Doolin: Boy’s touching letter turns troubles into reward
By John Doolin July 4, 2012 6:48PM
Updated: August 6, 2012 12:01PM
I recently received a letter from 11-year-old Joshua Coleman of Chicago’s South Side. It reached out and grabbed at my heart because of its emotional impact.
Joshua submitted a letter for the SouthtownStar essay contest, which rewards kids throughout the Southland with Bulls/Sox Training Academy scholarships. His essay was on what it would mean to go to a Bulls basketball camp.
Joshua wrote that he was big for his age “so I’m picked on by other classmates that call me fat or big boy.” His letter says that as hard as he tries to “take it all in fun, deep down it hurts so bad that I don’t want to go to school. My mom tells me to hold my head up high. They are only words and you are better than that. This camp would give me a chance to at least be a big boy doing something fun without (being bullied) because size is important in basketball. This camp would also help me jump-start my exercise routine. Please pick me, please.”
Throughout the Southland, schools are introducing and enforcing a program called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. It’s a proactive approach to establishing behavioral supports and social culture and is being implemented in schools nationwide to try to achieve social, emotional and academic success for all children.
The PBIS program coupled with common-sense enforcement against bullying is supposed to ensure that 11-year-old kids are not compelled to write letters such as Joshua’s.
Bullying is a serious problem, not something to be dismissed easily by parents, coaches and teachers. They have a responsibility to protect children and need to be held accountable for children’s inappropriate or harassing actions. Countless Southland schoolchildren face bullying every day, sometimes with serious consequences. Regrettable but true. Make it stop and make it stop now.
In an effort to deter bullying in the Chicago area, the Chicago White Sox have launched the “Take a Stand against Bullying” campaign.
“This is a pressing issue for too many children and families,” said Christine O’Reilly, the White Sox’s senior director of community relations. “The White Sox want to help educate kids on steps they can take to ensure their safety and that of their fellow classmates.
Part of the campaign is a public service announcement that encourages students to report bullying and to take a pledge vowing to do their part to eliminate bullying. For more information about the campaign or to view the PSA, go to whitesox.com/stopbullying.
Joshua, I assure you things will get better. Hold your head up, your size today will be an asset tomorrow. Take it from me. I was the kid they called “fat.” No one likes to be called unflattering names, but you can take that energy from your anger and frustration and apply it to something good
Use it to start that exercise program you mentioned. Put the energy you would expend “punching their lights out” and find a speed bag in a gym. Who knows, you may be the next Joe Frazier. Or use the energy for community service and charitable activities to help others. It will make you feel very good about yourself.
I know it’s easy to say hang in there, it’s not really important, that this period of bullying will pass. But it’s no fun to go through it. What matters is what’s within you, and who are the mentors and role models in your life.
You will get your wish to attend the Bulls camp on behalf of the SouthtownStar. Have a great week. As an added bonus, the folks at the White Sox public relations department — director Lou Hernandez, ticket manager Tom Sheridan and his associate, Marty Maloney — have invited you and your family to Friday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, including going on the field during batting practice.
It’s time we all take a stand against bullying, and it starts today with Joshua.
John Doolin is an Oak Forest resident and South Division advertising director for Sun-Times Media.