VIPP Special Report: How 10-year-old Seven Bridges death is now bringing awareness to so many who don’t understand the consequences that bullying brings

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The heartbreak a community is feeling because a child dies a tragic death because he was suffering in silence

Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Television, ABC Affiliate in Louisville, KY (Original story posted: January 22, 2019/Updated: January 23, 2019)

Shanklin, an assignment editor with more than 25 years in the broadcast field for the station took the mother’s call in September 2018 while heading into work.  In a rare and raw account which is hardly done she reflects on when she took both calls about Seven Bridges.   

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The story of Seven Bridges is making headlines not only in Louisville but nationwide after the 10-year-old committed suicide on Saturday for alleged bullying. I have to use alleged because this will likely be determined in the court of law.

I spoke to the mother Tami Charles Saturday evening after returning from out of town. I had received numerous texts wanting to know what happened to Charles’ son. I had no idea because I was traveling and could not be distracted due to extremely heavy rain.

When I got back to Louisville, I reached out to her because I knew the backstory. I didn’t expect for her to answer my text message for weeks but later that evening she responded. We texted a couple of times and then my phone rang it was Charles. She told me what happened all we could do was cry together over the phone. I got off wondering, “What else could I have done?” “What can I do now?” “Why didn’t someone say something?”

50739415_1000508566810691_3647677009657593856_nTo hear the hurt but strength of a mother on the same day she lost her child made my heart drop into my stomach. What do you say? It’s not about getting the story. I didn’t move into this community. I grew up in this community. I know the names, the faces, the unsung heroes, and the sacrifices many do day in and day out and never get a day of media coverage. I chose to stay to help and support those who needed a voice but all I could do was listen to this mother.  What could I say to comfort a grieving mother who knew something was going on but couldn’t stop it?

I walked and cried and cried and walked, all night until my family had to ask if there was anything they could do. They know I keep my work close to the vest and private and I never include them to keep my journalistic integrity. Frankly, if I told them some things, they could not erase the image from their minds. Some stories develop while others do not, but I still assist and work for an answer with as many as I can even on my off days.

My main job is to get the story out of people. Whether they are yelling at me because of their situation, their frustration and/or confusion on how to express what they are thinking and/or feeling. My task is to translate their thoughts and get to the core of the situation.

A mentor taught me a long time ago that you need to listen to the details they are in there just listen. Then, ask follow up questions to make sure I’m understanding them correctly. If I can’t understand the story, I can’t get our team to understand the importance.

With this burden on my heart and mind, I did reach out to the reporter that helped with the story in September 2018. We talked about it. We agreed not to talk to Charles about doing an interview. There was no rush since we were the only ones who did the initial story on Seven. When she along with her husband were ready they would let us know.

Then when Charles mentioned that insurance would not pay for her son’s funeral we decided that we needed to do something. That’s when we asked them to do the interview.

Reporter Heather Fountaine and I also said we wanted her to talk to anyone who could help her get the needed funds to bury her only child. Actually, her miracle child because Charles thought she was not able to have children, but she was blessed to have Seven.

Because Seven’s death was a suicide we did not think she would get a lot of coverage. Fountaine and I had to move faster than any of us wanted too, but thinking we spoke to the family during the trying time we needed to see it through and worked all weekend on our days off.

Let me take you back to September 2018 when the mother was trying to help her child when no one else thought it was anything until the untimely death of Seven on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

Charles reached out to me in September and explained to me what her child was going through and as a mother she needed to find a way to help her son. They loved the school but felt like the process might have been broken when it came to the notification process.

What the mother didn’t know that I was having a bad day, running late for work and was literally stuck in traffic at 2:30 p.m. in the middle of the day. But when I saw Charles’ name on my caller ID I knew I needed to answer. She said she was having a problem and wanted to get the word out. I explained to her that I was in traffic and as soon as I got to work I would begin looking into it. As soon as we hung up, I went to work. I called my newsroom and asked them to pull the video, so we could review it as soon as I walked in and asked others to listen as well, so we could make a decision. (Our evening meetings are at 3:00 pm, so if i wanted them to try and get all of the elements before the end of business we didn’t have much time or I would have to hold the story for consideration the next day.)

In Charles’ video, which has 38,000 views and more than 1,100 shares. She expressed sincere concern for her child’s well-being. Charles alleged her son was choked and verbally abused racially and no action was taken nor was she told of the incident even though her child was elementary school age. She used the words bullied. She also said several times that they loved the school, but it needed to change its procedure of alerting parents when situations like this occur. I went into the meeting and explained the situation and that the mother wanted to address the procedure and the time frame in which a parent is notified so that the child does not continue to go through a situation alone but with a support team.

