Kellyanne Bartleson is urging everyone to wear orange on Oct. 25 to bring attention to the issue of bullying.
This is her third annual Color the Coast Orange that is held in conjunction with Pacer.org's yearly international anti-bullying movement, Unity Day.
On Oct. 25 families, students and teachers, workers, and the community are being asked to participate simply by wearing orange.
Bartleson said the statement can be in shirts, nail polish, hats, ties, shoes, shoe laces, wristbands, or hair bows. She is encouraging schools to have anti-bullying lessons, make banners, and have assemblies with SROs to discuss emotional, physical and cyber-bullying and spread the word on social media.
"Tie an orange ribbon around your mailbox or decorate your front door," she said.
And she is encouraging businesses to give discounts to customers who come in wearing orange on Oct. 25 or place orange items on sale.
The local 4-H and several Walton County schools have committed to participate.
"We are recognizing the 'Wear Orange Day' throughout the district," said Superintendent of Schools Russell Hughes.
Hughes said he does not have an exact number of reported or substantiated bullying incidents, but he said that bullying does not seem to be increasing in Walton County.
In 2015, Bartleson received a proclamation from Gov. Rick Scott declaring October as National Bullying Prevention Month and by wearing orange, the community can make a widespread statement that bullying needs to end.
Bartleson said she is passionate about the cause because she was bullied in elementary and middle school.
"I hoped my daughters, their friends and classmates would grow up in a safe, bully-free and happy community, but that is not always the case," she said. "Teen suicide, self harm, and mental health issues are at an all-time high, many attributed to bullying. No one wants to talk about it and many don't know where to go for help. It baffles me that we live in such a special place, yet sometimes we just aren't there for each other. We need to talk to our kids, at home, at school, ask them what's bothering them. I believe that together we can learn to accept each other and come together against bullying."
Bartleson came across pacer.org a couple of years ago and saw that it has resources for parents and advocates "don't bully, be kind." She was inspired to start everyone talking about the issue.
"It's catching on. It's easier to make people smile than frown," she said.
Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center was founded in 2006. Pacer provides resources and tools to address bullying in schools, the community, and online. It's a community issue that impacts education, physical, and emotional health, and the safety and well-being of students.
"It's hard being a kid these days when you can hide behind your words on social media," said Bartleson.
For more information, visit www.pacer.org.