CONCORD, N.C. -- It’s a real life tragedy that can’t be taught in the books, but the kids at Concord Middle School are learning about it firsthand.
"Our son is dead. Ryan killed himself," said John Halligan remembering the phone call his wife made to him the day their son committed suicide.
"I lost my son Ryan to suicide about 10 years ago. He was a middle schooler in Vermont. He's the victim of what we now call cyberbullying. He was bullied at his school and also online," he added.
Ryan Halligan was only 13-years-old.
His dad said there was a kid who started rumors that his son was gay and then there was a girl who pretended to like him.
Halligan told students what happened when his son confronted the girl.
"Turns out on the last day of my son's life, he went up to a girl at the middle school and said to her, ‘It's girls like you who make me want to kill myself.’”
Now, he travels the country sharing his son’s story with other students.
It was three girls at Concord Middle who really wanted Ryan’s story shared at their school.
So, they came up with different ways to raise the money including a project called “Hands Down Against Bullying.”
“We sent letters out to everybody in the school and then we sent them to different businesses and different people like friends and family and then we did the hands,” said Sarah Bradley, a student at Concord Middle.
The Leadership Class at Concord High School also chipped in, donating $675.
In the end, it worked.
They raised enough money and the message of a broken-hearted father was heard loud and clear.
“There is no greater pain than for a parent to lose a child” said Halligan.
After hearing his presentation, MacKenzie Bartnik, a student at Concord Middle said, "It was very emotional for me because I was crying.”
"Kind of touched you to realize how much he loved his son,” said Emma Dunagan, a student at Concord Middle.
And the School Resource Officer who helped the students pull all of this together was also touched by what she saw from her students.
"The kids do care and they do want to change people's outlook,” said Officer Kelly Seagraves, with the Concord Police Department.
Perhaps after today, they will.
"We have to get to those kids to get them to understand, look, you are loved, whatever pain you're feeling right now is very temporary. It's not forever,” said Halligan.