Many people have experienced getting bullied at some point of their childhood. Some take it seriously, while some just laugh their bullies’ nonsensical teases off. Either way, these days just pass.
But it’s a different case for fifth-grader James Willmert because for him, bullying feels like it could go forever. Getting picked on has become part of his everyday life.
James has a learning disability, making him the favorite target of bullies in Franklin Elementary School, where he attends. He often spends the whole day in a different room away from his classmates. He doesn’t even want to go out during recess, afraid that the other kids would just tease him again.
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But things changed when five kids, Tyler Jones, Jack Burgess, Gus Gartzke, Landon Kopischke, and Jake Pemble, approached James and asked him to be part of their group.
In an interview with USA Today, the five boys shared the simple yet heartwarming reasons they decided to approach James.
“Why pick on someone who has special needs?” Jack starts.
“They were, like, using him and taking advantage of him,” Jake says, to which Jack adds, “Because he’s easier to pick on and it’s just not right.”
Since that day they talked to him, the boys made it part of their routine to have lunch with James. They help him with little things like opening his bag of snacks, tying his shoelaces, and even introducing him to sports James has now come to love.
James’s mother, Margi Willmert, still remembers those times when going out for recess was still a struggle for the young boy, and she’s glad that it’s over.
Margi, who is not James’s biological mom, shares that life has always been tough for James. He was an orphan, and just when he found a new father, Margi’s husband died in a fatal bicycle accident.
But now, she’s happy that her son has found the right people to spend his younger days with. She says one time, James’s friends visited him in his house, and it was one of the precious moments he saw her son truly happy. “Every one of them was smiling like crazy. I’ll never forget it. Never.”
The boys’ act of kindness was not left unsung. During an event, Mankato Area Public Schools gave them the Spirit of Youth Award for what they did for James.
James enjoys his friends’ company so much. He says, “All these guys are the best friends anybody could ask for,” while wrapping his arms around their shoulders.