BUFFALO - Robert Wise's mission has kids like Jamey Rodemeyer in mind.
"It hit so close to home," said Wise, recalling the day in 2011 when he'd learned the teenager had committed suicide after relentless bullying from his peers. "Our teens and children are looking at death as the only possible solution for the life they've been given? No single person in this world should ever have to feel like that."
That's why Wise, the chairman of The Runway to Hope Foundation, created something called "Project UNITY," a bullying prevention program. Now, as he continues to look for creative ways to enhance his campaign, the foundation will establish the "Peacekeepers," which will meet twice a month and offer one-on-one counseling services with creative humanities and pediatric resolution counselors. The foundation is currently seeking counselors, who do not necessarily need professional or advanced degrees, but must be at least 18 years or older.
The inspiration for this concept of the "Peacekeepers," which begins meeting Dec. 19 and could begin one-on-one sessions by January, came from a 17-year-old girl who attended one of Wise's events. After the girl shared her story and spotlighted the need for a bullying support group, the wheels in Wise's brain began to turn.
"That was it," Wise said. "The lightning bolt went off."
Wise realized the "Peacekeepers" could attempt to stop bullying before it even starts-- and provide support for not only victims of bullying, but for all others affected by this wide-reaching social issue. He also said although school districts have programs in place to combat bullying, they are often underfunded and cannot always reach the heart of the matter.
"We are the ones who truly understand exactly what the students in these schools go through every day," Wise said. "Being told you're not good enough."
The first Peacekeepers meeting on Dec. 19 will be held at Lackawanna's public library at 6 p.m. If interested in becoming a counselor, interviews will begin at the Panera on Elmwood Ave. on Monday at 7 p.m. Visit the group's website for further information.