08/22/2012 8:24 AM
SELINSGROVE — Madonna's concert tour promoter, Live Nation MTours (USA) Inc., recently donated $5,000 to the Brandon E. Bitner Memorial Scholarship at Susquehanna University at the Bitner family's request.
The donation resulted from the family allowing a photograph of the Mount Pleasant Mills teen to be used in Madonna's MDNA world tour as part of a video montage that decries bullying.
Bitner, 14, ended his life in November 2010, having described repeated bullying he endured from peers. At the Madonna concert, his photo is one of seven flashed briefly on a video screen, with his name and the message "R.I.P.," during the singer's performance of "Nobody Knows Me." The montage has been viewed by audiences around the world, with the tour scheduled to arrive in the United States on Aug. 28.
"This has been a huge blessing to Brandon's memory," said Bitner's cousin, Katie Goodling, who maintains a website, www.brandonbitner.com, and a Facebook page, facebook.com/ripbrandonbitner, where video of the concert's photo montage is posted. "I have interacted with so many different Madonna fans from across the world on Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn since (his photo) started appearing on the stage each night. They have been so supportive and kind."
When Madonna's tour producers asked Bitner family members to name a donation recipient — one that raises awareness of bullying — they suggested the Bitner scholarship at Susquehanna.
Bitner was an accomplished violinist who played in what was formerly the university preparatory program's youth orchestra. The scholarship fund has supported the talent of a Susquehanna music major each year since it was established in 2010. Senior violinist Amanda Simensky, of Westminster, Md., is the scholarship recipient for 2012-13.
"To see our efforts and the prominence of Brandon's Facebook page lead to something so huge is surreal," Goodling said. "I'm also extremely happy that Live Nation donated money to his scholarship, which helps keep it alive from year to year."