SALT LAKE CITY — All week, KSL News has been highlighting the serious problem of bullying in our schools and community.
We've received dozens of heartbreaking emails, but we also had one mother write to tell us about a simple act of kindness that had a huge impact on her son's life.
Wendee Russon's son Marcus loved playing sports, but his favorite high school memories involve his friends.
"They were really nice. They loved me," he said.
Marcus is autistic, and his mother feared that would make him an easy target for bullies. In fact, there was one incident in gym class Wendee and Marcus remember distinctly.
"He pushed me over … he was being rough to me," Marcus said, referring to a bullying classmate.
"A sweet, large-statured young man stood in front of Marcus and said to this other kid, 'You want to get to him, you are going to have to get through me.' "
But then another student came to the rescue.
"A sweet, large-statured young man stood in front of Marcus and said to this other kid, ‘You want to get to him, you are going to have to get through me," Wendee said.
Other students watched the whole incident unfold.
"I guess the story went on in the halls of East High School, because I got a phone call from a friend a few days later," Wendee said. "We never had another problem at East High School, because everybody saw that there were going to be kids stand up for him and defend him."
Marcus went on to play on the East High hockey and baseball teams and was never without a friend. Wendee said she's grateful to the friends, teachers and coaches that always made her son feel included.
"Everybody loved him," she said. "He was so popular, and I never dreamed that could happen."
As for the young man who didn't hesitate to stand up to a bully, Wendee has a message for him:
"If he is watching this, hears about this, he probably wouldn't even remember that was him because it was such a small thing to him. But it was huge in our lives, in Marcus' life," Wendee said.
We at KSL would love to hear more positive stories about kids who are standing up to bullies. If you have one, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, don't forget "Be A Friend Friday," coming up Feb. 8. Share your acts of kindness and post pictures of anti-bullying activities on Facebook and Twitter, hashtag #beafriend.