'Parents Coalition' rallies for community and bullying prevention almost one year after death of Rio Allred

ELKHART, Ind.-- It's been almost one year since the tragic passing of 12-year-old Elkhart girl, Rio Allred.

After enduring senseless bullying for an autoimmune condition, Rio took her own life.

Now, parents are actively working to come together and stop bullying in Elkhart schools.

Thursday was their second meeting to address bullying and mental health resources in school. The parent forum included Rio’s dad, Aaron Ball.

In the aftermath of Rio’s death, her family started a non-profit to raise awareness against bullying, Rio's Rainbow.

But another organization also started, garnering a lot of support from Elkhart Schools, The ECS Parent Coalition.

"This time of year has changed for us," Ball said.  

The memory of the Eastside Middle Schooler, whose family says dealt with severe bullying because she had Alopecia, is now the driving force of the new push to prevent it.

"Everybody wants the same thing. Nobody wants, you know, a Rio situation for their children," Ball said. "Nobody wants their kids to feel like they're hurting."

"It immediately takes us back to that time in our life when things were as bad as they were ever going to be," Ball continued. "Yet, still had this army of people who were ready right away to jump in and help us, comfort us. Make sure that nothing was any harder."

Parents, like Gabriela Madrigal, are rallying behind Rio's family to fight for change through The Parent Coalition.

"I feel like we can do a lot better getting involved with our kids' wellbeing. Bullying is in every culture," Madrigal said. "So with my child, it started right after COVID, just disciplinary issues… I reached out to the school and I felt like there weren't any resources they could give me, and I felt like I was alone."

And she said they are ringing the alarm bell to do better to take care of each other.

"I feel like we are getting the awareness out there, and more parents are getting involved," she said.

"As it builds, one loud resilient voice of hundreds or even thousands of people, puts it in a spot where it can't be ignored anymore, and change does need to happen," Ball said.

The first anniversary of Rio's death is March 14.

The day before the non-profit that started in her name, Rio's Rainbow will hold a vigil.

The final parent coalition meeting will be April 25, and that will be student-run.

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