Members of the P.E.I. Rocket are doing more than trying to score goals these days — they are also doing their part in tackling the issue of bullying in Island schools.
The Rocket has teamed up with P.E.I. Crime Stoppers to put on presentations at junior high schools across the Island. They are also working on a video contest for students to encourage them to speak out against bullying.
Team members were at Stonepark Intermediate in Charlottetown Thursday morning to talk about the issue of bullying.
Trent Birt, vice-president of operations for the Rocket, said the team can make a difference by spreading a positive message. He said the Rocket chose the anti-bullying cause because it’s a prominent issue on school grounds and doesn’t receive enough attention.
“This issue is bigger than the exposure it’s getting, so I wanted to use our players to spread the message and hopefully combat the issue,” said Birt.
The project began three weeks ago. When complete, the Rocket will have visited eight or nine schools across the Island. Birt said they will likely add a few more schools and minor hockey associations into the schedule before the team starts the playoffs.
He said the project reaches thousands of students through the schools and social media.
“The message is clearly getting out there, so I guess our hope is to get the ball rolling so the students themselves can police things when we’re done.”
Crime Stoppers co-ordinator Phil Pitts said the project is delivering the anti-bullying message from one end of the province to the other. The main audience is students between grades 7 to 9.
Pitts says the winning video in the contest will play at Rocket games starting Feb. 24.
“We ran a poster contest last year, with a video. This year, we felt it was important to get the Rocket out with us. Also, kids are more likely to listen to people closer to their age group.”
Bullying leads to serious social issues, Pitts said.
“Crime is a big one, so as Crime Stoppers it was just a natural fit.”
One of the stars on the P.E.I. Rocket team is Ben Duffy. He says players are taking the program seriously. He said team management brought the idea up to them and they are eager to help.
“It’s something you see every day when you’re growing up in school. The story I’m telling is about a guy who used to be bullied in school. I befriended him back then, and he’s still my best friend to this day.”
Duffy said he has a message for the students.
“Everyone’s different, so just because they look different on the outside, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. Get to know them.”