THE BLOG

How To Channel Your Inner Superhero - No Spandex Required

11/23/2014 11:24 EST | Updated 01/23/2015 05:59 EST

Travis Price's favourite superhero is Batman. But it's not about the Dark Knight's fancy crime-fighting gadgets or self-taught martial-arts skills. "It's the bat signal that gets me," says the young Canadian anti-bullying crusader, referring to the floodlight with the Batman symbol that shines in the night sky to call Bruce Wayne into action. "It inspires hope in all the people of Gotham that tomorrow could be better -- that somebody's going to help them."

Like Batman, you don't have to be bitten by a spider or possess mutant healing powers to save the day. True heroes, according to Price, are everyday people who choose to act when they see a need -- no mask or cape required. In a society of passive bystanders, it takes just one courageous act to reverse the tide, or at least make a difference in the life of one other person.

Price, the Pink Shirt Day founder, sees a world filled with Bruce Waynes -- bystanders who "have all the power right then and there" to do something heroic. "When an ordinary bystander steps up for someone in need," he told us prior to stepping on stage at this year's We Day in Vancouver, "they're shining the bat signal for that one person. We might not be able to save the world, but we can each save one person, change their day and give them a glimmer of hope that someone cares."

This difference-making potential recently spurred American author and parent MacKenzie Bezos to launch Bystander Revolution--a collection of over 300 short videos with thoughts and tips from celebrities like Demi Lovato and Kevin Spacey, as well as bullying experts and ordinary teens on the countless easy ways we can each reach out to stop bullying in its tracks.

Befriend a bully victim with "just one compliment, one smile, one 'Hey how's it goin?'" suggests Disney TV star Olivia Holt. "Talk to them at their locker or sit next to them in class," urges legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. "Stick up for each other," says pop music icon Jason Mraz, "because you never know when you're going to need someone to stick up for you."

Studies show that group behaviour can be drastically shifted when just one person expresses a different opinion. What's more, a well-known research paper by Canadian bullying experts D. Lynn Hawkins, Wendy Craig and Debra Pepler found that bullying most often stops in less than 10 seconds when a peer intervenes on behalf of the victim.

Travis Price knows firsthand that a simple act can actually work. He and friend David Shepherd launched a global movement against bullying with a simple decision to stand up for an embattled freshman in their rural high school. One day, one Grade 9 boy was mercilessly teased for wearing a pink shirt -- the next day, encouraged by seniors Price and Shepherd on social media, 800 schoolmates showed up in a sea of pink to express their solidarity.

Today, Pink Shirt Days are held in schools across 13 countries by students who want to show they won't tolerate bullying. No longer is underwear on the outside of a spandex body suit the wardrobe of choice for the modern superhero -- today, anything pink will do.

On that very first Pink Shirt Day in Nova Scotia, the bullied freshman wasn't wearing pink because of the previous day's taunting. "We had saved him a pink shirt, and he put it on right away, and he rocked it," remembers Price. "And he just looked at us and said, 'Thanks.' And you could see in that moment he felt like things would be okay. That's what he was looking for. That was his bat signal."

Brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger founded a platform for social change that includes the international charity, Free The Children, the social enterprise, Me to We, and the youth empowerment movement, We Day.