Ohio girl’s tragic story leads local softball team to dedicate season to beating bullies

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PITTSVILLE, Mo. -- The story of a young Ohio girl taking her life is making a strong impression.

It's a problem that has to stop. That's what social media users are saying about bullying, after a young cancer survivor took her own life.

Words can hurt as much as physical violence can. That's what a group of teenage girls from Johnson County, Mo., told FOX 4 News on Thursday evening. They’re players representing 3N2 Force, a USSSA traveling softball team, made mostly of 13 and 14-year old girls who live near Holden. The 10 players on that team are dedicating their coming year to beating the bullies.

“I'm sitting there with my buddy and I'm thinking, ‘I can't take it. I gotta do something. I want to kill myself,’” an inspirational speaker told the players before Thursday’s practice on Route 131.

They're strong words these teenage girls needed to share, from grown-ups coaches who love these players like their own children.

“You’re not going to get outcasted for feeling this way,” another presenter commented to the group.

A show of hands around the informal team meeting suggested all 10 players had been bullied in some form during their young lives. 3N2 Force’s mission will grow, beginning this weekend, as they dedicate their upcoming calendar year to anti-bullying efforts, inspired by Bethany Thompson’s memory.

“When I read this girl's story, it brought me to tears,” Kacey Chamberlain, 3N2 Force’s catcher, said.

As a toddler, Thompson beat a form of brain cancer, but the life-saving procedures left her with a crooked smile. On October 19th, Thompson could no longer take the teasing, and the 11-year old ended her own life.

“People should realize they can get help in some ways. Sadly, some people think ending their life will be the best choice for them. No one should have to go through what Bethany went through,” Jessyca Goza, 3N2 Force’s second base player, said.

The idea to pay tribute came from 44-year old Craig Chamberlain, the team's head coach. He first read about Thompson’s passing on Monday, along with millions of other social media readers.

“I don't think I've ever been so overwhelmed with emotion like that. I just bawled. I don't know this girl, but what she went through was unheard of,” Chamberlain said.

The team will soon wear jerseys, bearing the hashtag "I Am Bethany," meant to raise awareness about the rising problem of teen and pre-teen suicide. The American Psychological Association says teen suicide is the third-leading cause of death for Americans ages 15-24.

“As a player, I'm going to go around and I'm going to speak about this. I'm going to be the one to make a difference instead of standing alone,” Kacey Chamberlain said.

3N2 Force will play its final game of 2016 this weekend in Independence. That's when they'll debut the new jerseys, as well as "I Am Bethany" bracelets they'll hand out, spreading their anti-bullying message through 2017.

There are resources to help people who are thinking about taking their own life, click on this link for more details.