Ryan Suffern may have craved a remote-control car and helicopter for Christmas, but lately he wants Santa to fulfill a different kind of wish.
In a letter to Santa, the 8-year-old asks for children at school to stop teasing his twin sister, Amber, who weighs 140 pounds – nearly twice his size, CNN reports. His mother, Karen, discovered this after she asked her son to write a Christmas wish list:
My mom said to send you a Christmas list. I wanted a remote control car and helicopter but I do not want that anymore. Kids at school are still picking on Amber and it is not fair because she does not do anything to them and it makes me mad. I prayed they would stop, but God is busy and I need your help. Is it against the rules to give up gifts early? Can you ask Big Time Rush to come to Amber's birthday party? It will make her so happy. If you do not get them to come that is fine, just get her everything she asked for.
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PS- My mom throws the best birthday parties. You can come if you want.
Karen Suffern, a single mother who works part time as an administrative assistant for a home health care company, said her eyes filled with tears when she read the letter. She knew Amber had been teased, but not to the extent her son described – where kids in gym class would laugh when she couldn’t bear crawl on the floor, make fun of her weight and say she was adopted because she is multiracial.
"I try to build up my daughter's self-esteem and tell her she is beautiful, but people say hurtful things to me, because I also have a weight problem, and that hurts me," Karen Suffern said. "I can't imagine what she goes through."
The twins, who attend Rocky Mount Preparatory School in North Carolina, are in the same classes for the first time. Ryan says the bullying takes place on the school bus as well.
"Every day when she goes to school, she says, 'Mommy, can I just stay at home?' and she just doesn't want to go.' And now every time I send her to school, I feel like I am not protecting her and I am letting her down," Ryan said.
Suffern shared her son’s letter online where it eventually was posted on a CNN iReport by Tony Posnanski, a man who lost more than 225 pounds.
“When I was nine I told my mom I wish I had a terminal disease so I could lose weight. I was over 200 pounds. I was nine. My mom never talked about it again. I know what it is like to walk into school and wait for the people to make hurtful comments,” he wrote.
Suffern says she hopes Ryan’s letter will shed light on a national bullying problem that affects 3.2 million students each year.
"If my kids don't call names and pick on others, I would expect other parents to teach their kids to be respectful, too," she said. "There have been times my kids would point at others and say, 'why is her hair so strange' and things like that, and I would say, 'You know, people are different, and that is just the way they are.' "