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FAIRFAX, Va.—Nationally, one in four students ages 12 to 18 reports being bullied, according to a 2015 survey from the National Center for Education Statistics. What's more, 64 percent of the victims told no one—not their parents, teachers or school administrators.
In response to this ongoing problem, CustomInk is back with its fifth annual “Be Good to Each Other” campaign, in which it tries to draw awareness to bullying and raise money for PACER, a Minneapolis nonprofit devoted to bringing an end to the harmful practice.
“At our company we have some core values, one of which is the Golden Rule,” says Lyn Famiglietti, public relations director for the online provider of custom T-shirts for groups and occasions. “So, really treating each other with kindness and respect. Five years ago we launched the Be Good to Each Other bullying prevention campaign as a way to show our support within bullying prevention and get our customers involved in making a difference.”
PACER, which targets young people and families in a variety of ways, first launched its anti-bullying effort in 2006. What started as a week-long event to raise has evolved into National Bullying Prevention Month, which is October.
When CustomInk decided to launch its own anti-bullying campaign, it discovered PACER’s anti-bullying efforts and realized it was a perfect fit for its own Be Good to Each Other campaign.
“(PACER), through their bullying prevention center, works in communities nationwide,” Famiglietti says. “They do a lot of efforts to educate, engage and really unite communities against bullying. And we just know that we have a really strong customer base within K-12 and bullying is very common today, not just online but offline, and we feel strongly that it’s a place to make a difference.”
CustomInk has a couple of ways the public can get involved. As per its normal business model, customers can go online and create their own anti-bullying T-shirts or other apparel, with 100 percent of the profits from the sale of each one, or roughly $8 per shirt, going to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
As an alternative, the company—keeping its customer base in mind—has once again brought in some star power to help spread the message and raise funds through the sale of “celebri-tees.”
“As a custom apparel provider we have tapped into a number of celebrities,” Famiglietti says. “This year we have 12 amazing celebrities who are working with us—(actresses) Gina Rodriguez (and) Alyson Stoner; (Olympic figure skater) Gracie Gold; (professional surfer) Quincy Davis; to name a few, and they all create custom T-shirts that are then sold, with profits being donated back to PACER.”
Some of the celebrity-designed T-shirts are simple: Gold’s design is a golden key with the word “Kindness” in it, and singer Rachel Platten’s is a succinct, two-word message: “Be Kind.” Other designs are more elaborate, such as surfer Davis’ message of “Be As Kind As The Ocean Is Deep” next to an illustration of a mermaid; or world heavyweight champion boxer Deontay Wilder’s “Knock Out Bullying” message with a pair of boxing gloves draped over the words.
CustomInk is also offering up for sale “Unity Day” T-shirts. Designated this year for Wednesday, Oct. 21, Unity Day is a sort of culmination of the month's anti-bullying activities. In the past, CustomInk has handed out stickers to go along with Unity Day, or even Kind snack bars to its employees, Famiglietti says. And the company is in contact with local schools where they have locations, she adds.
The company is headquartered in Fairfax but has production facilities in Charlottesville, Virginia; Dallas; and Reno, Nevada.
Profits from the sales of all of CustomInk’s anti-bullying T-shirts sold in September and October go to PACER. Part of those monies go to fund the PACER website, which can serve as a valuable resource for both victims of bullying and people who care about them. Visitors can learn what defines bullying, find information for parents, and tips on working with a school.
Over the first four years of its Be Good to Each Other campaign, CustomInk has sold tens of thousands of T-shirts and raised nearly $120,000 toward bullying prevention efforts. As the company likes to point out, National Bullying Prevention Month may end Oct. 31, but people will continue to wear the shirts long after, continuing to spread the anti-bullying message.