Bullying happens everywhere, every day. Nowhere is it more traumatic than in middle schools and high schools across the country.
Bullying encompasses making fun of others, spreading rumors, physical intimidation, threatening, excluding certain individuals from activities, forcing some to do things they didn’t want to do and even cyberbullying on the computer.
Far too often, the result of bullying is suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an average of 4,400 teens commit suicide each year. For every suicide there are at least 100 suicide attempts.
Clearly, bullying is a severe problem in schools and the daily lives of our youth. But what is the solution?
Be A Hero
Belding resident Dave Badder is trying to create a solution.
Badder is the founder of A Hero, an organization meant to educate and bring awareness to the epidemic of bullying and to help establish anti-bullying groups in schools, youth clubs and communities.
A Hero stands for “Athletes Helping Everyone Reach Out (Against Bullying).”
Starting with athletes, the A Hero organization focuses on reaching out to the victim, rather than targeting the bully, The goal is to let victims know there are others who care and are looking out for them.
“When we set up our program in a school or church, we begin with a group of athletes initially just because of an athlete’s influence,” Badder said. “Because of their influence, athletes have the biggest following and can make the biggest impact.”
An initial group consists of several student-athletes. Once the group is formed, each member is required to recruit one additional member in the first week.
“We want the group to grow. Once you start recruiting, then anyone can belong to the group,” Badder said. “It kind of works like an upside down pyramid. Basically, it takes over the school and bullying all but disappears.”
A Hero is a worldwide organization. In the United States, Utah, Texas, Florida and Hawaii have the highest number of members. Locally, Badder is still trying to make progress.
“We are in 48 countries and 35 states,” Badder said. “Michigan, we are not going strong yet. I’ve been in Greenville Middle School, Lakewood Middle School and I’ve talked to some of the high school athletes, as well.
“Greenville is very proactive in the anti-bullying movement. They do a real good job,” he added.
Making a difference
Paige Hallock, a freshman at Greenville High School, is in her second year as “A Hero.”
Hallock was at Badder’s presentation to Greenville Middle School last year. Immediately, Hallock was interested in being a part of the organization.
“It’s a great program to have in our school. We are just looking to grow the organization, not just in Greenville, but in other area schools with Mr. Badder,” she said. “I’m really excited for this. I think it’s a great program and I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
Hallock is a standout athlete and played varsity volleyball in the fall and is now on the varsity basketball team. She helped to grow the program at the middle school last year and is looking to do the same at the high school this year and beyond.
“It’s unfortunate to say you see bullying a lot in your school. It’s unfortunate to see bullying anywhere,” Hallock said. “There is a lot of bullying whether you see it or not. Sometimes it’s not even intended, but it does hurt someone’s feelings. This program is helping to cut back the number bullying issues we have in school.”
As an eighth-grader last year, Hallock helped the A Hero group grow from 12 to more than 40 students. Currently, she is preparing a presentation for the high school and hopes to have plenty more join after the presentation.
“We are hoping to have a lot of students join after the presentation,” Hallock said. “I’m working on the presentation with a video and I’m hoping to have more than 150 students join.”
Showing you care
A very important aspect of the A Hero organization is showing compassion for others.
“We always try to push random acts of kindness,” Badder said. “Basically, a lot of it is just being a friend. A lot of times those being bullied don’t think anyone cares. What’s important to teenagers is being accepted by their peers.”
Hallock said it doesn’t take much to make a difference.
“Sometimes all it takes is going to the person being bullied and letting them know someone is there for them,” she said. “After being bullied, I think the best thing for you is having a friend looking out, trying to help and to know people in your school are against it.”
Other kind gestures are just saying hello. Maybe asking a bully victim to sit at your table. Mainly, being a friend to someone who needs a friend.
“There are different ways to attack this, but every way we do this is peacefully,” Badder said.
Becoming A Hero
To learn more about becoming involved in the A Hero organization, call Badder at (616) 902-0892, visit www.beaheroagainstbullying.org online or search on Facebook for “Athletes Helping Everyone Reach Out Against Bullying.”
“We are growing and one of the larger anti-bullying organizations in the world,” Badder said. “A lot of our valuable information is on our website, but Facebook is a stay in motion place. There is no cost to this program.
“We need to stay proactive against bullying,” he said. “This can save lives.”