The Coastal Star

Tots & Teens: Pink Shirt Day is on the path to happiness

Students at a past Pink Shirt Day at South Olive Elementary School in West Palm Beach. Photo provided

By Shelley Gilken

On Feb. 25, there will be a sea of pink in South Florida. In classrooms, at businesses, at parks and government offices, pink shirts will dominate the wardrobe in an organized effort to raise awareness on bullying. In addition to wearing pink, teachers and other participants will lead educational activities that help build character in kids to limit the impact of a bully.
“Children and adults, the media, everybody has a chance to wear pink that day and create a sea of pink to raise awareness for issues related to bullying. Compassion. Empathy. Fostering friendships. Teaching respect and responsibility. It really is addressing social topics,” said Kristin Calder, chief executive officer of the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, the organizer of Pink Shirt Day for the last four years.
The concept of Pink Shirt Day originated in Canada when a boy was bullied for wearing pink to school. Older boys intervened and conspired to wear pink the next day as a sign of solidarity.
The effort has evolved into thousands of people wearing pink shirts on this day. The pink shirts  signify a commitment to stand against bullies and refuse to be a silent bystander.
Over the past few years, Calder said the Literacy Coalition has found that it has a positive impact as much on the adults as the kids.
“We all know bullies in every aspect of life,” Calder said.
The theme this year is “Happiness comes from within.” The concept is that encouraging children to think happy thoughts and use kind words with others gives them better confidence and control in how they react if someone is using harsh words with them.
It is an effective way to reduce the impact of a bully to teach potential victims how to focus on positive thoughts to neutralize the negative ones, said Calder.
“Some kids don’t know what a compliment is at home. They have to be taught,” she said.
Not only does it help the children get better grounded by developing a strong character, but also parents are often influenced by the positive messages and anti-bullying-themed books.
One activity at schools is that children draw with chalk outside the school a “Pathway to Happiness.” Parents walk down that path as well and are uplifted by the idea of seeing happy images.
“The reason people bully other people is because they’re not happy themselves. There’s a focus on being happy and your own happiness. How full is your bucket?” Calder said.
For example, one of the activities for students is to write down negative thoughts and then go through the process of ripping up and throwing them in the trash. Positive thoughts are written down and placed in a recycling bin.
“Our curriculums get so busy everything they need to learn and need to be taught that often there isn’t time for character education,” she said. 

If You Participate
Pink Shirt Day is Feb. 25.
If you commemorate Pink Shirt Day with a unique twist or if you have questions or pictures to share, email info@literacypbc.org.Additional events to support literacy include:
Feb. 28: Loop the Lake for Literacy on Lake Okeechobee
March 12: Love of Literacy Luncheon at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach
April 18: American Girl Fashion Show at the Boca Raton Marriott
For more information, visit literacypbc.org.

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