In the movie “The Blind Side” Quinton Aaron played Michael Oher, a giant on the football field who worked his way from the poorest neighborhoods as a child to the NFL as a monster offensive lineman.
Since that time Aaron has used the fame the blockbuster brought him to help teach kids about bullying and how they can overcome it. That message was delivered last week when Aaron spoke at two assemblies during the day at Howell High School and at a town hall meeting last Thursday night.
Aaron said even being bigger than most kids he was still bullied all through elementary school and into high school which inspired him to help other kids in similar situations. “I want to save lives and to help make not bullying a trend and to just get people to open their hearts more and stop being so mean to each other,” he said.
As part of his foundation’s work Aaron recently completed a 45 city tour where he met with students of all ages and got the chance to meet some of them and hear their stories. Even just meeting the students he said he wanted to do whatever he could to help them. “A lot of times kids don’t have personal relationships with parents so they feel they can talk to them about what’s going on so they keep it hidden,” he said. “I want to reassure them that they can talk to a parent or someone that they trust and that they can make it stop.”
Between his work as an actor and his work with the foundation Aaron said he is happy with where his life has gone since growing up in the Bronx. “I grew up wanting to be an actor,” he said. “I grew up living my dreams.” As for the foundation, he said, “I love it. It’s one of those things where I’m happy to be able to say I can use my status for more than just my own gain.”
One of the people taking Aaron around Howell last week was Sgt. Chris Hill of the Howell PAL who said the message the actor delivered was powerful and well received by the students. “There are so many kids who are getting bullied on an everyday basis. To have someone come in and say you’re not the only one, but there’s help, you can’t even measure that.”
Hill said for the kids to see Aaron, who towers over most people, as someone who was bullied shows that it can really happen to anyone. “From what I’ve seen in law enforcement over the years, someone that’s larger than the crowd, they become part of the playground equipment. If they retaliate in any way they get charged or immediately found guilty even if they were just the innocent bystander who got attacked.”
One lucky Howell family also got a special prize from the event as tickets were raffled off at Howell High School’s back to school night for an evening with Aaron. Janice Amitrano and her three kids won the raffle and she said she was looking forward to them getting to know the movie star better. “It’s an honor for us to get to meet him,” she said. “He’s very talented and he’s a really good human being for giving back to the community this way. We really appreciate getting to know him and getting to learn from him.”