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Published November 06 2010

UPDATED: Facebook a spot for many to offer prayers, sympathy; more than 5,000 users connect to group

An online Facebook page created in memory of a Cooperstown, N.D., teenager who took her life Thursday has become home to a virtual anti-bullying rally that is attracting thousand of social media users.

The page was launched in the wake of Cassidy Joy Andel’s death. The 16-year-old hanged herself early Thursday morning. Griggs County Sheriff Bob Hook said bullying may have been a factor in her suicide.

Now, supporters are using the very same social media website on which she appears to have announced her suicide to confront the issue of bullying. And more than 2,000 people had affiliated with the Facebook group by 6 p.m. Friday. By 6:30 p.m. today, more than 5,000 had.

One person wrote: “Create T-shirts! Pass them out and tell her story.”

“And maybe start taking control and make consequences for those who bully people,” said another.

One mother wrote, “Parent’s Pledge: I vow as a parent to do everything in my power to make sure my children are kind to others and don’t intimidate others by bullying.”

Many offered prayers for and sympathy to the Andel family or expressed their own hurt.

“I’m so sorry for her friends and family’s loss,” said one comment. “It’s very sad that this young person felt this was her only way to escape other people’s hurtfulness.”

Another wrote, “I cried when I heard about this!”

There were also those who called for anti-bullying laws. At least one person urged visitors to contact legislators, writing: “This legislative session should not close without the passage of Cassidy’s Law – the bullying must stop.”

Annie Shove posted a notice about the “Light the Way” Facebook event, which urges Facebook users to change their profile picture to that of a candle on Nov. 7.

The 28-year-old from Fargo sees the “online candlelight vigil” as a way to let these hurting young people know “they’re not alone.”

“People coming together; strength in numbers,” she said.

The idea for the movement came after she heard news of Andel’s death. Shove was bullied in high school and said Andel’s situation “just really hit close to home.”

“I’ve been there,” she said.

Kassy Wenzel of Valley City, N.D., offered to give presentations on bullying. She also says it’s something she knows about personally.

“I want to help because of the effects bullying can have on someone,” Wenzel said in a Facebook message. “I would go home everyday after school and listen to the song ‘Don’t Laugh at Me’ by Mark Wills. The song always made me feel better.”

Michelle Mennis, a college freshman from Aberdeen, S.D., who plans to go into education, offered to help in whatever way she could.

“As a future teacher, I want to do whatever I can to help control bullying,” Mennis said via a Facebook message. “Everywhere I look, I see it, and it disgusts me. I see it on Facebook every day. I see it in the cafeteria or through text messages. Even at the college level, believe it or not.”

One poster’s comment reflected the sentiments of so many others who stopped by the page.

“I didn’t know Cassidy personally but I am deeply saddened to hear of her death,” she wrote. “My heart goes out to her family and friends, and I pray she is resting peacefully.”

Other comments were directed to Cassidy.

One person wrote, “You made me smile and laugh so much wondering how you came up with such funny wisecracks.”

Another post said, “You are amazing. You didn’t deserve anything you got … You’re greatly missed by many!”

A link to the Cassidy Joy Andel anti-bullying Facebook page.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734