If you saw "The Blind Side," which is the story of Michael Oher (offensive tackle of this year's Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens), then you know that he was played by acting newbie Quinton Aaron.
It's hard to imagine that Aaron, who now stands 6 feet 8 inches, was ever bullied. And yet, as he revealed in a recent phone interview, "I was a skinny kid in those [nerdy]-looking glasses" who was regularly bullied. "Then it became verbal abuse . . . until I learned how to defend myself," he added.
Thus the impetus for The Quinton Aaron Foundation. Founded by Aaron in October 2012, the organization educates young children and teenagers about bullying and childhood obesity by bringing attention and awareness and offering support and solutions to these offenses. The soft-spoken giant of a man is determined to touch lives by sharing what he's learned from his own experience as well as from teachers, administrators and parents. His own mother, he says, addressed his problem by showing up at his school, unannounced, to check on him--a tactic he strongly recommends to parents. The Quinton Aaron Foundation also aims to fill the gap between despair and hope.
As an avid bowler (his current handicap is 160), Aaron is on a traveling tour through 31 states and more than 75 cities to highlight the issues of bullying and childhood obesity via fun-filled bowling events, like the recent one at Pinz in Studio City.
The young people there wasted no time in trying to best the big man at his game. Watching all this unfold, it's easily apparent that Aaron spending quality time with bullied youth at bowling lanes has given these kids a needed boost, and that Aaron's goals to touch and teach as many young people as possible on the tour is being met.
Aaron and the kids who come out to these bowling events rarely take the time to commiserate about bullying, but Aaron says he did encounter a young man whose bullying was so profound that Aaron felt compelled to give him his personal contact information. And to girls like 14-year-old San Bernardino native Ashanti, his advice is no different than that he imparts to boys: "Ignore them, get your parents involved and move on!"
The tour ends on June 27 with a welcome-back gala in Tampa, Fla., where the foundation is based.
Beyond the tour, look for Aaron to kick off his next film project in May.