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An Ounce of Prevention

Sometimes you need to shine the Bat Symbol into the sky and summon the cape crusader to come in and share a message of support with youngsters – which is exactly what happened from a partnership between Youth Health Services and the Prevention Coalition.

During Red Ribbon Week, West Virginia’s Batman, John Buckland, swooped in and visited every school in the county, a striking figure in his all black ensemble. At the elementary schools, he stayed in character wearing his mask, being the batman who is very nurturing and paternal to the young pupils.

When he talked with the older students at each middle school and the high school, he conveyed a serious message.

Batman told them that he wanted to have a serious talk with them, and they needed to take his advice and apply it to their own lives. He stated that it’s a fact that life isn’t fair, isn’t always easy, and everyone goes through arduous times. That during those times, you have to move forward. In fact, some people who go through the hardest times do the greatest things.  In order to get through tough situations you have get up every day and push forward, and you have to keep pushing through those difficult circumstances, because great things await you. 

Batman removed his mask, so that he could talk to them one-on-one . He told the students that there are four things they need to do to be great.

Even when you are struggling with your own pain you need to: “Never give up!” He told them to repeat, “Never give up!”
Batman insisted that they not use their own tough situation as an excuse to do the wrong things. You have to learn to rise above the bad experiences, and always do the right thing. You have to keep yourself on track.

He then had the students repeat, “Do the right thing.”

The next point of his four rules was to always be a good listener, follow instructions and surround yourself with good people, good friends. Even if you have a bad day, make the best of it and help your peers through their struggles. This is point number three, and he asked the students to repeat, “Help other people!”

The fourth rule was to wake up every day and ask themselves “Who am I going to help and inspire today?”  Batman told them that they need to make all the kids around them feel special. And this action will help put an end to bad situations that are happening at school. This led to the final step, which is “Never be a bully!”

Batman spoke of the trying times he suffered during his own childhood. He revealed that he suffered physical and emotional abuse from an alcoholic father. He was also honest about abuse that his cub scout troop had endured from their leader.

He confessed to problems he had experienced when he was addicted to drugs. He admitted that he spent time in prison for armed robbery. Then he shared how he turned his pain into power. After more than seven years of incarceration, he was pardoned.  He was able to join the military, and he served in Iraq. When he returned, he fulfilled a lifetime dream to be a fireman.

His life had truly turned around because of his dedication and hard work, but he said he literally kept hearing a voice in his head saying, “Be Batman.” He explained to the students, that, over time, he realized that he needed to become Batman and share the experiences that had shaped his life.

So a few years ago, he went online and bought a 40 pound, $3,500 Batman suit on Ebay, and he knew he would use it to encourage young people to not follow the same path he did.

We will tell more about the impact Batman’s visit to our schools in upcoming articles.

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