The 999th Legion of Child Rights – Bell City chapter, held its second Bell City Bike Night at the Brant Artillery Gunner’s Club in Brantford on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.
Motorcycles could be heard roaring into the parking lot as they arrived for the free family friendly event.
The bike night runs on the third Wednesday of each month from May until September as a way to raise awareness of local services available to support childhood bullying and abuse victims, as well as to showcase non-profit organizations, live bands, and merchandise.
The riding club was created by Keven and Wendy Ellis in 2016 and helps to advocate for child victims of bullying and abuse through various avenues. The Bell City Chapter has been running for just under a year making it one of its newest chapters.
“The 999th Legion is essentially a riding club, but we recognize there’s a lot of talent and passion beyond the ridership, so we do have non riding members where everybody’s equal and they bring a lot to the table,” said Steve Ferlatte, 999th Legion’s National Commander. “Riding season is only half the year, but we help care for kids year-round. We essentially help and advocate for child victims of bullying and abuse. That includes anything from emotional support by being present to having family liaisons assigned to families, representing them in hearings and tribunals, and connecting them with different community services.”
Ferlatte noted that the group goes beyond showing up in numbers by helping to support families by going above and beyond local policies.
“There’s a lot of groups that ride and show up in numbers as a visual support system, which is great but we aim for more,” he said. “We strategically go for the changes that can actually happen through administration, boards, committees and trustees. We go above their local policies and we actually leverage the Education Act, the Ontario College of Teachers Act and various legislation that hold accountability for safe schools. That’s what we bring to the table when we’re dealing with the issues so we really find facts and leverage things above the local policies.”
Throughout the event attendees could be seen chatting with other riders or grabbing food from Two Spoons Catering while the band Circle of Black performed for a crowd for the first time in five years.
Theresa Fuller, Event Coordinator for the 999th Legion – Bell City chapter, says the second event had an even better turnout than the first and is looking forward to the future monthly events.
“Our first event we had around 70 bikes and 100 people but the weather wasn’t the greatest so it’s nice to see we have more today,” she said. “We are also really looking forward to the July and August Bike Night’s because we’re going to have bouncy castles and just a full family. We will have face painting, Brantford’s Batman and Deadpool as well. We really want to focus on that family atmosphere because everybody has a story.”
During a break in the evening Ferlatte stood on stage to introduce Shari-Ann Selvey of Hamilton to speak about the reality of bullying and her family’s experience with the school system.
Selvey lost her 14-year-old son Devan Selvey on October 7, 2019 after he was stabbed to death outside of his Hamilton high school by another student.
“Devan was a bullying victim and it didn’t matter how many times he asked for help but the help never came, some steps were taken but not enough. There weren’t enough voices, there wasn’t a strong enough community to back up and recognize that child victims are going to the hospital from being injured by assault,” said Ferlatte. “We hold people accountable for legislation and policy. We don’t intimidate, we try to make changes where it counts, and I wish to God that someone would have been there for Shari-Ann and her son Devan before it was too late.”
Selvey was supported by friends and family members as she took the stage to encourage the community to step up if they see something happening to a child.
“It’s not only a school problem, it’s not only a family problem – it’s a community problem. Whether you see a kid walking to school and see something happening, stop and help that child. Even if you just say ‘hey come over here,’ you don’t have to get involved physically, you just have to call them over and help that child,” said Selvey. “When you help, the child will know they are seen and heard, and you make such a positive impact on that child because that child knows now that someone actually cares. Maybe the parents are too busy working, maybe they are getting divorced or there’s a problem with drugs and alcohol, maybe that child was just not getting the attention they need.”
Selvey noted that it’s hard to control bullying in school when its not just the children getting bullied, but often the teachers and adults within that same institution.
“Imagine being in high school and you’re seeing the adults bullying other adults in that school and no one is doing anything about it,” she said. “It makes it seem like it must be okay to do it too and how do you stop that from happening? How do you make sure it’s a compassionate system all the way through?”
Selvey stressed that communities need to keep an eye open for their children and to play a positive role in their lives.
“ …,The more eyes we have on the situation, the more voices we have on the situation and hopefully we can make a change,” she said. “Kids are depending on us whether they are the bully or the child being bullied, there has to be help on both sides. We have to get those children to know that there are people who do care and will stand up for you. We don’t have to lose another child to murder. Whatever role you have in a child’s life, please be a positive one and if you see a child is doing wrong, step in. We can’t change society if we don’t get involved.”