When Karen Suffern, a single mom from Rocky Mount, N.C., asked her 8-year-old twins to write a letter to Santa with their Christmas wishes over the weekend, she expected to see toys, books and clothes on the list.
Instead, Suffern was shocked to see a heartfelt request from her son, Ryan, that Santa Claus step in and put an end to the bullying suffered by his twin sister, Amber.
“Dear Santa … I wanted a [remote control] car and helicopter, but I don’t want that any mor. Kid at school are still picking on Amber and its not fair because she doesnt do anything to them … ,” Ryan wrote. “I prayed that they will stop but god is bisy and needs your help.
“Is it against the rules to give gift early?” he wrote.
“Ryan handed me his and told me not to read it so of course I read it to find out what he wanted,” Suffern told ABCNews.com. “That’s when I realized and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh.’”
Suffern posted the letter to her Facebook page to share with family and a few close friends, or so she thought. After her friends shared it on their own pages and online, however, the letter went viral, making news across the globe as people were touched by Ryan’s words.
“It’s amazing and overwhelming at the same time,” Suffern said of the response. “Initially, I was kind of upset because it reached so many people and I’m a private person but now I think it’s a topic that needs to be discussed before it becomes too late.”
The attention forced Suffern to tell Ryan, who, like Amber, is in the third-grade, that she had read his letter.
“It takes a lot to get him to talk, like pulling teeth, so he doesn’t understand why it’s a big deal,” she said.
It also allowed Suffern to open a dialogue with her children’s school, and begin to make things better for Amber, who Suffern says suffers from ADHD, depression and a mood disorder.
“The school has been in touch and they’re making sure my daughter feels comfortable and safe,” Suffern said. “They moved her on the bus because about 98 percent of the bullying takes place on the bus. She’s now sitting with her cousin who’s much older than Amber is.
“Today and yesterday she didn’t wake up begging me to let her stay home, so I guess that’s a good sign,” she said.
Suffern says she first started talking to her children about bullying a year or two ago when the Cartoon Network hosted a TV special TV on the topic.
“I asked the kids if they had ever bullied anyone or been bullied and Amber said, ‘Sometimes I just wish I would die so that people would leave me alone,’” Suffern recalled.
“That broke my heart,” she said. “I’ve been there and I do not want my daughter going through that.”