As the Public Relations Specialist for Kids Wish Network, I am familiar with all of our amazing programs. Of all the great programs we have, I have been touched by one in particular, the Hero of the Month program. Kids Wish Network’s Hero of the Month Program was designed to honor kids who have had to face some of life’s unfortunate experiences. These children have shown courage in the face of some very sad or extraordinary circumstances. They are nominated by children hospitals, rehab centers, homeless shelters, burn centers, domestic violence shelters, foster child facilities, child advocacy centers and other facilities that cater to the needs of children.
According to the PACER Center, children facing hardship in their life such as a life-threatening or other illness, disability, and other special medical needs that may result in social isolation are two to three times more likely to be bullied. As an organization that works with children facing these hardships, Kids Wish Network hears a lot about how so many of our Wish Kids and Heroes have had to face being bullied.
As I read over the compelling Hero nomination stories, one boy really tugged at my heartstrings. He was bullied, but would not let it get him down. Instead, our Hero of the Month James decided to take his own stand against bullying. After speaking with James’ mother and his parent consultant at his school, it became clear this was a story I felt needed to be shared.
James has had to learn to conquer many difficulties already in his life, but he does not let them define who he is. James was born with cerebral palsy. He also has hearing loss, scoliosis, and has already had four major surgeries. And, he has been bullied.
I asked James about his experiences, and he shared some information about his personal dealings with bullying and what he does to rise up and overcome.
James has faced many types of bullying over the years: cyber bullying, physical bullying, and mental bullying. “People would make fun of me online by tagging me in a funny picture when they thought it looked like me. It wasn’t funny to me. People would punch, kick, and push me around because they thought that my disability affects me from standing up for myself, but it doesn’t really,” James stated.
When I asked James what he does to stand up against these bullies, he shared, “I have been able to overcome this type of bullying by talking with staff, teachers, and principals at my schools. Talking about it has made me feel kind of weird inside because I am not really used to telling someone when someone else is bullying me, but since I moved to the Alabama School for the Deaf, I feel more comfortable to stand up to report things that should be reported, like bullying.”
Both James’ mother and his parent coordinator had only great things to say about this amazing young man. “One of a Kind,” “wise beyond his years,” and “simply a stellar kid,” were just some of the things they had to say. So, I asked James what makes him these things, what makes him different than others facing his same circumstances when it came to being bullied?
James told me, “I’m just being myself. Since I have a kind heart, I always show it and show my kindness to the people around me. I learned to have a kind heart for one reason only – because of my mother. She taught me things like, sometimes it’s okay to be afraid and to still stand up for yourself, but at the same time, it’s not okay to become passive.”
James’ final advice to other children out there who may be getting bullied or witness bullying going on around them?
“When someone is being bullied around me, I do two things. First, I talk to the victim being bullied and ask them if it’s worth being bullied for being who you are? That opens a discussion with them and I can encourage them to walk to a counselor with me.
The other thing is that when I see it, I report it to a staff member that is closest to the situation. I report it because it’s not necessary to bully someone who is different than other people. Yes, they might be different but that’s not a reason to be bullied. We are all different. Also, it’s time for more student leaders in schools to help and support the people that are getting bullied and encourage them to stand up for themselves.”
James has great plans to someday become a counselor, a goal most feel he will successfully accomplish as he uses the experiences he has been through to inspire others. Kids Wish Network hopes that other children who face bullying can use James’ personal experiences to show them what they can do when bullied or if they see others being bullied.
I truly hope James’ story inspires others to rise up and take their very own stand against bullying. It inspired me.