Speaker brings anti-bullying message to local schoolsWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Inspirational speaker Ronnie Bachman will bring his anti-bullying message to several Toledo-area middle-schoolers this week as part of his 11-state tour.
Bachman had a birth defect that led to his legs being amputated when he was 4 years old. Although he had prosthetics, Bachman abandoned them in favor of walking on his hands by the time he turned 18.
The Detroit native doesn’t let his disability slow him down physically or emotionally. He encourages middle-school students to do the same.
“Often I’ll say to them, ‘It’s not important what happens to you, it’s important how you handle what happens to you,’” he said.
Bachman attended Cody High School and Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Metro Detroit because he wanted to be a radio personality. When he was trying to break into the business, he became the subject of the documentary “Walk This Way,” which received several awards. The documentary was co-produced by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who also makes a cameo. Bachman counts Tyler as a friend of 36 years.
“I was walking around on my hands, messing around with [Tyler’s] stuff backstage in his dressing room and a guy came in and said, ‘Wow, dude, look how you get around.’ And without missing a beat, Steven said, ‘We walk like this (gestures at feet), but Ronnie walks this way.’ And it was like a new thing was born,” Bachman said.
Kathryn Vander, director and producer of the documentary, first asked Bachman to speak to middle-schoolers in the ’90s. Bachman was reluctant, but once he made his first presentation, he was hooked.
“As soon as I was done, someone asked me to do it again. And I did it again. And to make a long story short, that’s well over 1,000 shows ago.”
“Walk This Way” is also the name of Bachman’s book, which is slated for release this winter. In addition, Jeff Thomas of Rainstorm Pictures in Monroe shot a pilot for a potential Bachman reality TV show. Thomas is trying to sell it to networks, Bachman said.
Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram Superstore sponsored the local section of Bachman’s tour. The Superstore is part of the Dodge 20 group, a network of dealerships that help support each other. Dodge 20 members along with Linamar Corporation are sponsoring Bachman’s other stops, including those in Canada. Bachman’s tour stops for Nov. 7 to 11 include Washington Junior High, Whiteford Middle School, Monroe-area Catholic schools, Dundee Middle School, Ida Middle School, Wagar Middle School and Carleton/ Newport-area Catholic schools.
Ralph Mahalak Jr., owner of Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram Superstore, met Bachman about 12 years ago. He brought Bachman to speak for the Dodge 20 group in Detroit a couple of years ago.
“Unilaterally, 100 percent of them (in Dodge 20) signed up to invite Ronnie to their communities so Ronnie could get into the schools in their areas,” Mahalak said. “We need to get his message out as quickly as we can and to as many kids as we can. It certainly seems bullying has gone to a new level with these teenagers and you’re seeing more suicides and more kids getting hurt. All I can say is we can’t save everyone, but we can certainly try.”
Tags: Carleton/ Newport-area Catholic schools, Dodge 20, Dundee Middle School, Ida Middle School, Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram Superstore, Monroe-area Catholic schools, Ralph Mahalak Jr., Ronnie Bachman, Steven Tyler, Wagar Middle School, Washington Junior High, Whiteford Middle School