Morgan Schmidt was a typical 12-year-old — an honor student with straight As, popular, fun-loving and beginning to show promise as a cross country runner.
But when she began to be bullied through social media, the hurt became too much to bear. The Pleasant Valley Junior High student took her own life on April 6.
“There were so many wonderful attributes about her, but she had some internal struggles we were not aware of,” her mother, Christine Schmidt, said Friday. The hurtful online comments, some of which were anonymous, “went right to her heart.”
“Despite all the love and positive and happy people she had in her life, that (bullying) became much louder in her heart and difficult to combat.”
Five months after their daughter’s suicide, Morgan’s family has harnessed their grief and begun a mission to teach kindness and compassion and bring an end to bullying. Dozens of friends, schoolmates and others will join the Schmidts today as they spread that message as a team in the NAMIWalk, a fundraiser sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Mississippi Valley.
Their group, Team Schmidt Miles for Morgan, will be dressed in purple T-shirts in honor of Morgan’s favorite color. The team shirts celebrate Morgan’s life, have several messages of love and hope as well as the phrase “You can put a stop to bullying. Kindness is contagious!”
In addition to Christine Schmidt, the team will be led by her husband, Derek, and their three children: Morgan’s twin sister, Mackenzie, 13; Andrew, 10; and Allyson, 20; and the family dog Charlie.
” ‘Kindness is contagious’ is our motto,” Morgan’s mother added. “We really believe when kindness exists then bullying cannot.”
She said Team Schmidt took its message last week to St. Louis, where they lived before moving to Bettendorf, and participated in Chad’s Coalition, a teen suicide and awareness event, at their former church.
“I want to have Morgan’s voice heard,” she said, adding she hopes the walk can be a healing moment for the students she has heard from since Morgan’s death.
According to Schmidt, Morgan had talked about the “drama” and the bullying. In fact, she had attempted suicide a week before she died. “I believe she thought she could handle it, that ‘it’s not going to bother me.’ But it did.”
Schmidt said the family decided to join the NAMIWalk to support the work of the alliance as well as creating, in her words, “a movement to be part of the solution of bullying.”
“This is just the beginning for our Team Schmidt. We support all the research going into the mental health society,” she said, adding that they do not know where the campaign will take the family. But she knows they are doing the work that Morgan would have wanted.
“With every tragedy you have a choice to make: You can cocoon yourself in sadness and grief and try to survive, or you can use your emotions and try to power something that is going to make a difference,” Schmidt said.