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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Empowering message from victim's father

  • On Friday the Woodloch Night Club was filled with business professionals interested in learning about Rachel's Challenge, with the theme “Inspiring Others with Kindness.”
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  • On Friday the Woodloch Night Club was filled with business professionals interested in learning about Rachel's Challenge, with the theme "Inspiring Others with Kindness."
    Rachel's Challenge is a series of "student empowering programs and strategies that equip students and adults to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion."
    It was founded by Darrell Scott and his wife Sandy, after his daughter Rachel was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
    She was the first victim.
    Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured 21 more on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colo. They later turned the gun on themselves.
    Darrell spent the day at the Rachel's Challenge Professional Conference talking about different topics in a series of sessions. In the first session he focused on self awakening and showed pictures and videos from the Columbine shooting.
    He also showed pictures of Rachel when she was younger and told some stories.
    The second session was awaken to purpose, where he focused on treating employees and students like seeds and not dirt, so they can nourish and grow.
    "Do that and you will see productivity like you wouldn't believe," he said. "It isn't just about being safe, but also feeling safe."
    Rachel's Challenge was started after Darrell spoke before Congress "shortly after" the shooting. He said that speech "took off" and soon he was being asked to speak at different organizations and schools.
    "We saw how powerful Rachel's story was and wanted to do more with it," he said. "We need to reach the hearts of our kids. It wasn't the gun that decided to kill my daughter. It was the gunman."
    He stated that the organization "wasn't planned," but that it "just evolved."
    Darrell added that compassion can bring the kind of change that laws attempt to do.
    "We need laws to keep order and justice, but the more we inspire others to want to change, there is less of a 'need to' when it comes to laws," Darrell said.
    He said that they "always knew" Rachel had an "exceptional, kind heart," and that she felt physical looks "hinder people from seeing" the real person.
    "The sting of loss gets easier over time, but the memory is always there," Darrell said. "I don't know when I will be hit with the memories, but I don't try to hide my feelings when it does. I feel that if we stifle our emotions that it hurts us in the long run. My opinion is that it's much deeper than emotion."
    He said that Rachel's Challenge isn't a group that is "anti-anything."
    Page 2 of 2 - "Once you do that you lost what you stand for," he explained. "We can't prevent all suicides or control it, but we've seen an increase in academics through this program."
    Darrell said that he is "thankful" to be able to extend Rachel's life "beyond her own lifetime."
    "Not many parents who lose a child get to celebrate their lives," he said.
    Through reading Rachel's diary Darrell said that he "learned so much more" about her than he thought he knew.
    Rachel's Challenge comes to schools and also does professional workshops like the one at Woodloch Friday, but they also work with people like Chuck Norris and Cal Ripken Jr. and their corresponding charities. Dr. Oz will even have them to train his staff.
    "We need to be able to inspire students and adults," Darrell said.
    Although he doesn't have all the answers, just like everyone else, Darrell has some opinions as to why shootings like Columbine and Newtown occur.
    "There is a pattern of large massacres like these where the shooters are Caucasian men and the locations are in suburban and rural areas," he said. "They are small towns. Even Columbine is in an outlying region."
    He said it's "my opinion" that there's a consistency between shooters having mental health issues as well as an attraction to violent video games, movies, etc.
    "We cant' drench our minds with that kind of thing," Darrell said. "We need to reach out and help these individuals."
    He added that Rachel's Challenge has already helped "a lot of Eric and Dylans of the world."
    "We need to reach out to those people before they reach that breaking point," he stated.
    This month, Rachel's Challenge will also be coming to area schools. They are open to the public at no charge and start at 7 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
    • Tuesday, Sept. 10 at Wallenpaupack High School
    • Thursday, Sept. 12 at Honesdale High School
    • Wednesday, Sept. 25 at Western Wayne High School
    • Thursday, Sept. 26 at Forest City Regional School
    Sponsoring the program in the schools are Wayne Memorial Hospital, Wayne County Offices of Behavioral and Developmental Programs and Early Intervention, along with the school districts.
    You can find out more about Rachel's Challenge by visiting www.rachelschallenge.org.

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