A sea of children, with their parents in tow, filed into the Ponte Vedra Beach Branch Library Aug. 4 to learn how they can take a “stand” against bullying at Magician Mark Alan’s magic show and have a little fun while they were at it.
Alan has more than 30 years’ experience as a comic magician, and had developed school-tailored shows such as “character counts” and “reading is magic.” Four years ago, however, at his wife Lorraine Stinson’s insistence, the two developed an anti-bullying show called “Take a STAND Against Bullying.” Stinson, who is the media specialist at R.J. Murray Middle School in St. Augustine and a teacher for 20 years prior to that, knew first-hand the importance of just such a show.
“It’s gotten so popular with the schools and the libraries,” Alan said, adding that he was surprised he hasn’t received a lot of requests from middle schools for his bullying show.
Alan said he does about 50 such shows annually, and this year in particular, he’s received a lot of requests from summer camps to come out and spread anti-bully awareness to campers.
For the past four years, the program has been a staple at the Ponte Vedra Beach Branch Library, funded by the Friends of the Ponte Vedra Beach Branch Library.
“We think it’s so timely with school starting,” said Ponte Vedra Beach Branch Library Youth Services Librarian Anne Crawford, who spoke to the crowd of about 40 elementary school-aged youth and their parents prior to the show’s start. Crawford’s own daughter Lucy, who will be starting Kindergarten this year, was also in attendance.
“I myself was someone who was bullied as a child, so this particular magic show is very near and dear to my heart,” Crawford told attendees. “We want to give you the opportunity to learn ways to stand up for yourself as well as stand up for your friends.”
She also gave the children permission to do something that is generally frowned upon at libraries – yell.
“When the time comes to yell ‘stop’ in the magic show, I want you to yell really loud!” she said.
Crawford then went on to introduce Alan, who confidently strutted out to the theme song from the movie “Rocky” and immediately started to engage the audience. He asked for several youth volunteers from the audience to assist with a few of his magic tricks – which were used as visual teaching tools – as he educated the children about bullying. In essence, he made the quite serious message of bullying light and easily understandable to the target age group. His performance also garnered a lot of giggles – and not just from the kids. Adults were laughing and seemed to be having a good time as well.
There are three types of bullying, Alan told the children: verbal, physical and cyber-bullying. Alan was himself a victim of bullying, an admission he shared with the kids.
The acronym STAND – the main component of the show – stands for “Stop, Tell, Ask, Nobody and Don’t.” That message was prominently displayed on the stage along with “say no to bullying” and “no bully zone” signs.
Alan told the children to put their hands out and yell “stop!” whenever a bully tries to approach them. The next steps are then to tell an adult and ask for help. Nobody deserves to be bullied, he said, so don’t be a bystander.
That message resonated with 8-year-old Izze Munoz, who was one of the children chosen to participate on stage.
“I learned that if another person is being bullied, don’t let that person be bullied again,” she said.
Munoz attended the show with her grandmother, Joanne Lindsey, and her six-year-old sister.
Lindsey said that both she and the girls’ mother wanted them to know about bullying.
“We tell them all the time, don’t let anyone bully you; go tell somebody,” Lindsey said.
“Bullying is everywhere,” he told the audience, “from elementary school through college.”
The core message, he said, is unity.
“We have to stand together because there are way more of us than there are bullies,” he said.