Phil’s mother confided to Warfield that her son had been getting physically bullied for the past two years. Mick told The Washington Post she suspected it after he came home with bruises. Kids at his school would hit, punch and call Phil names, she said. The 11-year-old told WTSP he was being bullied for being overweight.
The boy’s plight struck a chord with Warfield. “I was bullied when I was younger,” he told The Washington Post. “I know what it’s like to be picked on.”
“I told his mom, ‘I’ve got a bunch of big-hearted biker friends who would love to help.’ ”
A couple of days before the start of school this week, Warfield took Phil to the mall to get new clothes and some school supplies.
Then Warfield, who is the director of United Motorcycle Enthusiasts, put a message on his Facebook page inviting Indiana bikers to escort Phil to school. He wrote, “Were hopefully going to make a positive [impact] for Phil and hopefully show the other kids that bullying isn’t cool.”
The first day of school rolled around Aug. 1. That morning, a group of bikers met Phil and his mom for breakfast at Richard’s, a local restaurant. When they left, “twice as many people on bikes” were out in the parking lot, Warfield said. Some of the bikers had traveled over an hour to escort Phil to school. Some took the day off work.
Before the ride, a member from the Christian Motorcyclists Association led a prayer wishing Phil a safe school year. There they were, gathered in a circle, heads bowed, all the new friends of Phil.
Going to school can be tough, the prayer leader said. “You know, Lord, that there are people out there that are just not nice. … Lord, I ask that you make your presence known to Phil as he goes to school, not just today, but all through the school year. Let him know that you are there with him, that he can lean on you. … Amen.”
Phil hopped on the back of a bike for his first motorcycle ride, and the group, resplendent on their Harleys and in their leather jackets, thundered down the street.
The glorious growl of 50 big bike engines reverberated off the brick walls of DeKalb Middle School as they pulled up, sending a message no one could miss.
Principal Matt Vince fully approved, he told the Brown County Democrat. “Standing up against bullying — we need more of that. And they did it in a positive way.”
“Phil was just in heaven. He wasn’t apprehensive or scared. He walked in with confidence,” Warfield said. “This is his new start. He was happy as heck.”
Warfield said the work isn’t over. The Indiana motorcyclists have organized a suicide awareness and teen bullying ride scheduled for late September. Phil plans to speak at the event.
As for Phil, he hasn’t stopped smiling, his mother said. He told her, she said, that “he has new brothers and sisters watching over him.”
More from Morning Mix