HALIFAX – A well-known Halifax basketball player is using the power of sport to combat bullying.
Dozens of people gathered at the Canada Games Centre for the first-ever Bench Bullying Celebrity Basketball Game, organized by former Halifax Rainmen Eric Crookshank.
Crookshank tells Global News that he was a victim of bullying as a child.
“When I was growing up, people picked on me because I came from a poor family,” he said. “My mother didn’t have a lot of money. My father and mom separated. They picked on me because I didn’t have the newer clothes.”
Crookshank said the harsh realities of bullying were difficult to take and there were times he considered taking his own life. But in the end, he managed to persevere through it.
“I found some kids that had similar interests as me. I fell in love with the craft of basketball and music so I found something to take the negative energy into something positive.”
Crookshank started Bench Bullying to organize sports-related programs for at-risk youth. Money raised from the celebrity basketball game will go towards those activities as well as Kids Help Phone.
“We try to make sure kids have avenues where it’s all fun and nobody gets picked on,” he said.
“In sports, if you’re doing something bad, if you’re tired or frustrated, the coach puts you on the bench. If you continue to be disrespectful, the coach is going to keep you on the bench. Bullying is never positive so we’re going got keep it on the bench. We’re going to bench it.”
Open up dialogue around bullying
Travis Price, the founder of Pink Shirt Day, participated in the basketball game. He said it is important to talk about bullying, especially since school is right around the corner.
“Start the conversation with kids now and tell them what’s going to happen when they go back to school in September,” he said.
“You can [talk to adults] if somebody is being mean to you, talk to your teacher.”
The basketball game brought out local and professional athletes, including Toronto Raptor James Johnson, who said it is important for kids to speak up if they’re facing bullying.
“Tell somebody. Don’t hide it. Confront your bully if you have to but tell somebody before you do it,” he said.