Mark Smith still isn’t talking about the violent incident that plastered his face on millions of computer screens and cellphones around the world, an incident that has also made Smith — a man with intellectual disabilities — more introverted and withdrawn, said his pastor, Bishop Leonard Goins of Chestnut Hill Church in Germantown.
“He’s still traumatized — he stays in his room more now,” Goins, 76, said. “I feel for Mark and we embrace him.”
On June 5, a video appeared on social media of a 12-year-old boy sucker punching a smiling Smith in his face. The video also shows a 15-year-old going in for a second punch, a 13-year-old laughing hysterically, and two other juveniles watching it all and saying nothing. All five boys were identified by police and the two who punched Smith were charged as juveniles with simple assault and related offenses.
Given that the incident has obviously affected Smith, Goins decided to do something big for him. On Saturday, the church will throw a 40th birthday party in Smith’s honor. Initially, Goins expected around 40 people to attend, but now he estimates the crowd will be around 150. The food and drinks have been donated by individuals and by the ShopRite on Cheltenham Avenue, where Smith works, Goins said. Smith’s favorite local gospel singer, Dayna DeVine, is also expected to perform.
On Sunday, Smith will receive an anti-bullying medal of honor on the steps of Philadelphia Museum of Art. Earlier this week, Smith was honored by the Flyers with a tour of their facility, a meeting with players, and his own jersey. All of this while the cards, donations, and letters from as far away as Hawaii, Texas, and California continue to pour in.
“People from all walks of life are encouraging him,” Goins said. “It lets him know that society still cares and that people still have a heart.”
Claudio V. Cerullo, founder and CEO of Teach Anti Bullying, a Delaware County nonprofit that raises awareness of bullying and provides encouragement to bullying victims, said he felt moved to do something for Smith. So at 10 a.m. Sunday on the steps of the Art Museum, Cerullo will present Smith with his group’s anti-bullying medal, tickets to a Philadelphia Soul game, and a signed picture of one of Smith’s favorite athletes, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
“I picked that location because I thought of Rocky, and he’s a champ. Maybe he’ll put his hands up and we’ll put the medal on him,” Cerullo said. “I want this man to know he has a lot of people in his corner.”
Goins said Smith has been a dedicated member of his church for a decade. He volunteers at many events and goes with church members to sing at a nursing home once a month.
“Anything we do and anywhere we go, he wants to participate,” Goins said.
When all the dust settles, when the cards stop coming in and the birthday candles are all blown out, Goins hopes people will still think of Smith — and the boys who assaulted him.
“Our prayers go to Mark, but they go to those kids too. The fact they did something like this means they’re not being properly trained,” Goins said. “Remember them boys. They might be lost souls now, but they are young and they can be saved. Because if they can contribute to society, we’re all better off.”