Globetrotter answers letter to Santa with anti-bullying message

Posted September 26, 2013

— It's not every day that a world-famous Harlem Globetrotter comes to your school.

But when Ant Atkinson, a 7-year veteran of the exhibition team and also a Wilson native, heard what was happening at Rocky Mount Prep School, he wanted to teach the 600 elementary students a lesson – the team's "ABCs of Bullying Prevention."

The young audience included 8-year-old twins Ryan and Amber Suffern, who recently received national attention when a letter Ryan sent to Santa Claus went viral.

The letter reads:

"Dear Santa ... I wanted a (remote control) car and helicopter, but I don't want that (anymore). (Kids) at school are still picking on Amber and it’s not fair. … I prayed that they will stop but God is (busy) and needs your help.”

"When we got a hold of this story, it was a perfect opportunity (to share our bullying prevention program)," Atkinson said Thursday. "It's a touching story, and it shows what true love really is."

Atkinson used the Globetrotters' signature ball-handling skills in a 20-minute dynamic presentation that focuses on action, bravery and compassion as ways to combat bullying.

The Globetrotters designed the program in coordination with the National Campaign to Stop Violence, and the team is expected to take the message to more than 300 schools during the 2013-14 school year.

Atkinson even shared with the audience his own personal story of being bullied as a child.

"He went through the same thing I went through," said Amber.

After the assembly, Atkinson presented Ryan and Amber with autographed basketballs and tickets to see the Globetrotters in Raleigh on March 2.

He also named the twins "Junior Phenoms" for the Globetrotter spirit they demonstrate as siblings with an exemplary friendship.

Amber and Ryan's mother says the school took swift action after learning about the letter to Santa. She says her daughter no longer cries before going to school and that the bullying has stopped.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • NotFromHere Sep 27, 2013

    I've had the pleasure to meet Anthony Atkinson many times. He was a star basketball player for Barton College in Wilson, NC and helped take that team to the NCAA championship several years ago. He's a wonderful young man who does so much for the youth in his community.

    As for Amber, many people who are bullied use the experience as a driving force in their life. It presses them on to do the best they can and shows them they can overcome all obstacles to reach their goals.

    It is the bullies who are weak and afraid. It is their victims who become strong and triumph.

  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Sep 27, 2013

    When you're young, you get bullied. Then you grow up and have the spine to tell people where to get off! That's one of the perks of getting older, and bolder. Liberating! Very liberating!

  • btneast Sep 27, 2013

    but the damage inflicted by bullying will haunt her for the rest of her life

    Maybe, maybe not. If she lets it "haunt" her, then she will likely be a victim for the rest of her life. Probably one of the best things a parent can teach a child is to be confident in themselves and to stand up for themselves. The world is a tough place through out one's life, not just in school. Survival of the fittest applies to humans as well as the animal world. You don't have to physically fight your way through, but you do need to learn how to deal with tough situations and move on.

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Sep 27, 2013

    Excellent testament to humanity. As for those who say she's scarred forever, consider this. Maybe she found hope and strength in this and refuses to let it define her as a cynical troll always finding the bad in something and decides to pay it forward instead. Just maybe....

  • btneast Sep 27, 2013

    Bullying is bad, but it will never be eliminated unfortunately. It's been around since the beginning of time and will be around long after all of us are gone. You should certainly stop it when you see it, but people need to learn how to deal with it. Bullies exist long after school....they are in the workforce, civic organizations, churches, etc. Non aggressive (meek) people tend to attract aggressive people (bullies).....if they don't have a plan, they will always be a target.

  • GravyPig Sep 27, 2013

    "Bullying is mean. Even meaner are anti-bullying rules and laws that are administered by the PC Gestapo."

    How do you figure Cbuck? Seems to me that the only ones who would take issue with said laws would be those who engage in bullying.

  • K9Tucker.LoveMYcop Sep 27, 2013

    Great story!

  • THeelBrn Sep 27, 2013

    Great story! Kudos to Mr. Atkinson for making this kind of effort to speak out against bullying!

  • cbuckyoung Sep 27, 2013

    Bullying is mean. Even meaner are anti-bullying rules and laws that are administered by the PC Gestapo.

  • Canes Girl Forever Sep 27, 2013

    Awesome!!! What a sweet brother. Those two obviously have a very strong bond. Nice to see this story.