Eight Oakland County teachers are hoping to take several strides against bullying this weekend as they compete in the New York City marathon.
The teachers will travel to New York this weekend despite Hurricane Sandy and will make it the starting line of the NYC marathon Sunday morning.
The teachers are running for Defeat The Label, a local nonprofit organization that reaches out to middle school and high school through several different programs to stop bullying both in and out of the classroom.
Mark Rebtoy, a teacher at Abbott Middle School in West Bloomfield, said he was bullied when he was growing up.
"If you know me now as an adult, I can come off as very confident sometimes and boisterous, but I wasn't always that way," said Rebtoy.
Rebtoy said he was bullied in the fourth and fifth grades and it continued all the way through high school.
"Walking down the hallways, I was the kid that was slapped in the back of the neck," said Rebtoy. "In high school, once again, avid band member. With that, comes a lot of, you know, derogatory terms. I was only 5'1", 103 pounds and I was constantly picked on."
Rebtoy said he always runs for a reason, not just to run.
"I like to say "It's fun and I love doing it," but in my mind, it's more of an emotional thing. It's a way for me to just release my energy, my thoughts," said Rebtoy.
Katie Kalinski teaches world history and is a cross country coach at Abbott Middle School and she is also running for change in the New York City marathon.
"Defeat the label came in and asked if we would be willing to run on their behalf. And I thought, 'What, what better group than teachers to stand up for kids who are being bullied,'" said Kalinski.
Kalinski wants to keep everyone from being labeled no matter what they are going through or doing.
"I'm currently going through breast cancer. I lost my husband to cancer and these, for my own two kids and myself, we're labels that could have, held us back in a very difficult way. By personally taking responsibility for the labels that we might have attached to ourselves, to work through those, to run through them," said Kalinski.
The group of teachers has trained for the past 20 weeks to run the marathon. Despite Hurricane Sandy, their flights are scheduled and they have all found places to stay in the city.
"We are determined to make this thing happen. That was our goal from day one. Whether it be a health reason or mother nature, we're going to get this run in," said Rebtoy.
Kalinski is preparing herself for what to expect once they get to New York.
"I'm expecting sheer chaos and, as long as I know that's, that's the way it's going be, I'll be as adaptable as I have to be in order to make it work," said Kalinski. "My heart goes out to all the people in New York and hopefully that those that have lost their, you know, loved ones or personal hardships that they might be going through."
"It's pulling together, the comraderie, through crisis does come growth" said Kalinski.
The teachers are very motivated to complete the marathon, but feel for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"When I heard the hurricane was coming through, the streets of New York, what brought to my mind is exactly what we've done as a team. You know, we've come together with many different, different backgrounds, different running backgrounds, different personal backgrounds and we've leaned on each other. We've helped each other get through the long runs, we've helped each other get through the short runs, the accountability for one another. And that's what I think the citizens of New York need to do at this time," said Rebtoy.
"That's what tragedy is about. It's about coming together. And bullying is a tragedy. It's unfortunate that it happens and it's unfortunate that Hurricane Sandy happened. And this is going to be a good time for everybody to band together, and more importantly, for us to show of support for one cause that we truly believe in," said Rebtoy.
So far, they have raised $10,644, but they have a goal of raising $26,200 -- $1,000 for each mile they will run Sunday.
The money raised will help fund Defeat The Label's in-school programs, student based clubs and other student support. It will also go to the development of an app the agency wants to create to give children and anonymous way to report bullying.
To donate to the teachers marathon goal, click here.
Defeat The Label lists the following statistics as a reminder of the bullying epidemic:
-- Every 7 minutes a child is bullied
-- 1 in 7 students is either a bully or a victim of bullying
-- Over 50% of all bullying incidents go unreported
-- Bullying intervention by adults is 4%, by peers is 11% and no intervention is 85%
-- 6 out of 10 American teens witness bullying at least once a day
-- 1 out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying
-- 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school