The Kentucky Dept of Education defines “bullying” as any unwanted verbal, physical, or social behavior among students that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated: 1. That occurs on school premises, on school-sponsored transportation, or at a school-sponsored event; or 2. That disrupts the education process.

This incident met the criteria. We sat down with Charles and her 10-year-old son Seven Bridges. The reporter was very sensitive to the situation but asked the hard questions and the mother and child answered freely.

When the team came back to the station, they were so surprised of the maturity of the fifth grader and his level of forgiveness.

In our September 2018 interview Bridges said, “I know that I can get it out of my mind, and tomorrow is like a better day, so I can still make friends with him.”

Charles also in that interview said she would like to see the school’s administration held accountable and more racial sensitivity training within the school system.

The school system said in September 2018 that the incident was under official investigation.

Presently, the district is opening a full investigation. The parents of Seven Bridges say they will file a lawsuit.

Now, the grieving parents have to find a way to bury their child. Again, they have insurance but when a person commits suicide it is not covered under the policy.  So, they have started a Go Fund Me page entitled: Rest in Paradise Seven Bridges if you would like to donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/rest-in-paradise-seven-bridges.

The community is rallying around the family be using the words “Seven Strong” – this is to bring awareness of bullying of any kind so that no other family has to go through this traumatic situation because unfortunately Seven was suffering in silence.

There’s a phrase that’s commonly used: “If I can just save one person, then I did my job.”

I will never use that phrase again because the one person I thought I helped I could not save but I hope my efforts and Seven’s memory will not go in vain.

If you know someone who may not be able to talk to you. Have them talk to someone. Give them this number 800-273-8255. Let’s not let anyone suffer in silence.

If you have a story idea, send it to me at The411@whas11.com.

Sherlene Shanklin, an multi-Emmy nominated, two-time 2018 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Winner for Sports Writing & For Best Use of Social Media and multiple AP Awards currently works for WHAS11 Television. She created a segment The411 and is a regular contributor to whas11.com.  You can hear her on Thursdays at 11:30 am on WLOU/104.7FM as well as WHAS11 Noon Show at 12:50 pm, Fridays at 4:25 pm and Saturday mornings on Good Morning Kentuckiana at 6:25 am and 9:25 am.  You can also read her stories on this site The VIPP Report.  Sherlene’s podcast Giving You The Vibe, (GUTV) will begin in the first quarter of 2019.  

The VIPP Report: Working out under the twin spires at Churchill Downs its Fab Fit Friday

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With Queen Teddy & area fitness experts as they show you their weight loss techniques

(Louisville, Ky) It’s time to kick your fitness into gear!  The Stamina Foundation presents Fab Fit Friday on Friday, January 25th at Churchill Downs from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  Multiple fitness and wellness experts take you through a series of classes to assist with weight loss and/or to spice up your normal routine.  

 The queen of dance, Queen Teddy will travel to Louisville to do a 90-minute Dance Fitness Class.  One of her mottos is “If you believe you can, you WILL”.  Queen Teddy has been sharing her weight loss journey with 230 thousand followers on Instagram and now you get a chance to experience how she did it.  

 There will also be a mini fitness and wellness classes hosted by Nika from N-Spire Fitness, Savoy Fitness and Erin Quinlan from Ben & Zen Yoga and Snatched Fitness.  

 We invite you to come out and jumpstart your fitness routine in a supportive, motivational and inspirational atmosphere where we can help you stay and/or get fit and fab in 2019.  

 While you cool down and/or wait for your class to begin.  There will be vendors on site for you to support.  

img_39301(1)To be a part of Fab Fit Friday at Churchill Downs on Friday, January 25th tickets are $30.00.  To register, go to http://www.ashleydanderson.com/events. 

The event is made possible due to the generous supporter of Churchill Downs, Republic Bank, N-Spire Fitness, Savoy Fitness, Ben & Zen Yoga, Snatched Fitness, Queen Teddy and the Stamina Foundation.   

To setup an interview, please contact Sherlene Shanklin with VIPP Communications at info@vippcommunications.com.  We also request that you include our event on your community calendars and announcements.    

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The VIPP Report: Louisville restaurant named top 12 breakfasts in the country

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The Cooking Channel’s Man’s Greatest Food will tackle who has the greatest breakfasts in the country.  Of course, a Louisville restaurant is on that list especially when you reference anything that mentions the “GREATEST”.  Can you guess who’s on that list?  Host Roger Mooking chose “Superchefs” owned by Darnell “Superchef” Ferguson located at 1702 Bardstown Road right in the heart of the Highlands.

