Abigail Garcia, 7, lives in Killeen and remembers an instance when another child told her to shut up and not talk anymore.
Tierney Butler, 5, is getting ready to enter kindergarten and said she faced a situation with two girls on the playground.
“I got pushed,” Butler said.
With national cases of bullying on the rise, organizations are working to combat the problem to teach youth what to do when facing a bully.
Both Abigail and Tierney
attended an anti-bullying and obesity program Thursday at Timber Ridge Elementary School in Killeen.
Offered through the Killeen Armed Services YMCA, the program teaches participants what to do if someone is a verbal, physical or cyber bully.
The program, which started in June and ends in August, is a pilot program for the national YMCA, said Lionel Collins, associate executive director for the Armed Services YMCA.
“They asked us because of the military children involved who suffer because they’re constantly moving and adjusting to different environments,” Collins said.
Joining forces with the Evan Oglesby Foundation and the I’m Bully Free Organization, area YMCA members are participating in a summer program that combines healthy eating, exercise and anti-bullying information, he said.
Calvin Maclin, who trains with Oglesby, said the former Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens football player started the foundation in the late 1990s with the goal to give back.
Combining a fitness program with an antibullying program keeps the kids engaged, Maclin said.
Support from soldiers
Helping with the physical portion of the program Thursday were 1st Lt. Ruby Hurd and Master Sgt. Chris Beacham, with the Medical Training Task Force, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, First Army Division West, and Sgt. Francisco Rodriguez, with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
“Our unit has taken on volunteering and helping kids,” Beacham said.
After rotating through the physical exercises, the youngsters were able to view an anti-bullying video and meet Bully Bear.
The anti-bully empowerment group works with the other organizations to focus on exercise and promote a healthy lifestyle so children aren’t targets because of their weight, said Bud Collier, the organization’s director and a retired Air Force veteran.
Collier’s daughter was stabbed and killed by gang members in 2011 when she was 22.
The goals of the program are to show the kids how to become good citizens, empower them with with workouts, have a positive role model against anti-bullying and to encourage parents to research a school district’s anti-bullying policy, Collier said.
“Whether it’s cyberbullying or whether it’s physical, bullying has a negative consequence on your livelihood,” he said.
Tajz Stoute, who portrayed the organization’s role model Bully Bear, said with younger kids, he typically sees name calling and pushing someone if they don’t share on the playground.
At the high school level, he said, it’s combined physical bullying and cyberbullying.
“They shouldn’t cyberbully because stuff doesn’t come off the Internet now these days,” Stoute said.
2.7 million children bullied
Collier said statistics indicate 2.7 million kids are bullied at some point in their lives, and 160,000 are afraid to go to school, he said.
Also working to combat bullying this summer is a program at Absolute Self Defense Fitness Gym.
Jim Mahan, gym owner, said children attending the program this summer have learned how to identify the different types of bullying and to know when joking stops being fun.
In talking about the physical aspect, the kids undergo drills and scenarios and are taught to walk away and tell an adult.
“If they’re grabbed, they’re taught how to escape without fighting,” Mahan said.
Mahan said this is the first year a summer camp was offered at the gym, and a free antibullying seminar is slated for before school starts.