One of the most significant stories of 2012 was the suicide of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl who had at one time attended school in Maple Ridge, and who had been mercilessly bullied online and in person.
While suicide is usually left untouched by media, this particular death prompted an international discussion on bullying, mental health, communication, and how to deal with all of the fallout that bullying causes.
There have been more than 24 million views of a YouTube video that Amanda posted chronicling the abuse and torture she endured from her bullies and tormentors.
About a month after the original posting Amanda killed herself - and then the video went viral.
Amanda's YouTube video has been viewed 6.6 million times, and other versions of the same video have been viewed millions of times also and spawned a myriad of related video postings and comments. By the time this article hits the doorsteps of homes around the community the count will be even higher.
The video, titled My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm, shows a young thin girl with long hair who silently flips through flash cards.
In the video description she wrote the following: "I'm struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply. I'm not doing this for attention. I'm doing this to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong... Haters are haters but please don't hate... I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyone's future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I'm still here aren't I?"
But on Oct. 10 of this year Amanda ended her life just a few weeks shy of her 16th birthday.
The suicide sparked a nationwide cry for help to end bulling at schools, in playgrounds, at home, and online.
Amanda's mom Carol Todd, who is a teacher in Coquitlam, is pleased that her daughter's death opened up dialogue to help other people who are going through what her daughter faced.
"When you look at the comments [on YouTube] you'll see that people are still discovering it for the first time," said Carol. "And some of Amanda's friends still watch it everyday. They are keeping her memory alive."
Carol said that Amanda's friends text her regularily, and even brought over Christmas presents.
"It is so heartfelt. She had an eclectic group of friends. It's different, not odd, but unique."
Carol, along with the City of Port Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam Youth Society, RCMP, School District 43, and the Kids Help Phone established Be Someone, an anti-bullying initiative that was launched on Nov. 27 at Riverside Secondary in Port Coquitlam. There was a sea of pink shirts with a large snowflake on the front - Princess Snowflake was Carol Todd's nickname for her daughter.
The Snowflake Walk to End Bullying, which is part of the Be Someone campaign, was held Dec. 9 and more than 600 people attended.
Carol said she was "very surprised" at the turnout at for the Snowflake Walk.
She anticipated a couple hundred people would attend and was happy to see how many people came out to show their support.
The Snowflake Walk is intended to be
an annual event and is part of an important new anti-bullying program designed to give the entire community a way to show support for the Be Someone anti-bullying initiative, as well as to raise money to increase support in the community.
"I have Snowflake elves all over the world who honour Amanda's memory. Whatever it is that Amanda started, it is huge, it's just global. It has turned a tragedy into global awareness," explained Carol.
She has received messages from all over the world, including Austria, Japan, the U.S., and New Zealand.
"It's a problem everywhere. Anywhere there are girls between the ages of 13 and 15 who are experiencing the same mental health issues as Amanda.
"Amanda has given me a new job. She is the third most Googled name in 2012. The little girl from Port Coquitlam. Maybe she was taken for a reason," she reflected.
Carol said Twitter has made changes to make social media a bit safer for young users, but Facebook has yet to take any action.
Twitter is a real-time information network that connects users to each other. Its rules state that they will remove any content that promotes child sexual exploitation and suspend the account involved.
It reads: "When we are made aware of links to images of or content promoting child sexual exploitation they will be removed from the site without further notice and reported to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children ("NCMEC"); we permanently suspend accounts promoting or containing updates with links to child sexual exploitation."
In the immediate days following Amanda's suicide, thousands of tips came in and police spent a lot of time sorting rumours and identifying scammers who were trying to profit from the teen's death.
One unfounded allegation involved the supposed release of Amanda's autopsy photos. This was quickly debunked by the BC Coroner's Service but nevertheless caused extreme stress for Amanda's family and distracted investigators for hours.
The intense media attention regarding Amanda's death led to a number of fake websites and accounts that purported to be fundraising for the Todd family, but they were false.
A trust fund has been established to support mental health issues, anti-bully resources, and education initiative for students with learning disabilities, with a focus on singing and/or technology.
Donations can be made to the Vancouver Foundation or at any RBC Canada under the Amanda Todd's Legacy/Memorial Fund.