Nationally known actor Quinton Aaron is bringing his anti-bullying message to Palm Beach County, visiting Wellington recently as part of a new partnership between his Quinton Aaron Foundation and Horses Healing Hearts (HHH), an equine-assisted therapy program for children coping with parents suffering from alcoholism and addiction.
Aaron is best known for his portrayal of future professional football player Michael Oher in the 2009 movie The Blind Side.
Horses Healing Hearts Executive Director Liz Olszewski said that Aaron’s anti-bullying message resonates with her program’s goals.
“The umbrella mission is to give kids coping skills,” she said.
Olszewski explained how she was telling a friend how The Blind Side is her favorite movie, and that friend mentioned knowing Aaron.
“We started talking, and I just decided to call him and say, ‘Can we collaborate on some level?’” she recalled.
The two organizations strive to provide children with coping skills, how to deal with problems and how to react when things aren’t going well at home.
Aaron and his organization agreed to work with HHH and are collaborating to decrease bullying, increase awareness and help children in need.
The foundation, Olszewski explained, works with each school district, since bullying rules tend to vary, and works within the given parameters to help decrease bullying and destructive behavior. There are many variables within bullying rules, most notably, the definition of school property and determining the boundaries for when the school gets involved.
The HHH kids — the organization is helping 52 children right now — are all extremely excited to meet Aaron.
“Our kids can really relate to him,” she said, noting that while Aaron himself was not a child of addiction, the character he played was. “That part of the movie they really identify with.”
One of the coping mechanisms the children use, she explained, is to escape. When they saw the flashbacks in the movie, and Aaron’s character explains that he was told to shut his eyes, the HHH kids can relate.
In general, because of their home lives, children from addictive households are often bullied, or bullies themselves, since their school life is the only place where they are in control, Olszewski explained.
“They either have to find other safe people or try to deal with it themselves. That’s when we see instances of suicide or dealing with it in unhealthy ways,” she said.
HHH tries to redirect the children to let them know where to find safe people and how to find the help that they need.
The two groups really are a perfect match, Olszewski said.
“They’re a national organization that is really making an impact on the grassroots level, and we’re a grassroots local organization that’s getting ready to go national,” she said.
Aaron will be visiting Palm Beach County in mid-November for multiple collaborative events, including visiting Palm Beach County schools; holding a town hall meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12; attending a meet-and-greet on Friday, Nov. 13; and participating in “Cowboy Up for a Cause,” a fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14 at Wellington’s Van Kampen Arena.
Last month, Aaron and his team came to South Florida to meet with Olszewski to plan their upcoming campaign. While here, they made a visit to Wellington’s offices and met Mayor Bob Margolis.
“It was an honor to welcome Quinton Aaron and his team,” Margolis said. “Bullying is a serious issue that requires a team effort to stop. It is wonderful to see celebrities like Quinton working to put an end to this problem. Wellington is proud of local organizations like Horses Healing Hearts, which are creating opportunities for our children’s future.”
For Aaron and the foundation, the August meetings went splendidly.
“I have been to many cities and never have I been as impressed with the show of support and overwhelming welcome as I had in Palm Beach County,” he said. “The school district’s commitment to their youth is outstanding, and I am honored to be working together. We enjoy working with counties that are pro-active in implementing solutions for the serious issues facing their students.”
Aaron will be visiting schools during the week of Nov. 9, meeting with local kids and adults to try to make an impact on those who bully others.
There will be a town hall meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12.
“The town hall goal is to get a panel of experts from psychologists to police to county to everything, so that whatever questions and issues about bullying that arise, the experts are there to answer them,” Olszewski said. “They want to raise the community’s awareness and get the support systems in place so that [Aaron’s] visit has a lasting impact.”
On Friday night, there will be the special meet-and-greet event, where attendees will learn more about how they can support Horses Healing Hearts, children of alcoholics and addicts, meet Aaron and learn more about the joint anti-bullying initiative. Tickets are $100 per person and $150 per couple. The location will be announced shortly. Tickets are available at www.hhhusa.org.
Cowboy Up For a Cause will be rodeo-themed fun, including a mechanical bull, a dunk tank, roping games, rodeo exhibitions and more. A rare white camel, other unique animals, Disney characters and more will make special appearances. It will be the perfect opportunity for kids to have an authentic, hands-on cowboy experience.
Olszewski is planning a polo and dressage exhibition. Polo players will be on hand to teach children how to swing a polo mallet. Aaron will also be there signing pictures, autographs and DVDs.
Cowboy Up for a Cause is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. at the Van Kampen Arena. Admission is $5, and children younger than 12 will receive a free T-shirt.
More details will be announced as they become available. For now, the foundation members are excited and ready to come to Palm Beach County.
“We love Palm Beach County,” said David Tyler, executive director of the Quinton Aaron Foundation. “We are really excited to be working with Palm Beach County… The impact we can have as a foundation is tremendous. When you can have a profound effect on the livelihood of children in a positive way in such a large scope, how could you not be excited to work with an area that large?”
Sponsorship opportunities are available for the anti-bullying school assemblies, town hall meeting, meet-and-greet and Cowboy Up for a Cause. For more information about sponsorships, contact Susan Shelly at (561) 305-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For general event questions, contact Olszewski at (561) 713-6133 or email@example.com.
ABOVE: (L-R) Horses Healing Hearts Sponsorship Coordinator Susan Shelly, actor Quinton Aaron, Horses Healing Hearts Executive Director Liz Olszewski, Wellington Mayor Bob Margolis, and David Tyler and Maria Perez of the Quinton Aaron Foundation during their visit to Wellington last month.