Eli Fritchley: Tennessee boy, 12, kills himself after being bullied for being gay
After being viciously tormented for being homosexual, a 7th-grade student in Bedford County, Tennessee killed himself on November 28. Eli Fritchley's parents claim that his friends regularly told him that he was going to hell because of his sexuality.
"He was informed he was going to Hell because he didn't necessarily have a religion and stated that he was gay," 12-year-old Eli's mother Debbey revealed to News19. "They told him that fairly often," she said. She also believes Eli was insulted because of his attire. He liked pink, painted his nails and nearly always wore the same SpongeBob sweater.
"I think they used that as a weapon since he was in the same clothing every single day," Debbey added. While Eli's father Steve does not believe the classmates ever physically attacked him, he believes that verbal abuse may be just as destructive. "I believe it was only words," Steve explained, "but words hurt. They hurt a lot." Nonetheless, Eli's parents have been taken aback by what transpired, as Eli is known for brushing off bullies.
"He didn't care, or at least we felt he didn't care," they explained, "and that's what makes it so tough for us because we thought he didn't care." In Eli's honor, Steve and Debbey are currently working on establishing an anti-bullying charity.
The Fritchleys were regulars at Shelbyville's Penalties Sports Bar & Grill. Rob and Shondelle Lewis, the restaurant's proprietors, claim they are like family to them and are devastated by Eli's death. The Fritchleys are trying to build a foundation to promote awareness and help educate others about bullying and suicide awareness, so they started a GoFundMe to help. The fundraiser has already received more than $16,000 while its goal was $10K.
"I hope and pray that we can make something positive out of this tragic occurrence," Rob remarked. "We've got to do it. Through this GoFundMe page, we're going to come up with some type of anti-bullying program, and I'm praying to God that it won't happen again."
Bullying may be prevented via education, according to Debbey. The Fritchleys want to make sure that what happened to Eli doesn't happen to other children or families. Debbey stated, "we all failed him. We've all let him down. That's all there is to it."
My heart yall.— DAT' YOSHI DECEMBER (day 5/30) (@trihex) December 7, 2021
A 12-year old committed suicide due to insistent, nonstop bullying at his Middle School in Bedford County, Tennessee — his name is #EliFritchley.
Their GoFundMe will create an anti-bullying campaign in his honor. All my donations next 48hr will
The Lewises claim they've received a deluge of messages from others in their neighborhood who have been affected by bullying. "This is a developing field, and I believe that people need to be more tolerant of new individuals, whether they like them or not. Everyone is different. Accept and respect them, and parents should emphasize this with their children more," Shondelle stated.
Eli is survived by five brothers. At his memorial, everyone has been urged to wear bright colors. An anonymous donor sent $5,000 to help with funeral costs.