BY KATHY KANE
Rudy Washington, the 12-year-old Ann Arbor native who shot to local acclaim last year for his efforts to collect socks for the homeless, is organizing the first-ever “No Bully Zone Rally,” free to any child that would like to attend, at the Trenton Village Theatre from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28.
The rally will include participation from former Denver Broncos player Ian Gold and several local community leaders, such as Trenton Mayor Kyle Stack, Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center President Noel Jackson and Southgate Mayor Joseph Kuspa. Also on hand will be Michigan FBI Director David Gelios, Police officer/youth advocate Jason Gold, FBI Community Outreach Specialist Bushara Alawie, and Larry Callahan & SOG — the choir from the Super Bowl commercial with Eminem, which who will open with “Lose Yourself.”
Rudy’s Sock Drive & No Bully Zone was founded in 2015 when Washington was only 10 years old. Sitting on the sofa one winter afternoon, Rudy’s mom turned to him and said, “Hey did you know that new socks are the most needed but the least donated to homeless shelters?”
Rudy’s response was immediate, yet simple, “Mom, let’s have a sock drive!”
Rudy was not prepared for the mass turnout of his first sock drive. That’s when he and his mother decided to make this an annual event. Rudy, AKA “The Sock-Man,” hates having cold feet. He is known for sleeping in his football socks. The Sock-Man is also now known for being a friend to the homeless. He has met and kept in contact with many of his homeless friends.
RSD has teamed up with southeast Michigan YMCAs to collect new socks, hand and feet warmers, hats, scarves and gloves for the homeless and are currently working together for possible future events with the Downriver Community YMCA.
The NBZ was birthed in March of 2016 when Rudy was bullied out of school. Rudy was repeatedly threatened by the same student, over and over again. Each time the student was suspended from school he seemed to return angrier than before. After several incidents, and in an effort to keep Rudy safe, Rudy’s mother and father decided it was best to remove him from the school, at which time he was homeschooled for the remainder of the school year.
Rudy’s parents soon realized that this situation could make or break him. As a family, collectively, the Washingtons decided to use this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to raise awareness about the effects of bullying. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
Some words do hurt more than others, online and offline. It’s not usually harmful when done in a playful, friendly, and mutual way, and both kids find it funny. But when teasing becomes hurtful, unkind, and constant, it crosses the line into bullying and needs to stop. We believe it is very important to have the entire school working together, from the superintendent to the lunchroom aide, all staff, students and parents. Everyone must be willing to work together. When one falls short the other should step in.
Rudy is one of the youngest, most passionate philanthropists you’ll ever meet. His drive and determination are like nothing you’ve ever seen.
There will be something for everyone in attendance at the No Bully Zone Rally. Donations will be accepted. More information is available at http://rudyssock-drive.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/RudySockDrive/?fref=ts.
In his free time, Rudy enjoys singing and playing the drums for his local church. He also likes swimming, playing basketball and football. Somehow Rudy still finds the time to do all these things while helping the homeless and raising awareness at elementary schools about bullying.