Mooking visited chefs all across the U.S. and went into their kitchens to learn about their top dishes and some of the secrets behind it.  The show did visit Superchefs and they ranked the restaurant on their 12 greatest breakfasts list.  Mooking was looking for the best combinations of eggs, gravy, breakfast meat and fried dough.  You could put a check mark next to each one of those criteria when it comes to Superchefs Louisville.

Ferguson says “What a way to start the year by being placed in this prestigious ranking for breakfast.  I won the Thanksgiving challenge in November of last year.  It just gives me the confidence that the restaurant caters to any taste bud you may have.  Stop by and tryout some of the fantastic items we have on the menu.  This is really shaping up to be a great year for myself and Team Superchefs”.

Man’s Greatest Food will air on the Cooking Channel, Tuesday, January 15th at 7:00 pm (EST).

If you would like to setup an interview and/or check for availability for engagements, contact Sherlene Shanklin with VIPP Communications at sshanklin@vippcommunications.com

Here’s a link to a promo video: Cooking Channel’s Man’s Greatest Food

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The VIPP Report: The Dance Queen comes to Louisville to get you fab & fit under the twin spires

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Queen Teddy and area fitness experts show you how to lose weight the proper way

(Louisville, KY) It’s time to kick your fitness into gear!  The Stamina Foundation presents Fab Fit Friday on Friday, January 25th at Churchill Downs from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  Multiple fitness and wellness experts take you through a series of classes to assist with weight loss and/or to spice up your normal routine.

The queen of dance, Queen Teddy will travel to Louisville to do a 90-minute Dance Fitness Class.  One of her mottos is “If you believe you can, you WILL”.  Queen Teddy has been sharing her weight loss journey with 230 thousand followers on Instagram and now you get a chance to experience how she did it.

There will also be a mini fitness and wellness classes hosted by Nika from N-Spire Fitness, Savoy Fitness and Erin Quinlan from Ben & Zen Yoga and Snatched Fitness.

We invite you to come out and jump start your fitness routine in a supportive, motivational and inspirational atmosphere where we can help you stay and/or get fit and fab in 2019.

While you cool down and/or wait for your class to begin.  There will be vendors on site for you to support.

To be a part of Fab Fit Friday at Churchill Downs on Friday, January 25th tickets are $30.00.  To register, go to www.ashleydanderson.com/events.

The event is made possible due to the generous supporter of Churchill Downs, N-Spire Fitness, Savoy Fitness, Ben & Zen Yoga, Snatched Fitness, Queen Teddy and the Stamina Foundation.

To setup an interview, please contact Sherlene Shanklin with VIPP Communications at info at vippcommunications dot com.  We also request that you include our event on your community calendars and announcements.

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The VIPP Report: Aspire Basketball Academy announces inaugural scholarship and awards gala

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A NIGHT OF INSPIRATION RECOGNIZES THREE PASSIONATE LEADERS WHO’VE DEDICATED THEIR LIVES TO DEVELOP YOUTH IN THE COMMUNITY

(Louisville, KY) Aspire Basketball Academy continues to motivate and inspire youth in the community to reach their ultimate potential.  The academy takes a timeout to acknowledge the unsung MVPs in our community that work tirelessly on the court and in life to assist youth by keeping them inbounds and on track for success.

It’s A Night of Inspiration Scholarship and Awards Gala on Sunday, February 10, 2019 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at The Majestic, 1535 Lytle Street.  The inaugural event is to inspire, develop and cultivate future community leaders with the core academic and leadership skills to prepare them for life beyond their time at Aspire Academy.  This year’s host for the gala will be Perrin Johnson.

The evening will honor some local legends that have dedicated their lives to helping youth. This year’s honorees will be Tony Williams, Daniel Ross and Bob Redman; their passion, success stories and accomplishments will be recognized.  You will also get to meet international and local students in the program and the Aspire staff who directly mentor the student athletes. Also, the scholarship and awards gala will highlight the importance of education and youth sports as it relates to the development of children in our community.

The evening will be filled with inspirational stories, great food, drinks, and live entertainment. The proceeds will go directly to the program to support the students, education, transportation, and lodging. All of these things are essential to ensure the student’s success.

Aspire Basketball Academy provides three types of programs which includes the Junior Wizards, a developmental youth grassroots program, Aspire Academy, a national high school program and the Aspire Academy College Prep which is designed for post graduate activities while in the program.

