Recipient of a 2014 Governor’s Award for Excellence
On January 13, 2013, Risk Management employee Karen Peterson and her husband, Gerard (Bud) Peterson, tragically lost their 13 year old son, George Verl (Buddy) Peterson to suicide, due to bullying at his school. Since then, Karen has worked tirelessly to make a positive impact on the cultures of our schools and to protect Utah’s children.
Shortly after Buddy’s death, Karen created the “Be a Buddy Foundation” to raise awareness of bullying and teen suicide by funding school education opportunities and speaking out against bullying both locally and nationally. The Foundation has created and distributed hundreds of wristbands with the following message: “Be a Buddy NOT a Bully.” In both 2013 and 2014, Karen has frequently volunteered to provide anti-bullying awareness and prevention training in our school districts. During the 2013 legislative session, Karen worked with Representative Gage Froerer and Senator Luz Robles to introduce House Bill 134, which requires school districts to notify parents of a student’s suicidal ideation or any victimization by bullying. Then, during the 2014 session, Karen advocated for the passage of House Bill 23 sponsored by Representative Steve Eliason and Senator Stephenson, which allows school agents to intervene and ask questions of a student who is believed to be at-risk of suicide for the purpose of referring the student for professional help and notifying parents. In both 2013 and 2014, Karen testified before legislative bodies to support the above-cited legislation.
Every day, Karen is motivated by the following refrain: “Be nice to each other. I want to be able to say that my son’s death was not in vain.” In short, by devoting herself to ensure that no other parent will lose his or her child to suicide as a result of school-related bullying, Karen has exemplified humanitarianism in its purest form. She is most deserving of this reward.