A group of 5th grade boys prove friendship can be the most powerful anti-bullying tool ever.
Sometimes, acts of goodness are high profile — done by famous people with lots of money or lots of power. But sometimes, it’s the small acts — done by regular people with regular lives — that have the biggest impact.
A group of fifth-grade boys in the small Minnesota town of Mankato saw their classmate, James Willmert, being bullied by other students at recess last year. “They were, like, using him and taking advantage of him,” one of the boys said. “He’s easier to pick on, and it’s just not right,” another said. So they decided to intervene.
And their intervention was as simple as it was profound: they brought James into their circle of friends.
The boys — Jake Burgess, Jack Pemble, Gus Gartzke, Tyler Jones, and Landon Kopischke — “decided this year they would have James’ back.” They asked James to join them at lunch and hang out during recess.
“He used to not want to go out for recess or anything, it would be a struggle,” says Margi Willmert, James’ mom. “And now he can barely eat his lunch to get outside to play with those guys.” But they don’t just play together. The boys make sure James gets to carry the ball and score plenty of touchdowns during their games of touch football.
James, who has a learning disability, was adopted from an orphanage in Colombia and lost his new father in an accident six years later. The boys have learned a lot about James — including his love of video games. But they also found out James didn’t have any games or a game system. So the boys intervened again. They pooled their own money and added extra help from their parents to buy James new games and a PlayStation.
“Back at school James asks Jack if he would tie his shoe. ‘Yep,’ Jack answers with a nonchalance that suggests he’s done it before. Then the fifth grader bends down and ties his friend’s laces.”
The boys were honored recently for their anti-bullying action, but insist they just did it because James is “an awesome kid to hang out with.”
James agrees: “All these guys are the best friends anybody could ask for.”
Watch their story here:
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Do you have an Act of Male Goodness to share? Or know someone who should be profiled in this series? Email Kristi Dale ([email protected]) with ‘100 Acts of Male Goodness’ in the subject line.
Photo and video: KARE 11