Super hero? BOB enters anti-bullying battle

BEHIND BOB — Sisters and co-authors Laura Drew Farraher (left) and Tammy Drew Hoidal (right) reached out to old friend Erica Lowell Chute to help them with illustrations for their new book, BOB — Bystanders Opposing Bullying — set to be released next month. (Rivet Photo)

BEHIND BOB — Sisters and co-authors Laura Drew Farraher (left) and Tammy Drew Hoidal (right) reached out to old friend Erica Lowell Chute to help them with illustrations for their new book, BOB — Bystanders Opposing Bullying — set to be released next month. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Tammy Drew Hoidal remembers clearly how her face felt hot and her stomach became queasy whenever she saw someone being bullied in junior high.

“I believed because I walked away every time this occurred that I wasn’t a participant,” she said.

Sister, Laura Drew Farraher, was too shy to ever be a bully, but she also remembers being guilty of not standing up to it.

“I’m pretty sure people thought I was stuck up, but I was really painfully shy,” she said.

Today, the sisters are joining a nationwide fight to stop bullying by publishing a new book, which will be expanded to include a workbook targeting children in kindergarten through Grade 5. Their super hero is BOB. He does not fly. Heights “freak” him out. Wear a cape? No way, he is too short and would probably trip over it. BOB is a regular kid who tackles a major problem at his school — bullying.

BOB stands for Bystanders Opposing Bullying. The beauty of the story line is that every child can be a BOB.

For the former Lake Region graduates, B.O.B. represents the second plunge the Drew sisters have taken into the book-publishing world. Back in 2011, they collaborated on their first book, “My Mother is a Rock Star.” They are currently working on a sequel to the 296-page paperback.

Some sisters get together to do yoga, exchange recipes or knit. The Drew sisters get together to brainstorm and write.

An educator for nearly 20 years in Maine, New Hampshire and California, Tammy is currently a kindergarten-second grade teacher on Chebeauge Island.

“The inspiration behind B.O.B. came out of necessity. We wanted an (anti-) bullying program that I could use on the island, targeted for younger children (K-5), that really focused on the powerful impact of the bystander,” Tammy said. “We wanted a relatable character in which all kids could identify. ‘If he can do that, I can do that.’ Research shows that the bystander is the most pivotal person when it comes to making a difference in a bullying scenario.”

Once one child takes a stance against a bully, often others will follow.

“It becomes a ripple effect. There’s strength in numbers,” Tammy added. “The name Bob was the perfect name for our character, as it imbeds our slogan in his name.”

Like many good ideas, the name BOB came to Tammy late one night. Immediately, she had to share the brilliant idea with her sister.

“She said, ‘I have it! His name is Bob.’ She went on to explain what BOB actually stood for. It took me a minute, because she woke me up, but as soon as I understood, I fell in love with the idea,” Laura recalled. “Then, the storyline came easily — Bob was our friend, our son, our neighbor, ourselves.”

Today, the world is a very different place than when the Drews attended schools here in the Lake Region. Their dad, Don, was a teacher, while mom, Marilyn, was an office secretary.

“I couldn’t get away with too much,” said Laura, who graduated from LRHS in 1992. “We also followed the rules because the whole community looked out for us. It was a time when other parents could call us out if we were disrespectful or unkind. These days, it feels like so many parents have the ‘Don’t mess with my kid’ mentality. I think we need to move back toward the ‘It takes a village’ mentality. If I could go back (to my school days), I would try to be more of a voice for those being bullied. Perhaps, this book is a way of doing that.”

Today, it can be difficult for a child to escape the reach of a bully because of new technology — the Internet and cell phones. Suddenly, the bully’s reach is much longer than ever before.

“When we were growing up, we could go home at night and on weekends and basically escape bullying,” Laura said. “Not so anymore. Kids are subjected to bullying on social media sites and through texting. Bob sees this and for him, it’s the final straw. He realizes he has to figure out a way to stop it.”

Laura taught for seven years and was an Assistant Director at Page Private School in Beverly Hills, Calif. before she moved on to South Boston and Dorchester, Mass. She ultimately returned to Maine, and now resides in Falmouth.

“I have three children — my oldest is going into second grade. I was definitely shocked to see how bullying begins at a young age. It usually begins by exclusion. I’m constantly reminding my daughters that if someone asks to play with them, always include them,” said Laura, who is now a stay-at-home mom. “because the next time it might be them playing alone and looking to be included.”

