BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — Every day in schools across the country, more than 160,000 kids are bullied. Being picked on is nothing new, but in recent years there have been several stories of bully victims taking their own lives.
Hundreds took part in the Pacer Walk, Run and Roll Saturday morning at Normandale Park in Bloomington to bring attention to the issue. October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
“I got bullied in the 5th grade,” said Josh Storms, who switched schools because he was bullied.
At just 11 years old, Storms knows the pain that can only be caused by a bully.
“He would call me mean and rude names. It would hurt my feelings,” said Storms.
Storms also has a constant reminder of what can happen when being picked on goes too far.
“A bully came up behind me and pushed me on the pavement. I broke my hand,” he said.
“I was angry and upset. It was hard to see him come home and be hurt, physically and emotionally,” said Christine Storms, whose son was bullied.
For Josh and his family, Saturday’s walk was about taking a step towards ending bullying.
“I want other kids to know, they shouldn’t bully. If they see it happening, they should stop it and tell an adult,” said Josh.
Of the hundreds walking and running in Saturday’s event, many share Josh’s story. Robert Kroupa was teased in school and wrote a children’s book called, “Just Like You” to teach about the importance of acceptance.
“Those emotional scars can last a lifetime, so it’s very difficult,” said Kroupa.
High school athlete Austin Torres volunteered at the Pacer event because he was bullied by his own teammates. Torres said it was part of the initiation for new athletes.
“I hated going to school. It was rough every day, you knew it was going to come,” said Austin Torres, who was bullied in school.
Participants hoped to send a message that silence only protects the bully.
“It’s becoming more prevalent, but there needs to be more people aware of it,” said Christine.
Saturday’s event shows it’s a movement that’s gaining ground.