Monday shorts editorial: Inspiring speakers, toy drives and equestrians

  • Openly gay professional strongman competitor Rob Kearney speaks to students at Frontier Regional School on Nov. 22. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 12/2/2019 8:16:49 AM

Here are brief thoughts on some of the events taking place around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area.

Empowering youth to be themselves

Teenage years are never easy ones. It’s a time of life in which the questions of “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” swirl in each young mind continuously, and the answers may feel even more difficult to reach without the influence of positive, relatable role models.

We hope that perhaps, on Nov. 22, some Frontier Regional School students may have found a role model in strength athlete Rob Kearney, who shared his story of coming out as gay in a sport steeped in hypermasculinity.

“The biggest thing I want you all to realize is, you know, once you aren’t afraid to actually be yourself, that’s when you actually get to experience real happiness,” he told an audience of middle-schoolers. “The only thing stopping you is yourself.”

Kearney, 28, said that while he’s received some hateful backlash rooted in homophobia, he also knows sharing his story has made a difference in young lives. He noted that he once received a touching message from a bisexual student who said he was contemplating suicide until he heard Kearney’s story.

“That’s why I’m unapologetically openly gay,” Kearney said.

No one needs to tell us the power that sharing stories has, as it’s something that we’re lucky enough to experience on a daily basis. With that in mind, we wholeheartedly thank Kearney, who lives in Wilbraham, for coming to South Deerfield to share his inspiring story. There’s no telling how many students will feel empowered to truly be themselves as a result.

Making Christmas magical

Heather Taylor’s childhood Christmases weren’t always easy. She remembers that her parents struggled with alcohol and drug addictions, and some years, there weren’t any presents.

Yet, Taylor’s childhood memories have led her to make a difference in the lives on other children. Six years ago, she founded the Giving Back Together Toy Drive in Greenfield.

“I just never want another child to have to wake up on Christmas morning thinking the magic of Christmas isn’t real,” she said.

Taylor has kept the holiday spirit alive and well for who knows how many children in the past six years. Last year alone, the toy drive provided gifts for about 300 families. And this year, she’s expanding her toy drive to Athol.

We hope the community will continue to support Taylor’s efforts by donating toys, or by participating in a fundraising soup-and-game night at Hope & Olive tonight from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Let’s make another Christmas magical for the our local children.

Congrats, equestrians

Practice pays off, if the recent accomplishments of the Glory Riders at Crimson Acres equestrian center in Orange are any indication.

Recently, the Glory Riders had the honor of performing during the Fantasia show at the Equine Affaire in Springfield, a multi-day event held every November that attracts horse lovers from far and wide. The drill team of advanced riders, ranging in age from 14 to 40, entertained an incredible 6,000 people for three nights.

That’s certainly something to be proud of. We’d like to congratulate the Glory Riders on all the hard work and long hours of practice that took them to Fantasia.

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