Pink Shirt Day support stands out

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By LYNDA VAN KEMPEN

There was every reason to “think pink” on Friday as schools and shop windows around Central Otago were awash in the colour.

The occasion was Pink Shirt Day, which aims to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of bullying.

It originated in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada in 2007. Two pupils, David Shepherd and Travis Price, took a stand against homophobic bullying and mobilised their school after a pupil was harassed and threatened for wearing pink.

The Mental Health Foundation supports the day and Central Otago anti-bullying group Sticks’n Stones also takes a leading role in promoting the initiative.

The youth-led anti-bullying group was set up four years ago. It has grown from a small group with a small band of teenage volunteers and one person employed one day a week into a nationwide organisation with more than 300 youth volunteers and one full-time employee.

Co-founder and project facilitator Karla Sanders, of Alexandra, said Pink Shirt Day was celebrated at many Central Otago schools and there had also been “incredible support” from businesses.

“We need to do a shout-out to all those businesses who have decorated their windows in support of the day – that’s been just wonderful,” she said.

School pupils had dreamed up a vast range of activities to mark the day. Many schools were having pink-themed mufti days and one school had planned to create a mural, painted by pupils, based on the children’s book Only One You by Linda Kranz.

At St Gerard’s School in Alexandra, classes made pink decorations to hang on playground trees and held a Pink Parade and “count the marshmallow” and “count the pink jellybean” contests.

Senior pupils organised the events and dished out stickers to younger pupils.

“There were some really happy kids around – they liked getting the stickers,” pupil Hannah Tait said.

“The Pink Shirt Day, or anything that works to stop bullying, is a good thing.”