and Weber International (her husband and daughter’s alma maters, respectively) have put up hundreds of dollars for sponsorships.
“It’s just amazing the support we’ve received,” Hagy said. She stressed the amount of work being done for this cause, including getting one of her daughters to reach out to Earnest Graham for his support. “This has definitely been a family affair,” she said.
NBC2 News recently televised a feature story on Lee County students and their participation in the World Day of Bullying Prevention on Oct. 7, in which the majority of Lee County public schools encouraged students and faculty alike to sport a blue shirt to show solidarity against bullying and cyberbullying.
Hagy said Island Coast High was a sea of blue on Monday.
“Well over half the student body wore blue, and almost all of the faculty.”
Hagy mentioned the difficulties faculty faces engaging students in causes such as this one. She credited the Lee County School Board and her faculty with finding creative ways to get everyone involved.
“I think it’s important to know that we’re really trying to do something,” she said. “What Richard did and the whole school system did, it’s been amazing. It’s tough not only to educate the kids, but it’s also for parents and even our educators. We have adults that bully too. We just want everyone to know it’s not OK to bully or be bullied.”
The golf tournament has produced three $500 scholarships per year thus far.
Mrs. Hagy said the goal this year is six scholarships. She expects their biggest turnout yet.
“We’ve had to turn down teams because we’re booked solid,” she said.
The tournament also will feature door prizes and a silent auction featuring a number of juicy items, including a one-month car loan from a local Acura dealership, signed football helmets from the Miami Dolphins, and tickets to upcoming Tampa Bay Buccaneers football games.
“He loved to golf,” Hagy said of her husband. “I thought he would love for there to be an event for his cause.”
“Richard was a dear friend and a longtime principal here,” said Dr. Pete Bohatch, director of Student Services for Lee County Public Schools. “He was always out for the underdog. He always stood up for kids that needed it. This scholarship is perfect in his name. When you think of an advocate for kids you think of Rich Hagy.”
Those interested in benefitting this cause may send a check to the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Memo: Richard Hagy Memorial Scholarship Fund. PO Box 1608, Fort Myers 33902.