Pink Shirt Day: Evidence small gestures can make massive change

Bart_Given_Web101 Bart Given, Managing Director & Chief Innovator

A couple of weeks ago, my six-year old son asked me the following question, seemingly out of the blue:

“True or False: Bullying impacts everyone?”

Before I could answer he followed – “Fact: Everyone will get bullied in their lifetime.”


This one sided conversation continued for the next five minutes as he shared facts about bullying from all angles – the playground, classroom and on-line. Admittedly I oscillated from a sense of pride and frustration as I processed the exchange. So happy that my son had absorbed such important messaging delivered by his outstanding Grade 1 teacher, yet saddened by the fact he is forced to deal with the reality of cyber-bullying before he can spell cyber-bullying.

It is a harsh reality, but bullying will be a part of my son’s life, like it was mine, and I assume yours. TORQUE Strategies commissioned a quickpoll study through REPUCOM recently which indicated 46% of respondents agree the greatest issues facing youth today is bullying / cyber bullying. It doesn’t matter if you’re the cool kid, bright, incredible athlete or come from a great family – intolerant or ignorant people will challenge your concept of self-worth.  Even bullies get bullied.

Evidence of bullying is all over the news, and stories like Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins, Russia’s views on sexual orientation and the fact Michael Sam is even a “story” are evidence that we have a long way to go before we can eradicate bullying of our fellow human beings.

Of course, there is no sadder illustration of the new reality of cyber-bullying than Amanda Todd.

Thankfully organizations are dedicating themselves to make a difference.

For the past few years I’ve had the immense pleasure of lending my support to Pink Shirt Day, an anti-bullying initiative coordinated by CKNW Orphans’ Fund part of the Corus Entertainment family. This campaign is truly remarkable in its origin, and quite frankly is an amazing illustration of what can be accomplished globally through one relatively simple gesture in a Canadian community.

If you’re not familiar with the story, you should  visit – but briefly:

David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school. And so, each year on this last Wednesday in February, hundreds of thousands use Pink Shirt Day to commit to “making some noise against bullying”.

Two boys from Nova Scotia, through a seemingly small, yet amazing gesture of support of a bullied classmate have made an impact across Canada and globally.

Inspired by the act of David Shepherd and Travis Price, CKNW has used its voice to raise awareness and funding to make bullying less prevalent in our society. With celebrity advocates such as Sarah McLachlan and Henrik Sedin the “make some noise against bullying” campaign has brought remarkable awareness to the issue while raising over $650,000 for entities like Big Brother/Sisters, Kids Help Phone and Boys & Girls Clubs – the front line of support for our youth.

Often I opine on the need of values-based partnerships to truly be successful in any endeavour. Pink Shirt Day is an incredible cause, and several amazing corporate partners are taking notice and helping to make a substantive difference. Community and change minded organizations like London Drugs, Coast Capital Savings and HootSuite are lending their resources to Pink Shirt Day. No question community and employee engagement are at the heart of their involvement.

There is some pretty startling research and data available demonstrating the prevalence and effects of bullying, I will share just one:

“In the majority of cases, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene, or do not support the bullying behaviour.”

Ten seconds.

We can make a distance by showing support of those being bullied – so my ask is simple, wear a pink shirt next Wednesday, Feb 26th. Also consider in making a stand against bullying by sharing support through your social media channels – you can follow @pinkshirtday for RT’s and can use the #pinkshirtday tag.

As my son reminded me a couple of weeks ago. “Fact: Everyone will get bullied in their life”.

Our small gestures may change this.