You still have time to be a sponsor, purchase a table and/or to make a donation to A Night of Inspiration by contacting Jamie Warfield at info@jamiewarfieldconsulting.com or Tim Barnett at tbarnett.aspireacademy@gmail.com. Individual tickets are $50 which includes appetizers, drinks, dessert, and dancing.

To setup an interview with Aspire Academy’s leadership team, Roger McClendon, Luke Hancock, Barnett and/or Warfield, contact VIPP Communications at info@vippcommunications.com.  Please include our announcement on your community calendars and announcements.                                                                       ###

The VIPP Report: Dance company Dorrance Dance performs in Louisville

Kentucky Center announce Dorrance Dance as part of their Brown-Forman Midnite Ramble Series. Photo sent as promotion with release.

As part of the Brown-Forman Midnite Ramble its Dorrance Dance.  They will be at the Brown Theatre on Wednesday, January 23rd

Tickets start at $20.00.  the dance company honors tap dance and its compelling content.

You can purchase tickets at the Kentucky Center box office, Kentuckycenter.org or by calling 502-584-7777. 

If you have a story idea, send it to thevippreport@vippcommunications.com. Follow us on Twitter @thevippreport & @vippcomm.

The VIPP Report: Celebrating the Legacy of Black Louisville and the influences that still resonate in the consciousness of the community

It’s a tradition that many automatically put on their calendars from year to year because when you attend the celebration hosted by Legacies Unlimited Inc. you walk away realizing that so many that grew up in this community made history in so many ways especially in the entertainment industry.  On January 25th & 26th, they will be remembered and celebrated for their outstanding accomplishments. It’s all about Celebrating the Legacy of Black LouisvilleIt will be held at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, (KCAAH) located at 1701 West Muhammad Ali Blvd.

This event pays tribute to the achievements and contributions that Louisville’s African American citizens have made to Louisville, the nation and the world.

The program will consist of exhibits, workshops and two performance events.  It’s the JAZZ AT THE TOP HAT. A re-imagined night out at the Top Hat Club, Black Louisville’s most famous entertainment spot during the glory days of the 1940’s and 50’s.  This event will present jazz vocalist, Bobby J and will feature International flutist and Jazz historian Galen Abdur Razzo.                                                                                        

 The second event is The Walnut Street Revue, a live stage show reminiscent of the “chitlin circuit” performances that played in venues on Walnut Street, now Muhammad Ali Blvd., in the 1940’s & 50’ when Walnut Street was in vogue.  The revue will be hosted by WLKY’s Ann Bowdan. The evening will be filled with great music presented The Jerry Tolson Jazz Group with vocalists Alisia and Karen Chavez.

A special tribute will be paid to the late Foree Wells, a Louisville musician who played with some of the greatest blues performers in the business, which included —music legend the late B.B. King.  Wells, also founded the Walnut Street Blues Band which included his two sons and a daughter in law. The Walnut Street Rhythm & Blues Band will be in attendance that evening and will perform a special tribute in memory of their beloved father, Foree Wells.

The Opening Ceremony will take place from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm on Friday, January 25th followed by an unveiling of the exhibits.  The exhibits included in this year’s program include the following:   Two Centuries of Black Louisville …the Exhibit – A permanent exhibit of photographs from the book Two Centuries of Black Louisville —A Photographic History; Textile Designs by Louisville’s “Bag Lady” – Zephyr May Miller; and The Works of Louisville Folk Artist, Marvin Finn plus much more. 

There will be two workshops held on Saturday, January 26th.  The first one, The Legacy of Central High School from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. It’s an investigative look at the historical significance and impact that Central had on its students and the community as well. Come learn about the legacy that this educational institution created over the years through the lens of Dr. Larry Wilkins Doyle, a 1968 CHS graduate whose did his doctoral studies on the historic school.  The second workshop will be The Listening Room Workshop. It will present recordings of Louisville’s African American entertainers & musicians of the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. These selections will be provided by the Soulful Sounds of Derbytown and presented by Ron Lewis of Mr. Wonderful Productions.

Celebrating the Legacy of Black Louisville is presented by Legacies Unlimited in partnership with the KCAAH and the University of Louisville Archives & Special Collections. It is made possible through support from the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, WLKY-TV and George & Mary Lee Fischer.

Tickets for the both JAZZ AT THE TOP HAT and WALNUT STREET REVUE are available at Better Days Records in Lyles Mall or at 1765 Bardstown Road AND JAMBUSTERS BALLOONS & MORE at Popular Level Road. For ticket information call (502) 456-2394.

To set-up an interview, please contact Sherlene Shanklin with VIPP Communications at info at vippcommunications dot com.  If you have an entertainment/community calendar, we are requesting that you post and/or announce. 

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