A Utah boy who was the victim of bullying has received a huge show of community support.
Hundreds of families and friends walked in solidarity together on Oct. 11 to show their support for an 11-year-old boy named Mateus Romualdo, reports KSTU.
On Oct. 5, Mateus was walking home from school when "a car full of teenagers drove by repeatedly yelling a racial slur at him," said his mother, Heather Romauldo, according to Follow News.
"He felt very terrified and actually told me he thought the kids were going to shoot him," she added.
She shared her son's story on Facebook, prompting his youth basketball coach, Troy Harlan, to take action.
"I know that when I read the post that his mom wrote about him being scared, I've gone through all that," Harlan said. "I grew up in Davis County and I know what it feels like to be one of only two black kids at my school."
So Harlan organized a march to show support for the boy. "The message I want to happen is that people need to be held accountable," Harlan said. "You're not born to hate people, you're taught to hate people. I don't care what color you are: We are all the same."
He managed to recruit retired Utah Jazz basketball player Thurl Bailey for the march, in addition to the team's bear mascot.
Those who marched in support of Mateus held up anti-racist signs and showed their unity and pride in their cultural differences.
For those unable to attend the event, Harlan recommended making a donation to Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Salt Lake Valley or the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The march was well-timed, as October is National Bullying Prevention Month, which was initiated in 2006 by the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER).
"This is a time for communities nationwide to unite and raise awareness of bullying prevention through events, activities and education," the group explains on the PACER website, adding that "the community is encouraged to use these creative resources to engage, educate and inspire others to join the movement."
PACER defines bullying as "an intentional behavior that hurts, harms, or humiliates a student, either physically or emotionally, and can happen while at school, in the community, or online."
The organization cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which explains that bullied kids experience low self-esteem, have few friends, perform poorly in school, and experience physical and mental health issues.
As for the bullying incident involving Mateus, his mother filed a police report and the case is being investigated, she said.