Travis Price, one of the people whose simple act of kindness started a worldwide movement known as Pink Shirt Day, was in the Comox Valley Friday, spreading the word of acceptance to local schoolchildren.
Pink Shirt Day originated in Nova Scotia in 2007, after a ninth-grader was bullied for wearing a pink t-shirt to school on the first day of that school year.
Two Grade 12 students from the same school – Price, and David Shepherd – heard about the bullying incident and took it upon themselves to stand up for the younger student.
They bought dozens of pink shirts to distribute, went online to advise their classmates of their intentions, and the next day, the school turned into a veritable “sea of pink” by students, who had decided enough was enough and it was time to take a stand against bullying.
Since that fateful day, Anti-Bullying/Pink T-Shirt Day has become a worldwide phenomenon.
All schools in the district received an invitation to have Price speak, on behalf of the WITS Foundation. WITS, which stands for Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek help, was created in West Coast schools where teachers began coaching students to “use their WITS.” The concept was quickly adopted by many other schools, and “using your WITS” became a common phrase in Canada.
When Royston Elementary School principal Katy Doran received word that Price was touring B.C. and available for a presentation, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I mentioned that I have worked with Travis’ cousin, Tiffany Price, a teacher in our school district,” said Doran. “I then asked for another school to host Travis so he would make the trip up-Island and Cumberland Community School accepted my invitation.”
Royston school began preparing for Price’s visit one day early.
“The Grade 6s at Royston Elementary School performed a play/re-enactment of what happened in Cambridge Nova Scotia in 2007 which precipitated Pink Shirt Day for the entire school on Thursday,” said Doran.
On Friday, many of the students wore pink to welcome Price.
“It’s overwhelming to see what this has become,” Price said, after his Royston presentation. “To see 132 countries around the world participate somehow. It was such a small idea, just to try to help one person. To see it grow into an international symbol for anti-bullying … it blows my mind that something so simple was able to change the world.”
He said the most gratifying part of his life these days is the reaction he gets from the young students.
“Just the response from these kids, seeing the difference that we can make, that my actions were able to make… to know that perhaps some of the message I am giving has taught them empathy, has taught them to be better humans.”
Price said dealing with children has always been a focus of his. He entered Grade 12 with thoughts of pursuing a teaching career.
“I look back now and I think, this is where I was always supposed to be. As much as I would have loved to be in a classroom teaching all these years I think for me, this is my classroom – these gyms all across Canada.”
He said he never had visions of this movement growing to where it is, and has no idea how long he will continue to promote Pink Shirt day and anti-bullying initiatives.
“That’s the million-dollar question, the question I have been asked the most, recently,” he said. “I am 30 next week and I have been doing this for almost 13 years now… I know that I am getting tired, but at the same time, these kids reinvigorate me, so it’s hard to walk away. But hopefully, when that day comes I will be able to look back and say I was able to do some really amazing things and able to help a lot of people.”