Women of WTHR cheer up bullied student with birthday lunch surprise

Six women from Channel 13 had lunch with Lonna to help her celebrate her 13th birthday Monday.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Bullying isn't exclusive to one school or one age group. It's a problem that exists across the country. And almost every kid knows what it's like to feel left out.

On Monday, some members of the WTHR staff visited Franklin Township Middle School to eat lunch with a 13-year-old girl who often eats lunch alone. The student's name is Lonna, and it was her birthday.

Lonna's mother, Bobbie, is a former WTHR employee and she says that her daughter is bullied at school. So, she reached out to the station asking if some of the employees would be willing to help Lonna celebrate her birthday at school.

Six Channel 13 reporters and anchors showed up for lunch to show support for the newly 13-year old.

"When Lonna tries to sit with a group of students, they either will not speak to her as she sits there eating, or they get up and change tables," Emily Longnecker wrote in a Facebook post. "Lonna has learned to cope with this overt and covert rejection the best way she can. She maintains a smile and goes about her business. She knows middle school won’t last forever, and this is a blip on the radar of her bright and promising future."

Lonna is just one example of a larger problem that exists in every school across the country. About a third of students in most schools are bullied, according to The PACER Center. And even students who aren't bullied may know what it's like to eat lunch alone like Lonna.

In fact, No One Eats Alone Day is a prevention initiative that urges students to look beyond the differences of other students they may not know. First, there is a presentation. Then, there's a lunch hour where students have to sit with students they've never met.

Last week, the Lynhurst 7th and 8th Grade Center took part in the program.

"I feel like it's necessary to get the word out that people are bullied and people do eat alone,” said 7th grader Tanner Pollard. “They deserve to have someone near them. Kids that don't often eat with other kids because their too shy, too lonely or get bullied a lot, I feel like they don't deserve to eat alone."

The idea is that if students truly get to know each other, they may find they have more in common than expected.

"Having someone to sit down and talk with and not feel by yourself, that can just be the extra bump that gets you through the day," said Jo Nahod-Carlin, MHS Vice President of Customer Experience last Thursday.

Proof that even one friend, let alone six of them, can make all the difference.