Community members heard positive ways to help stamp out bullying at the annual Pink Shirt Breakfast in Kelowna. - Image: Kathy Michaels

Pink Shirt breakfast: Be kind, compassionate

Kelowna event celebrates inclusiveness and puts the spotlight on anti-bullying campaign

The Laurel Packinghouse was awash with pink Wednesday morning as Kelowna residents banded together to address bullying.

“The pink shirt day message today is about kindness compassion and understanding because without that we’re nothing,” said Diane Entwistle, CEO of the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club. “We need to figure out ways to continue to be kind and compassionate and have that understanding and acceptance of those who aren’t like us.”

Each day, said Entwistle, the men and women who work at the Boys and Girls Club encounter children who have dealt with damaging social behaviour.

Statistics indicate that one in five kids experience bullying while two in three teenagers report having some sort of experience in the digital world that is harassing, bullying or discriminatory.

“That’s something we didn’t have to deal with when we were growing up,” Entwistle said. “There may have been stuff in the school or in our neighbourhoods, but we could go home and shut the door. That doesn’t happen anymore.”

Just as the problem of bullying is more nuanced than it was generations ago, so too is the solution.

“We work with kids who are so desperate to fit in and find their place that sometimes they’re victims of bullying and bullying behaviours. And sometimes they’re the ones who exhibit bullying behaviours,” she said.

“They bully other people to get that sense of belonging or sense of self worth. So when we think about that we need to figure out ways for kids to pick up the skills, the strengths and the resiliency to deal not only with being a victim but also to deal with those feelings of needing to exert their power and influence over others.”

Resiliency was the focus of the keynote speaker, Wednesday morning.

Beth Hanishewski is a happiness coach, and when she addressed the crowd at the Laurel Packinghouse she asked them to look inward to suss out their own internal resources.

There are four things she wanted people to focus on — relationships, physical activity, career and spirituality.

In each category, she asked people to give themselves a score out of 10. If there was an area that’s lacking, she said, focus needs to be turned toward it because these areas are the foundation of the type of resiliency that needs to be modelled for a younger generation.

“We can’t teach our kids how to bounce back if we’re falling apart. We can’t do it,” she said.

Pink Shirt Day is an attempt to build on the momentum started in 2007 by David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends. They organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. They wore pink in solidarity and then distributed pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school.

That gesture of kindness snowballed and countries across the globe are now organizing anti-bullying fundraisers of their own, including Japan, New Zealand, China, Panama, and numerous others. In fact, last year alone, people in almost 180 countries shared their support of Pink Shirt Day through social media posts and donations.

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Sabine Ernst, Dani Gonzalez and Victoria Laaber of Two Hat Security sell baked goods in Kelowna on Feb. 28, 2018 as a fundraiser for Pink Shirt Day. The tech company raised $541 during the bake sale which they will match and donate. Image credit: Carmen Weld

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