Rocky Mount, N.C. — It's not every day that a world-famous Harlem Globetrotter comes to your school.
But when Ant Atkinson, a 7-year veteran of the exhibition team and also a Wilson native, heard what was happening at Rocky Mount Prep School, he wanted to teach the 600 elementary students a lesson – the team's "ABCs of Bullying Prevention."
The young audience included 8-year-old twins Ryan and Amber Suffern, who recently received national attention when a letter Ryan sent to Santa Claus went viral.
The letter reads:
"Dear Santa ... I wanted a (remote control) car and helicopter, but I don't want that (anymore). (Kids) at school are still picking on Amber and it’s not fair. … I prayed that they will stop but God is (busy) and needs your help.”
"When we got a hold of this story, it was a perfect opportunity (to share our bullying prevention program)," Atkinson said Thursday. "It's a touching story, and it shows what true love really is."
Atkinson used the Globetrotters' signature ball-handling skills in a 20-minute dynamic presentation that focuses on action, bravery and compassion as ways to combat bullying.
The Globetrotters designed the program in coordination with the National Campaign to Stop Violence, and the team is expected to take the message to more than 300 schools during the 2013-14 school year.
Atkinson even shared with the audience his own personal story of being bullied as a child.
"He went through the same thing I went through," said Amber.
After the assembly, Atkinson presented Ryan and Amber with autographed basketballs and tickets to see the Globetrotters in Raleigh on March 2.
He also named the twins "Junior Phenoms" for the Globetrotter spirit they demonstrate as siblings with an exemplary friendship.
Amber and Ryan's mother says the school took swift action after learning about the letter to Santa. She says her daughter no longer cries before going to school and that the bullying has stopped.