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‘It’s polarizing these days’: Pink Shirt Day advocates in Calgary reinforce anti-bullying message

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WATCH: With so much societal division, anti-bullying advocates say their message couldn't be more relevant these days. Wednesday is Pink Shirt Day and those supporting it say it's time adults do better to lead by example. Jill Croteau reports. – Feb 23, 2022

A kind moment, a kind action, a kind word has the power to make all the difference: it’s the mantra of a kindness campaign launched by a Calgary mom.

Stephanie Nitschke’s son Lincoln inspired her to launch Choose Kind YYC. The nine-year-old lives with a facial difference and has been bullied.

“Even just daily interactions — he gets negative stares and comments and there’s reactions like pointing. We are seeing how it affects him. He is very nervous right now in public,” Nitschke said.

Stephanie Nitschke, Choose Kind YYC. Jill Croteau/Global News

Nitschke sells pink shirts, donating proceeds to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. She said her campaign has evolved with her message resonating more for adults.

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“At a time (when) people have never felt more stress and chaos and being so unsettled, it’s something we can all step back and remember we all have a journey and have a story and the best we can do is be kind to one another and be respectful.”

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Encouraging children to speak out a start to tackling online bullying: cybersecurity expert – Feb 23, 2022

Other anti-bullying advocates involved Pink Shirt Day are also conscious of the current reality of how polarized some people have become.

Read more: #PinkShirtPromise campaign makes bullying personal for participants

Bullying Ends Here founder Tad Milmine was involved in a virtual event reaching students across the city. Milmine is also a Calgary police officer.

“My goal is to help that one person struggling in silence the same way I did growing up, honestly believing I was the only person to have ever gone through this,” Milmine said.

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“I still have nightmares reliving my past experiences as child and I can’t help but wonder if someone entered my life earlier — would I be in a different place?”

Read more: Specialist says ‘isolation, anger’ signs a child may be being bullied

Milmine hopes adults lead better by example, knowing the divisiveness that’s evident in the world right now.

“It is by definition a form of bullying, that we are trying to tell young people not to do you. You don’t have to look far to find internet trolls or keyboard warriors attacking people,” Milmine said.

“It’s not kids — it’s adults posting negative, criminal, illegal activities on the internet. It’s adults sharing false information knowing what they have shared is wrong.”

“We are trying to spread the message of social responsibility.”

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Those who champion the anti-bullying movement, like former Calgary Stampeder Randy Chevrier, are convinced there is hope with the younger generation.

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“We have to go back to roots of conflict and debate. it’s okay to have conflict and debate issues and end in disagreements, but we don’t have to take it that step further to the ugliness that follows,” Chevrier said.

“We can reach out to the kids to be the change makers. They think differently so we can empower them with positive messaging.”

Chevrier is now a Calgary firefighter.

“Our job is to go to everyone’s worst day. Part of the reason firefighters are seen as heroes is not because of who we are, but we go to every problem with kindness and we find empathy and help people on their worst day,” Chevrier said.

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