Pat and Ray Wilkins want to prevent bullying and have been raising awareness for the past 10 years to children of all ages, sizes, shapes and abilities about efforts to curb the disturbing trend that has led to violence and suicide among many teens across the nation.
The Surprise couple founded Yoomee Adventures in 1994, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) children’s nonprofit aimed at combating bullying among children, and have written two books on the subject.
“Yoomee and the Bully” is the Wilkins’ second book on bullying, a light-hearted tale written in poetry and illustrated by hand about how the title character, Yoomee, was able to teach her classmates — and eventually the bully, Billy — that diversity and inclusion should be celebrated.
The subject of bullying hits home for the Wilkins. Their daughter, Leslie, who battled leukemia, was bullied at a young age by her peers after she began to lose her hair. Leslie began to wear wigs, which gave her more confidence in her daily interactions with her classmates.
Leslie later lost her battle with leukemia, but left a lasting imprint on many.
“She was a strong girl who ruled the classroom because of her confidence,” Pat Wilkins said. “All the kids fell in love with her.”
Based on information from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, close to half of all children are bullied at some point while attending primary or secondary school. At least 10 percent of children are bullied regularly.
Ray Wilkins, a retired teacher and school district risk manager with a Ph.D. in psychology, developed Yoomee Adventures after Leslie’s death because of what she went through and what he saw firsthand in schools as an educator.
“Bullying has always been a problem,” he said. “Some say it’s the natural order and that it teaches you to be strong.”
The Wilkins, however, are determined to make that trend stop.
Together, the couple has conducted more than 100 readings, discussions and training presentations in the Valley and across the nation at no cost to requesting organizations.
Elementary school-aged students — their target audience is ages 4 to 10 — learn about positive self-esteem, inclusion, tolerance and bullying awareness/prevention in order to prevent the spread of verbal and physical attacks as they grow older.
“We focus on this age group because by age 8, most children have already experienced, learned about and accepted some form of bullying, teasing, prejudice and discrimination,” Ray Wilkins said.
The children also sing “We Are All Children,” which was written by the Wilkinses. The couple also makes it a point to donate their books to the hospital, library, school or organization holding the event.
“Yoomee and the Bully” is available at Amazon.com for $14.95 or through a tax-deductible donation to Yoomee Adventures at www.yoomee.org. Schools, hospitals and other nonprofits interested in scheduling a presentation with the Wilkinses can visit their website for information.
Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.