While he has portrayed an offensive lineman charged with protecting quarterbacks, actor Quinton Aaron has now gone on his own offensive — in hopes of protecting children from bullies.
Aaron, best known for his role as NFL player Michael Oher in “The Blind Side”, is in the midst of a 45-day anti-bullying tour that will bring him to Los Angeles. The North Hollywood resident created the Quinton Aaron Foundation to speak out against bullying, an issue that he has combated in the past.
“I used to get chased home every day,” Aaron said of his youth.
As an elementary school student in New York, he was a “skinny, little kid” who wore glasses and had crooked teeth. Aaron said some students would regularly beat him up, and he was afraid to defend himself because the assailants’ older brothers were gang members.
Years later, he would go on to make his film debut in the 2008 comedy, “Be Kind Rewind”. In 2009, Aaron starred in “The Blind Side” along with Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. But he didn’t forget the trouble that bullying caused him as a young man.
Aaron said he’s been speaking out against bullying since 2010, sometimes with the help of fellow actor Eric Martinez. He said he tries to encourage young people to pursue their goals and never give up — no matter what.
In October, Aaron was advised to start a foundation, and the first thing that came to mind was bullying. At the end of March, the tour made its first stop in New York, followed by trips to Cleveland and Chicago. He will be in L.A. on April 12.
Aaron said the tour has gone well so far. He said he had a chance to catch up with a student — once considered to be one of the school’s biggest troublemakers — who he’d met one-on-one a few years ago.
“He’s now a straight A student, and he’s already getting college letters and stuff and he’s in the tenth grade,” Aaron said. “That was just awesome.”
He said the students seem to absorb the message, especially since he’s seen success after dealing with bullying issues himself.
“I feel like they do,” Aaron said. “I don’t approach them in a way that makes them feel in a way as if they are the problem. I tell them about what I’ve been through, I tell them about why I’m doing what I’m doing and I ask for their help. …It kind of helps them want to get involved in helping.”
He also incorporates a message about childhood obesity during his talks, as he also dealt with the problem growing up, causing him to have low self-esteem. Aaron said the two issues are quite similar.
His schedule in Los Angeles is still being determined. In other cities, he has held leadership breakfasts, town hall meetings, autograph-signing sessions and bowling events, one of his favorite hobbies.
Aaron said he is trying to organize a bowling event in Los Angeles, and he hopes to visit PINZ in Studio City, his favorite bowling alley. More details about his visit should be available in the next few days, he said.
Additionally, Aaron is hosting a raffle to raise funds for anti-bullying programs. The winner will have the option of taking home a Honda Fury motorcycle or $10,000. For information, visit www.quintonaaron.org.
The actor said he plans to participate in more anti-bullying events, even after the 31-city tour ends in Tampa on April 24. And he plans to stay in contact with the students he’s encountered on the tour.
“It’s definitely cool to get involved and speak out against it,” he added. “Most of all, I hope it makes a difference.”
For information about Aaron’s appearances, call (800)838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com and search for “Quinton”.
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