Faces of the kids ranging from pre-kindergarten to high school seniors lit up when three Harley motorcycles rolled onto the playground at Alberton School last Thursday. Bikers Against Bullies riders, Flash!, Dave Withrow and Jared Blake also rolled in with a heartfelt message to raise awareness and empower the community to fight the terrible effects of bullying on young people.
“This isn’t just about having fun, it’s about walking away with a message,” said head rider, Flash! “You can be cool and still make good decisions. You don’t have to be mean to be cool. Just be yourself, own it, rock it!”
Kids were able to gather around Flash’s white motorcycle sporting a blue and black logo design of a giant eyeball with wings, as well as a blue and white bike with the inscription, “Stand Up, Be Heard” blazed on its side.
Bikers Against Bullies started in Missoula in 2012 is now a national nonprofit organization visiting venues and schools across the nation. They’ll do around 100 stops in the Missoula area and Alberton School was lucky enough to be one of their first stops this year. This was thanks to the school’s new librarian, Christina Wekkin, who knows members of the group and asked if they would make an appearance.
“This was one of the most awesome presentations I’ve ever seen,” said Alberton School Principal Kyle Fisher. “The kids were totally engaged and excited about seeing the motorcycles and they had such a great message.”
The message was reinforced with music by one of the first performers on television’s singing competition show “The Voice,” Jared Blake. Blake performed for the kids and teachers, and all three talked about their troubled past and how they overcame that. The message isn’t telling kids what not to do but what are the consequences as a result of their life choices and they try to get them to go in the right direction.
Blake is a country music recording artist, and said “we get so wrapped up in our work, and our bills and all our stuff and we give our kids stuff but what we’re forgetting that we’re not talking to our kids. We’re not leading them, or guiding them and sometimes that’s all they need, is to just be reminded that they can do anything but these are the steps you need to take to get there.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and results in about 4,400 deaths each years. Also, for every suicide among youth there are at least 100 suicide attempts and more than 14 percent of high school students have considered it. Bully victims are between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to a Yale University study.