Community Spotlight: Champion of Choices Empowers Students to Stand Up Against Bullying

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Orlando Moms Blog is committed to supporting our community by spotlighting local organizations making a positive impact in our region and beyond. Today, in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, we introduce you to Orlando’s Champion of Choices Program which seeks to empower students to “stand up, step up and speak up” against bullying.

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 Girl, 12, arrested for bullying that allegedly drove classmate to consider suicide

The headlines are shocking.

Bullying affects nearly one in three American school children in grades six through 10.

The statistics are troubling.

But, there is hope. During a time when young people around the world are facing daily peer pressures in school, at home and online, Central Florida’s Champion of Choices (COC) program is empowering students to “stand up, step up and speak up” against bullying.

I first met COC founder, author and former WWE and WCW professional wrestler Marc Mero in 2008. After following him on a local morning radio show for several weeks, I was moved by his seemingly boundless energy and ability to find the “happy” in any situation. In the midst of my own quest for professional happiness, I picked up the phone and called Marc on a whim in the hopes that he might need a person with my skill set to contribute to his local fitness business. He didn’t, but he was looking for someone who could support his new endeavor, a non-profit called Champion of Choices.

Before I could hang up the phone, I was sold and in the months that ensued, I had the good fortune to watch Marc and his team create, hone and deliver one of the most entertaining, emotional and inspiring presentations I had ever seen. Since then, that presentation has transformed into a multi-media performance that has been seen by thousands of students and adults across the world and, today, its message is even more urgent because COC tackles the serious issues that children are facing daily: bullying, peer pressure, substance abuse and suicide.

Who is Marc Mero? A product of humble beginnings, Marc grew up in a tough neighborhood in Buffalo, NY. Following his parents’ divorce, he began to write his goals into existence and found that his drive to succeed in sports brought him great happiness and purpose. By the age of 12, Marc was on his way to becoming a professional athlete. However, his goals were sidelined when he started making bad choices that led to years of rebellion and substance abuse. Even as he gained monetary success and international fame as a professional wrestler, he continued to make choices that negatively impacted his personal life and career, and, by 2007, Marc had lost more than 30 of his friends and family members due to addiction, murder and suicide. Inspired by their lives, but disappointed by the negative choices both he and his lost loved ones had made, Marc channeled his frustration into a compassionate purpose and the Champion of Choices organization was born.

“On a daily basis, kids are contemplating turning to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes or finding their identity in gangs,” Marc says. “Violence and bullying in schools have reached epidemic proportions. Cyber-bullying has taken cruelty outside the school walls. Our kids are struggling with loneliness, isolation and depression and, tragically, we are losing more and more of our children to suicide.”

Reliving his own personal triumphs and tragedies during a live, 70-minute performance, Marc and his team take students on a roller coaster journey through his life – incorporating song and dance with entertaining stories about his own positive and negative choices to inspire students to treat themselves and others with respect, dream big, achieve goals, and cherish relationships.

If your kids are in school, I encourage you to check out the Champion of Choices program. It is funny, emotional, inspiring and motivational. Most importantly, it communicates (to kids and adults) life’s most important lesson: happiness is a choice! I am proud to support this cause – it IS saving lives!

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To learn more about the Champion of Choices program, access a schedule of performances and view an informational video about the live presentation, visit www.championofchoices.org. Contact [email protected] to schedule a presentation for your school or organization.

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p>Contributor

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Family: Dad, Mom, Baby Girl and a dog named Gator.

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Education: B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida. Yes, I do bleed orange and blue!!

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Mom Acronym: WAHM (work at home mom)

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Your Perfect Day: Staring at a sun-filled blue sky while lying on New Smyrna Beach and jumping ocean waves with my daughter.

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Can’t Live Without: My "crackberry" BlackBerry phone -- yes, I'm a Blackberry loyalist (for now anyway).

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Favorite Pregnancy/Labor & Delivery/Parenting Tip: This one applies to all: JUST BREATHE!

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