SOUDERTON — More than 100 kids from the Indian Valley Boys and Girls Club heard an important message from aspiring Eagle Scout Nik Peterson on Wednesday night.
“If you are being bullied, I can tell you from experience: it’s not the end of the world. I got over it, and I want you guys to leave here knowing that if you see someone getting bullied, or you are being bullied yourself, there is something you can do about it,” he said.
That message was delivered in a combined concert and seminar at the Boys and Girls Club that brought together law enforcement officials, hospital personnel, and members of local outreach groups to share their lessons and advice with kids.
Those speakers included Det. Joe Rudner of the Souderton Police Department , who described anti-bullying initiatives from the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office and explained the differences between “the different types of bullying — physical, emotional, cyber, we’re seeing all of it.”
Joe Gallo, a therapist for adolescent transitions with the Lehigh Valley Health Network, said Wednesday’s was the first concert-type seminar he had spoken to, and had an ideal target audience with its wide range of elementary through high-school age kids.
“A lot of times kinds don’t hear anything about bullying until middle or high school, and by then it may be too late and sometimes it carries on into adulthood,” Gallo said.
Also on hand was Debbie Ryan, Director of Business Development with the Penn Foundation , who shared literature and information about their counseling services available for kids and adolescents. Penn Foundation offers various anti-bullying and support services for students, families, those in need of intense behavioral health interventions, and kids living with substance abuse in their families. The latter is through Camp Mariposa, run in partnership with the Moyer Foundation established by former Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer.
As each spoke, the kids enjoyed snacks donated by local businesses, and local band Skyhawk Drive provided tunes between speakers, surrounded by posters with anti-bullying messages that Scouts helped decorate and which will stay hanging at the Boys and Girls Club.
Nik described how music helped him through his own experience with bullying. That experience started when “kids started spreading rumors about me” in middle school, and led to “a little fight involving me and my friends” before friends and school staff helped him through those tough times.
“One day during lunch, my friend asked me if I was OK, because I was seeming a little down. I said I was fine, but it wasn’t until a little later that I realized I was starting to feel a little depressed,” said Peterson.
“That was a point in my life where I thought that everybody hated me because everybody was picking on me, but when I got into eighth grade, I started to realize that half the stuff they were saying about me wasn’t even true,” he said.
If those rumors aren’t true, why worry about them? If they are true, why should who Nik likes matter to anybody else? That has the reasoning he used to get past the bullying, and kids nodded in agreement as Peterson described how he was once one of them, hanging out at the Club, and looking for someone to talk to.
“No matter what people say, there is nothing wrong with you. They can’t change who you are; the only person who can change who you are is you,” he said.
“You are all beautiful people, and no one can take that away from you,” Peterson said.
- By DAN SOKIL