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Massive crowd turns downtown Summerland into sea of pink

Summerland’s downtown core turned into a sea of pink on Friday as the community gathered for its biggest anti-bullying event yet.

A crowd estimated at 1,200 people, most wearing pink T-shirts, jammed into a single downtown block for a video shoot organized by the Summerland Bully Free committee. Students from the town’s elementary and high schools comprised the bulk of the boisterous gathering, which was capped off with group hugs.

“I just think it’s really important that people are proactive in creating what you want to see in your community,” said organizer Tina Martin, a mother of three kids who are six and under.

And although anti-bullying efforts in schools are a primary focus for the committee, it’s hoping adults will take time to consider their actions too.

“Often bullies don’t identify themselves as bullies, so by talking about it and just really establishing what the definition of a bully is, maybe people will stop and think, ‘Gee, maybe I do have those behaviours and I need to keep myself in check and learn how to communicate more effectively,’” Martin said.

Summerland Secondary student Haley Petkau, 17, said bullying hasn’t been a huge issue during her school career, although the mood has shifted.

“I think it’s improved over the years a little bit because there’s a lot of media about people who have really struggled with bullying… and so people are kind of warming up to the idea of being nicer to people and starting to act better towards each other.”

Petkau said it was important for kids her age to turn out Friday to show the younger generation that bullying is not cool.

“Little kids look up to older kids, right? So this is really great to show them that we don’t like bullying either,” she said.

Trevor Knowlton, a Summerland teacher who’s won praise for his Stop A Bully website, was pleased to see anti-bullying efforts take a big step forward in his hometown.

“Stop A Bully’s from across Canada, but it’s extra special having Tina organize this because this is my community, my little kids are in the crowd and these are our students from our schools,” Knowlton said. “It’s really neat that this is our community being involved.”

The video of Friday’s rally, plus footage from other anti-bullying events, will debut at Summerland council’s Feb. 25 meeting. Martin said the committee is also hoping to use its momentum to put on workshops and presentations that will extend to the business community and touch on related issues like elder abuse.

More information is available at www.bullyfreesummerland.com and on the group’s Facebook page.

 

 

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