Bully
Guest speakers at the We're Kickin' It fundraiser for a national anti-bullying foundation at the Linwood Country Club on Thursday evening, Aug. 26. From left are host Rocky Marciano, Jr., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., former Heavyweight Boxing Champion Larry Holmes, of Easton, Pa.; Miss New Jersey Teen USA, Erica Szymanski, 18, of Mt. Laurel; Muay Thai boxer Chris Romulo, 35, of Rockaway Beach, N.Y., and Miss New Jersey USA, Chenoa Greene, 24, of Atco.

LINWOOD - Boxers, beauty queens and a woman who has traveled the country over the past year preaching an anti-bullying message held a fundraiser Thursday at the Linwood Country Club.

Event organizer Gina Marie Raimondo has given most of the past year to the cause. She thought up the anti-bullying program in April 2009, she said. Then, after selling most of her possessions last year, she bought a camper and started touring the country in October promoting the message.

Why the radical change? "Because kids were taking their lives," she said. "If you can help one child - we as adults have a responsibility for the youth."

One would not think people who have made their living with their fists would have problems with bullies. But those were exactly Chris Romulo's and Larry Holmes' problems growing up.

Romulo, a New York-based Muay Thai martial arts instructor who has won several titles, said growing up in Queens, he was picked on because he was the only Asian kid in his neighborhood.

"I can definitely relate to the kids," he said.

Similarly, before Holmes, 60, was the heavyweight champion, he was "a 91-pounder growing up."

"That's what got me into boxing," he said as he autographed a pile of photos. His signing hand also held a diamond-and-ruby encrusted ring to commemorate his 1978 championship.

Rocky Marciano Jr., son of the undefeated heavyweight champion, was there because he said his dad, who died in 1969, would have supported Raimondo's program.

Marciano, 42, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he regularly reads horrific stories of children being harassed. He said he liked Raimondo's program because it promoted discipline, self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence. It also helps teachers, parents and coaches identify and prevent bullying.

At an adjacent table, beauty pageant winners Erica Szymanski, 18, and Chenoa Greene, 24, sat in similar crowns and sashes. Miss New Jersey Teen Szymanski, of Mount Laurel, Burlington County, said she supported the program because she was bullied as a teen. Greene, of Waterford Township, Camden County, echoed that, adding the issue is too often kept silent.

Ultimately, Raimondo said, she wanted to fight the problem of bullying while getting children to be more active.

"Kids need support and an outlet," said Raimondo, originally of Freehold Township, Monmouth County. "Anything to get them away from the computer. Anything to get them active and involved is great."

Contact Derek Harper:

609-272-7046

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