Bullying is by no measure a new phenomenon for schools. However, in recent years there has certainly been a heightened recognition of bullying’s prevalence and the toll it takes on our youth.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania that recognition has turned into action. Dan Fremuth, the Director of Public Relations of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, has headed the organization’s efforts to combat bullying through the team’s community outreach.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are not a new team, but they are new to Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Having spent most of its notable years in Glen Falls, New York under the name of Adirondack Phantoms, the team has quite the task of getting the word out about its presence.
While the Lehigh Valley Phantoms players build up team repertoire and spirit on the rink, Dan and the team’s mascot, meLVin are out in the community aiming to aid in the anti-bullying campaign.
For the team, a huge component of their efforts is driven by needs of the community. Specifically, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms charitable initiatives concentrate their efforts on a couple of local school programs. One of which is the Bully Busters Unite program, where Dan and meLVin head out to dozens of schools to educate children on bullying in a friendly and effective way.
Bully Busters Unite came on the heels of the team’s health initiative goals which was launched while the team was still located in Glen Falls, New York. The team has since carried on those health goals into their G.O.A.L. (Get Out and Live) Program.
Bully Busters Unite was created with the humble hope that a few schools would welcome Dan & meLVin into their classrooms and allow them the opportunity to make a difference.
Looking back at the past year, that humble hope was actualized to a far greater extent than predicted. Last year alone, Bully Busters Unite did 32 performances, visited 14 school districts and spoke to about 10,000 kids.
The program focused on sharing the right anti-bullying tips while walking that fine line of presenting valuable information when discussing an incredibly serious subject. By incorporating the team’s Mascot, meLVin, the program has been able to express issues in a friendly manner while allowing for a deeper understanding to take place by means of clear goals for the students.
“By means of trial and error, seeing what translated and what really worked best we landed on what I think is a really solid finished project,” said Dan.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms know the importance of having a robust game plan, and the same goes for their charitable initiatives. Dan says that the sustainability of programs such as Bully Busters Unite is crucial. Dan and meLVin learn on the fly and adapt quickly to changes. That kind of training has proved to be a winning formula for the program.
Upon examining the results of the Bully Busters Unite program, Dan admits it can be difficult to ascertain the effects the program has on some of the youngest students.
“You’re never quite sure because elementary kids tend to be the most unpredictable section,” said Dan. “Are they going to respond to the messages we want them to pick up on? That is one of the big things we struggle with.”
Although impact may be difficult to measure, Dan and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms make sure to follow up with teachers and ask what their observations have been since the program took place.
These checkpoints provide a valuable feedback loop for the Bully Busters Unite program. In turn, Dan and meLVin can continue honing in on the best practices while expanding the team’s philanthropic efforts.
Dan believes that considering the nature of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms potential for outreach, it is crucial that the team continues to remain a force of good.
“It is our civic duty and responsibility as a pro sports team in town,” said Dan. “We have a platform and a voice that people want to be a part of and listen to. We absolutely need to give back to the community that has supported us so much.”
Dan contends that family and teachers play an enormous role in the shaping of children’s experiences with bullying. All he hopes is that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and meLVin can be a different voice, and an outlet to pass along outlined tips. That way, the performances serve as a reinforcement to the ideas that parents and local administrations convey already.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” said Dan. “These tips are simple but powerful ideas.”