Former professional wrestler Kenn Doane knows what it's like to be a bully - during his WWE days, he portrayed "Kenny Dykstra", one of the organization's villainous characters - and now he's using that experience to spread an anti-bullying message to kids.
Doane, who now plays football for Nichols College, suffered a knee injury in January, and while rehabilitating himself decided to use his wrestling background as a way to help combat the ever-present issue of bullying in schools. He soon teamed up with a publisher and illustrator and this past June released Billy's Bully, a children's book showing kids how to realistically stand up to their bullies and how to not become bullies themselves.
Students at Hopkins Hill Elementary School got a special reading of Billy's Bully last week when Doane visited the school to talk to students about the book's message. He spoke of how important it is to respect others and abide by the "Golden Rule", "Treat others as you wish to be treated", despite how easy it may seem at times to pick on a person or watch someone get bullied and not take action to help.
"Being tough is not picking on someone, it's sticking up for someone who is getting bullied," Doane told students. "If you're a bully, stop now. Show how tough you are by apologizing. You don't have to solve the issue, you don't have to be friends, just show respect and don't pick on the person."
During his visit Doane also expressed the importance of staying in school, getting good grades and pursuing a college education, sharing his memory of meeting one of his idols, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon during his senior year of high school:
"When I was in twelfth grade I got to meet Vince McMahon and one of the first questions he asked me was if I had graduated high school or not," recalled Doane. "When I told him I was a senior he said 'Come back when you graduate because I don't hire dumb people'. I knew then how important school was and I hope you guys realize that you're here to become better and smarter."
Before leaving Hopkins Hill, Doane gave students a series of self-challenges to consider each day, including being tough by standing up for others, being a better student and a better friend.
"Be better than you were yesterday," he said. "Work hard, be a good person and anything is possible - whatever you want to be."