October is National Bully Prevention Month, and our community is fortunate because we have a homegrown non-profit in town whose mission is to reduce
bullying through prevention and education, advocacy and outreach. This past Saturday, PEER Kindness hosted their 1 st annual Kind & Dine event. Hundreds of supportive folks came out along with Miss Teen Colorado, Josh Drean (internationally-acclaimed and award-winning youth speaker) and Leon Logothetis (TV host, producer, author, and traveler) to support their efforts. The event brought me out as well as forced me in . . . inside my own past to again face some foundational insecurities that still affect me today. I was the target of repeated peer cruelty (bullying).

The bullying started out small and infrequently, but soon grew into something much bigger. I quickly detested school and my grades suffered. My strong physique gave way to stress-related weight gain, which only made matters worse. I no longer fit into jeans like most kids so I had to wear corduroy pants and “slacks” because they had a wider range of sizes. They threw gum in my hair and sang “Shane the pain, the big fat candy cane.” My close friends – or so I thought – laughed along with the lead bully, possibly in an effort to avoid becoming targets themselves. I felt alone. I laughed along with their antics like it was nothing, but inside I suffered from anxiety and depression, self-loathing, and debilitating insecurity. Embarrassed by it all, I didn’t tell a soul, not even my parents.

The turning point was when I was in 6th grade, my family moved; I was able to make a fresh start. I began a personal fitness routine every morning, waking up an hour before I needed to in order to do jumping jacks and other exercises. I made the conscious effort to strictly align with the kind kids and be kind myself. The new school I attended didn’t allow bullying and the teachers would defend any child-targeted to their graves. I would have attended the now-infamous Columbine High School had my family not moved; school and societal climate and culture really do play an important role in it all.

Today, I own a successful aviation business. In 2014, I co-piloted the Pilatus PC- 12 with Amelia Rose Earhart around the world. Our flight path was as close as possible to Amelia Mary Earhart’s original flight path back in 1937. I spend my flight time with innovative entrepreneurs who are my clients. You might recognize a few names: Facebook, Horizon Organic Milk, Sirius XM, bodybuilding.com… Although I have moved past the hurtful memories, the underlying pain from it all still creeps up from time-to-time almost 35-years later. Peer Kindness, whose roots come from a bullying tragedy, is working very hard to bring change to this community. Find out how you can get involved at peerkindness.net or FB/choosekindnessnow/. I joined the movement
and you can too!