WOODSTOCK — An author of “The Fat Boy Chronicles” visited the Cherokee Outdoor Family YMCA on Monday for an anti-bullying program conducted during the YMCA’s summer camp.
Michael Buchanan, a former high school math teacher from Alpharetta, wrote “The Fat Boy Chronicles” with co-author Diane Lang. It is based on a true story, and was published in 2010 and released as a movie in 2012.
Buchanan described the book as a “year in the life of a ninth-grader” who had been bullied for his weight.
“Too many communities wait until something happens,” Buchanan said. “Why wait? That’s what I tell the kids: Don’t wait.”
Buchanan said the most-bullied students are those who are overweight, gay or disabled.
“We’ve heard from so many kids that were the victims (say) ‘Now I think tomorrow will be OK.’ We’ve heard from the bullies who say, ‘I never knew what I was doing,’ whether they’re in middle school or whether they’re 40 (years old),” Buchanan said.
The movie adaptation was screened to about 60 children between the ages of 11 and 15 at the YMCA summer camp on Monday, and Buchanan was there to speak to the campers and sign posters for them.
Cherokee Outdoor YMCA Program Coordinator Erik Bullock said that communities should try to be proactive to prevent bullying, instead of being reactive.
“I feel like it’s our social responsibility to equip kids with skills to identify bullies and know what to do when they feel like they’re being bullied, not to be quiet about it, but to speak up and ask for help when needed,” Bullock said.
Bullock said the Cherokee Outdoor YMCA is proactive about bullying and if a concern is brought to administration, they “do something about it.”
“We need to let young folks know the influence they can have and the power of their ideas and dreams,” Buchanan said. “The sky is the limit.”
Buchanan said the movie made it to the No. 6 Redbox family rental nationwide and had been viewed by more than a million people worldwide on Netflix. He said so many teen books are dark, and said he and his co-author wanted their book to have hope.
“In the beginning he’s (the main character) kind of worried about himself, but he learns through his friends that caring about others ends up saving yourself sometime,” Buchanan said.
In the book, Buchanan said that the football quarterback is the biggest bully to the main character.
“One of the biggest groups in schools that have the most influence and use it negatively are athletes,” Buchanan said. “Athletes, especially the football players in high school, have so much power to make it different, and many times they don’t.”
State Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Barge commented on the film. He said “the film will save lives” and that every teacher, parent and student should see the film or read the book.