Lakeland boy battles back against bullying - WNCN: News, Weather

Lakeland boy battles back against bullying

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Jaylen Arnold. Image courtesy jaylenschallenge.org Jaylen Arnold. Image courtesy jaylenschallenge.org
LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) -

Jaylen Arnold is only 13 years old but already he's an activist battling bullying. Jaylen and his mom created an organization called Jaylen's Challenge that's sole mission is to end bullying.

"I describe it as a big anti-bullying awareness," Jaylen explained.

Jaylen suffered bullying himself four years ago. He has complex tourettes, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable physical and verbal tics, and some of the kids in his second grade class targeted him for the disorder - mocking and teasing him relentlessly.

"I was never punched or kicked, but to me verbal is the worst because verbal can stay in somebody's head," he said.

Robin Eckelberger is Jaylen's mom. She says she transferred Jaylen to a different school where he no longer faced the bullying, but he decided then he wanted to become a crusader.

He didn't want anybody else to experience what he experienced, and he has a soft heart, and he wants to help others, and that's his gift. That's his purpose," Eckelberger said.

And so, Jaylen's Challenge was born. Now Jaylen travels to schools all over delivering his anti-bullying message. "A lot of people will tease their friends. Like, I tease my friends but not to a point where it goes too far," Jaylen explained.

The recent case involving 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who took her own life after enduring months of cyber bullying, hit Jaylen especially hard.

"I mean that's a horrible thing. I want the bullies to know it's not okay. I mean imagine if this was being done to you," Jaylen said.

Jaylen's Challenge has lots of resources for parents, teachers and kids to help stop the cycle of bullying. Jaylen is hopeful more kids will tap into those resources and join his campaign.

"It's all something you have to work through. It's a big obstacle course, and we can all do it together. Nobody said you have to be alone during all of this," he said.

Jaylen has appeared on every national network promoting his anti-bullying program. Next month, which is National Bully Prevention Month, he'll appear on a special on CNN.

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