TOLEDO, Ohio — Kids came together in east Toledo for the first Nerf Battle Mania at Edgar Holmes Park on Saturday.
But the battle wasn't just about fun with Nerf guns, it was also to raise awareness on bullying. It's an issue kids and adults alike say is troubling in schools.
"Be a buddy, not a bully," said Project ER Inc. founder Mary Wilson.
Wilson talks to kids about the consequences of bullying because she knows them all too well. Back in 2014, her great-niece took her own life after constant bullying online. She made it her mission to show kids that their words matter.
"You can and you have the power to make someone feel like they don't want to be here anymore," she said to kids. "And they might want to do something about that like she did."
She started Project ER, which stands for Embracing and Restoring the Family.
At Edgar Holmes Park, her nerf gun battle helped show kids how to treat one another while having fun.
"The goal of this event is to bring out kids together as often as possible to help them foster positive friendships," she said, "and not just the kids, but the moms and dads too."
It was fun and nice to see kids just playing together with strangers becoming friends. And almost everyone agreed that bullying is a problem in school but the reasons for it vary.
"Maybe they're bullying you because they don't get the attention at home, so they just want to take it out on you," said Aubrey Baughman.
"Everybody is different," another boy said. "You know you don't need to be hurting anybody making anyone suffer. We all have our own personalities."
Wilson stressed kids can learn from a very young age that bullying is bad and though words matter, so do actions.
"Start focusing more on the positive and less on the negative," she said.
Wilson hopes events like these bring the kids together in a positive way. And she wants the kids to go home with the mantra that "the end of bullying begins with you and me."
If you missed this week's Nerf Battle Mania, the event will be held every Saturday from 3 to 5 until October 16.