Five Fifth Grade boys at Franklin Elementary in Mankato, Minnesota were asked why one of the boys in their school is being bullied. Their answer is a question back: “Why pick on someone who has special needs?”
Jack, Jake, Gus, Landon, and Tyler are talking about their special needs classmate, James Wilmert. James has a learning disability and Jack and Jake witnessed him being teased and bullied while on the playground.
“They were like, using him and taking advantage of him,” Jake shared. Jack added, “Because he is easier to pick on, and it is not right.” The boys decided they were not going to let anyone bully James this year.
Mallory Howk, the boys teacher, said she has taught her class about how to combat bullying, but these boys have gone way beyond what she has taught them. “It really kinda makes you proud to be their teacher,” Mrs. Howk said.
James has not had an easy life. He was adopted from Columbia when he was a baby, but six years later his adoptive father died. His mom has had to be a single mother raising a child with a disability.
James’ life has changed since the five guys have become friends with him. His mother says “He didn’t want to go out to recess. It would be a struggle but now he can barely eat his lunch to get outside to play with those guys.”
The boys are truly becoming best friends. They all sit together at lunch and help James open his food containers, they tie his shoes, and they play football together, guarding James all the way to a touchdown.
They have gotten to know James well. They describe how James has a notebook of hundreds of footballs teams and how much he loves sports.
One of the boys asked James if he played video games and he told them he didn’t have a video game system. They came up with the idea to pool their money together — with a little help from their parents — and buy him one.
“Every one of the boys was smiling like crazy,” James’ mom shared about when the boys delivered the gift. They all crammed onto the ottoman to watch James play for the first time.
This was the first time James had ever had friends over to his house. “I will never forget it, never!” said his mom.
“He is an awesome kid to hang out with,” one of the five shared. They would have never experienced a friendship and bond like this if they hadn’t chosen to be there for James.
“They are changing him,” James’ mom explained, with tears in her eyes. These boys have blessed James in the most amazing way, but in return James has blessed each one of the boys with an amazing new friendship!
“All of these guys are the best friends anyone could ask for.” James shares with USA Today. He ends by saying, “I love you guys!”
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