As parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, we have many interactions and experiences with children. Hopefully, our time includes more good memories than bad. As parents, we unfortunately had a very bad experience occur with our youngest daughter, Kelly, who was diagnosed with bone cancer and passed away at age 11. During her short life, she was the one who taught us about understanding, respect, compassion and acceptance for others. It was not until after her passing that we learned about some of the problems she encountered with classmates and friends in school and after school. Those issues were a result of her classmates’ fear, lack of knowledge and skills about how to address their concerns. Today, we call this behavior bullying and it has become a big problem for our children. As adults, if we think back throughout our lives, each and every one of us has experienced these terrible actions or has seen it occur.
After Kelly’s passing, we found a story that she had written about a zebra that had spots, not stripes. This little zebra was treated differently because she was perceived as being different based on her outward appearance. We assume that Kelly was writing about herself and her experiences. Children’s Health Education Center and Children’s Hospital and Health System partnered with the Zink the Zebra Foundation to create Act Now!, an online education based program to help middle school age children learn to:
- Recognize when bullying is occurring.
- Provide information on what children can do to cope with and be supportive to others who are being bullied.
- Share this information about what to do in a bullying situation with their peers.
This program uses today’s electronic technology – games, computers and cell phones – the technology our children and grandchildren use every day (and that leaves me far back in the dust), as well as in classroom discussions among their peers.
You can read about bullying incidents in the newspaper, see stories on TV and talk to your own children about their experiences. These are not isolated situations. It occurs everywhere, every day, from the inner city to the suburbs and the countryside.
Our children need your help. They need you to be part of the process to teach bullying awareness, help them understand there are things they can do to stop this behavior and that it is a team effort. Act Now! is a unique program that empowers each child working with their peers to learn skills that can make our schools safer and enjoyable, alleviate bullying and cyber bullying and help our children become compassionate, respectful, understanding and accepting of others. For all the countless Kellys that are out there today, I’m happy to communicate with anyone, anywhere about this topic. Feel free to contact me at Zink the Zebra Foundation, or visit BlueKids.org to learn more about Act Now!.
~ Les Weil, founder, Zink the Zebra Foundation, guest blogger
Zink the Zebra Foundation is an organization that was created based on a short story his 11-year-old daughter Kelly wrote before her death from cancer in 1993. The Zink the Zebra Foundation created character education programs that help educate children to better understand, respect, accept and be compassionate towards people who may be perceived as different. In an effort to reach more children, the Zink the Zebra Foundation partnered with Children’s Health Education Center to develop Act Now!.