The Exchange Club of Ridgefield and Don’t Be Silent will host a gala cocktail party and dinner Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Ridgefield Recreation Center to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of bullying, and how to end it.

State Sen. Toni Boucher (R) will be a keynote speaker at the night’s event alongside forensic psychologist Dr. David Bernstein.

Mona Thorpe of Don’t Be Silent will speak about her own personal experiences of growing up bullied, while Birgitta Stone will give a talk on cyber bullying.

“We have a very robust program planned for the night with our two keynote speakers, Toni Boucher and Dr. David Bernstein,” Thorpe said. “I’m very excited.”

Despite the gloomy subject matter, she said, the night would still liven things up.

“It’s a very serious topic, and at times very emotional, but we’ve balanced that with a lot of fun.”

The night’s entertainment will include a dance floor presided over by DJ Bach to Rock, a comedian performer, as well as a choreographed dance piece by Jennifer Conciatore of The Gym.

“There’s going to be a very nice social hour,” Thorpe said, adding that there would be two bars, as well as hors d’oeuvres before dinner.

The menu will feature food from Gallo Ristorante, and will include chicken, salmon, or a vegetarian option.   

Tragedy

Boucher offered praise for her fellow keynote speaker, Dr. Bernstein. She said she met him after the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

“He is just outstanding,” Boucher said.

“He talks about different strategies for parents and teachers to help kids early so they don’t develop bullying behavior. You’ve got to nip this in the bud early,” she added.

“You don’t label the kids, but if you can recognize the signs early and help them learn strategies, you help them learn to be more tolerant and empathetic and inclusive so the problem of bullying can be mitigated long-term.”

The far-reaching consequences of bullying were certainly on Thorpe’s mind as well. Though the event was announced weeks ago, the news of another tragic mass shooting, in Las Vegas Sunday night, Oct. 1, underscored the danger of ignoring bullying.

“It’s very important that we stop bullying at a young age so we can turn some of this around,” Thorpe said.

“Many people feel that bullying isn’t something that affects them, but with all of the mass shootings that have happened — in fact, just yesterday — it is something that affects all of us, she said Tuesday, Oct. 3.

She said many mass shooters had experienced some form of bullying, and that ignoring the issue could lead to more violence.

Lighter fare

To raise funds for the event, state Rep. John Frey and First Selectman Rudy Marconi worked a night as celebrity bartenders at Gallo Ristorante on Sept. 28, Thorpe said.

Afterwards, Selectman Bob Hebert conducted a live auction to have lunch with the First Selectman and state rep.

“That went well,” Thorpe said with a laugh. “We got $400 for them.”

She also said that one woman bought a table for 10 to the gala at the auction, which she would donate to a group of teachers.

Those wishing to attend may call 203-770-3614 to make a reservation or may send an email to info@dontbesilent.org.

Tickets may also be purchased online at dontbesilent.org.

Tickets start at $150 for an individual ticket, or $1,200 for a table of eight. Tables of 10 cost $1,500.

Parties who reserve eight- or 10-seat tables by Monday, Oct. 9, will be featured as supporters in Don’t Be Silent’s print and online publication materials.

Regular reservations are due by Saturday, Oct. 14.