Mark and Joni Adler and their family have spent more than two years trying to harness good from the worst experience of their lives, and Friday will be a strong sign their efforts have yielded significant results.
Metro area school districts, city leaders and the Omaha metro community at large have jumped on board the Adlers’ efforts, the #BeKind campaign, and they will formally acknowledge the alliance Friday at 10:30 a.m. with a news conference at the Thompson Alumni Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.
“Joni and I and our family is very grateful for this,” Mark Adler said.
“What is really important is that we focus on how we treat each other and how a little kindness is an investment in each other and can make our whole day and world a better place.”
The #BeKind campaign is the Adlers’ effort to address bullying, cyberbullying, teenage depression and other issues in the wake of their son Reid’s suicide in January 2016 after he was bullied by another student.
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Adler, the superintendent of Ralston Public Schools, said strong relationships among the education leaders in the metro area have created “positive inertia.”
“I’m not surprised because what I would tell you is our education community in the metro area, we work together so well,” Adler said.
“We really are committed to our own kids but we’re also committed to all the kids in the metro area.”
Adler said organizers didn’t put a lot of thought into the name #BeKind because the name presented itself.
He said a friend of his was organizing a fun run shortly after Reid’s death and wanted to put the hashtag on the back of the shirt the race participants would receive.
Adler said he liked the idea because it summed up well Reid’s personality and the way he lived.
Later, Millard Public Schools Superintendent Jim Sutfin was at a conference at which education leaders from a metro area similar to Omaha presented their #BeNice campaign. Sutfin thought bringing a similarly proactive approach would be good way to expand the Adlers’ efforts, and Adler agreed, he said.
Other metro area superintendents and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert all jumped on board right away, Adler said.
“I haven’t ran into anybody that has been able to argue with me about ‘Let’s just be kind,’” Adler said.
Area school districts have adopted a resolution recognizing Friday as #BeKind Day. The resolution recognizes research that strong relationships are beneficial to a person’s health and encourages districts to promote acts of kindness and build healthy communities.
It states in part, “it costs nothing to #BeKind to others, (and) the dividends of that effort will last a lifetime.”
In the two-plus years he’s been on the journey, Adler said one of the big changes he’s noticed is that students are starting to take more of a leading role.
“I’m excited to see what that looks like,” he said.