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'Heroes 4 Higher' brings message of resilience against bullying to schools

John Buckland has been a full-time Batman for a little more than five years, bringing the character to life for thousands of students in what he calls "a real way, with a real message".

John Buckland has been a full-time Batman for a little more than five years, bringing the character to life for thousands of students in what he calls "a real way, with a real message".

The Heroes 4 Higher campaign has toured nearly 600 school districts over the last four and a half years.

Buckland, as Batman himself, settled in at St. Clairsville Tuesday.

"Instead of just talking about how bad bullying is or how bad something is, I’m actually sharing both sides of it and helping kids and families to understand what's behind it,” Buckland said.

Buckland spread an anti-bullying message, providing students with tools to cope during adversity.

"If I can help the kids to understand what causes that kind of behavior, it helps some kids to kind of stop and say, ‘Well, maybe that's why Jimmy is that way or maybe that's why Monica is having a tough time in school and what can I do to help?’"

Buckland said most students already know the backstory of Batman's character.

"Batman was a regular kid with no superpowers who witnessed the murders of both of his parents,” Buckland said. “So, this kid’s emotional DNA was shattered at a very young age, Bruce Wayne. And a lot of kids already know that story. So all I’m doing is taking the character that has been created that is the result of pain and tragedy, but this kid chose to take that pain and turn it into some kind of empowerment."

Bruce Wayne has a story not unlike Buckland’s own.

"I was abused and molested really bad in 1982 to 1984 with 12 other boys out in California,” he said. “Part of the huge Boy Scouts situation that happened back in the '80's. And don’t get me wrong, I loved scouting, but we had problems and there was a dynamic there that just destroyed 13 lives. That spiraled me off out of control into drug addiction and suicide and all kinds of situations and it was because I never dealt with that core issue, which was the pain from those situations and the pain from that trauma."

His mission is to inspire children to make an effort each day and that they too can make a difference through their actions.

"All I want to do is bring that to life for these kids in a real way with a real message to where they can understand, ‘You know what? Life is tough. You're going to go through tough times, but man, you're going to take that pain and turn it into something powerful’.”

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