When BMX rider Matt Wilhelm was younger he was bullied for having big ears, for being a twerp, and for all the worst things schoolyard bullies could throw at him. A bully at his local BMX track was so ruthless Wilhelm was scared off racing altogether, and started messing around with the flatland tricks that would eventually make him a three-time X Games medalist, help launch his career as a motivational speaker and performer bringing his flatland BMX show and inspirational message to young people around his hometown of Chicago and across the country, and bring him before TV's "America's Got Talent" judges in 2011.
Wilhelm is joining President Barack Obama -- another kid with big ears who has spent some time in Chicago -- to bring that message to an even broader audience with "Stop Bullying: Speak Up," a half-hour special that airs on the Cartoon Network at 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
"Speak Up" is basically a documentary for the "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" campaign, which features kids talking about how they've been bullied, but for the show they're also getting some celebrities to talk about their experiences with bullies and how they overcame bullying in their own lives. The producers saw me on "America's Got Talent" and when I was on there the show touched briefly on how I was bullied as a kid. So the guys with Cartoon Network contacted me and talked to me a little bit more and thought I'd be a great fit for it. It's pretty cool to be a part of it.
The message of the show, "Speak Up," is what I talk about every day at the schools I visit. I perform at over 300 schools a year, and I talk about bullying, and how I was bullied: Being called "Ears" because I have big ears and I didn't know how to deal with the bullies. So what I talk about during my shows is how it made me feel, but also what to do if you're being bullied, and one of the things is to speak up, you know, tell somebody what you're going through. A lot of kids are really afraid to speak up and think it's wrong or think they're tattling on someone, and the bystanders won't speak up because they're afraid the bully will pick on them, too. So what I do in my shows is what this special is all about -- it's a perfect fit.
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