Tammy and Laura want children to feel empowered and to know that by just using their voices when they see bullying happening, they can become someone’s hero.

“It seems like in so many movies, the stereotypical football player or cheerleader is a bully. But, we want to change that,” Laura added. “We want the football team to declare themselves BOBs and to say to bullies, ‘Don’t try to bully anyone if we’re around. Not on our watches!’”

Like her sister, Tammy wants to equip children with the tools to put a stop to an act that is resulting in chilling endings — suicides and shooting sprees — across the country.

“I want to teach my kids that they need to do more than look the other way and be a passive bystander,” she said. “They have a responsibility to say something or tell an adult if they don’t feel comfortable intervening.”

Meet BOB

Success in writing “My Mother is a Rock Star” helped propel Laura into her next venture — BOB.

“I have learned that if you want to be a writer, do it because you love it. I think I was a little shocked when our first book came out. There were critics. And, there are critics now of BOB — even before the book has been released (it is due next month, published by Bryson Taylor),” she said. “But, if you love writing and you love what you’ve written, others will too. I still get approached by young girls who tell me that ‘My Mother is a Rock Star’ made them fall in love with reading or made them think twice about texting so much. If this book can change even one person’s life in a positive way, then I’m happy…and I will continue to write.”

The sisters enjoyed taking on a serious issue and creating a powerful tool — BOB — to drive home an important message.

The venture also reconnected Laura and her childhood best friend, Erica Lowell Chute. Since neither Tammy or Laura can draw, they turned to Erica.

“She’s an amazing illustrator,” Laura said. “I hadn’t kept in touch with Erica over the years, so when I asked her, she was hesitant because she had never done this type of work. But, my gut feeling was that she was our illustrator. She sent me her first illustration of Bob a week later, and I almost cried because she nailed it! She brought Bob to life.”

Erica attended St. Michael’s College and graduated with a double major in Education and English and a minor in Studio Art.  After working in schools for nearly 20 years, Erica had seen firsthand the devastating results of bullying.

“The book gives adults a stepping stone for approaching this fragile topic. The book is designed for younger students, and it is with these young kiddos that bullying awareness needs to start,” said Erica, who currently is the Director of the Academic Support Center and an English teacher at Bridgton Academy. “When I created BOB, I tried to think of a little boy whom lots of kids could relate to and see themselves being friends with at school. I wanted students to see themselves in BOB and his friends.”

Erica admits the project was “a bit out of my comfort zone.” As a watercolor portrait artist and owner of a small business, Birds of Grace, where she designs hand-stamped silver bracelets, Erica had little experience designing cartoon-like characters.

“The inspiration for the characters came from notes that Laura and I passed in high school, a time before cell phones and texting,” she said. “The art of note-passing is now a thing of the past! Often, the notes included a simple small illustration of one of us in class, at practice or interacting with others.”

When Laura called Erica regarding the book illustrations, she told her longtime friend, “Please make the characters like the ones we drew in high school.” Erica knew exactly what Laura was talking about.

Although Erica was unsuccessful in locating one of those precious notes in her memorabilia box, she had a good idea what the Drews were hoping for.

“I love the character, Bob. As a mom of three, I have read many children’s books and watched my share of cartoons. I would love to see Bob have his own cartoon on PBS to continue teaching young children about the sad and devastating effects of bullying and about the importance of standing up to bullies,” Erica said.

A workbook accompanies the storybook. It contains questions, hands-on activities, games and role plays that help teach the message behind the BOB program.

Tammy  hopes BOB generates a similar response the way S.A.D.D. (Students Against Drunk Driving) and M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) had when those programs were first embraced by school systems across the country.

“Prior to these organizations, teens had a rather lackadaisical mentality when it came to drinking and driving. After these programs were launched, the practice of drinking and driving was no longer considered funny — it became taboo,” Tammy said. “Parents, administrators, teachers and coaches offered serious and meaningful consequences for kids that behaved irresponsibly when it came to teen drinking.”

BOB hopefully will create a similar zero tolerance climate when it comes to bullying.

“Students have a right to feel safe at school. Our goal is to work as a team to bridge home and school, empower the bystander and create serious consequences for students that choose to bully others,” Tammy added.

BOB is just the right guy for the job.

Editor’s note: WMTWW-Channel 8 aired a segment on Tammy, Laura and Erica. It can be see at the following link — http://www.wmtw.com/news/maine/Sisters-friend-take-stand-against-bullying/-/8792012/20282298/-/tmstae/-/index.html

 

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