West Broadway Youth Outreach (WBYO) is known for providing a safe, nurturing and supportive environment for local children. They provide free, year-round programming for children and push them to excel. In fact, their slogan reads, “A child’s potential ends… just beyond infinity.” You’d expect if they made headlines it would be for the wonderful work they do, but thanks to the internet, that’s not the case.
Each year, WBYO holds a basketball and hockey tournament. This year’s event wrapped up over the weekend with an award ceremony. It’s tradition to give joke awards to the children to inject a little humour into the event. One award is causing a bit of controversy, though.
An 8-year-old child was given the “Captain Cry Baby” award and a photo of the award was posted online by a family member. Outrage ensued and the picture quickly gained traction with people noting how inappropriate the award was and deeming it bullying.
Ken Opaleke, the centre’s director, issued an apology on the WBYO Facebook page, stating in part, “Every year we give out a number of ‘joke’ awards at the end of our tournament. It is meant to be fun for the kids and they are typically well received. I can understand how in this instance, my humour was not appropriate and showed a lack of judgement. I never meant to make a child feel bad about himself.”
However, before you start imagining a bullied child and jump on the outraged bandwagon, it isn’t the award, but the reaction to it, that is causing trouble for the boy who received it. The boy didn’t think anything of the award, which also included diapers and a soother. The reaction, though, has disgusted the family and left the little boy feeling uncomfortable and sad. In an interview with CBC news, the boy’s mother expressed concern that her little boy would never want to go back to the centre that’s given him so much.
“Now my son is crying in his room with fear that he will never be able to set foot in WBYO, that he will never be able to see Ken and the rest of the amazing volunteers and that he will be judged for this exploding over the God damned internet!” she wrote.
The internet has a really powerful way of righting wrongs and making sure people are held accountable when they mess up. However, the relentless backlash can have unintended consequences, too. Sure, the award probably wasn’t the most appropriate and could very well have been upsetting to a different child. But this child understood it was a joke and wasn’t bothered by it. The organization has apologized and has agreed to rethink their joke awards moving forward, so we can move on, right?
Not if the internet has anything to do with it. The organization will likely face the backlash of this for a long time and will be tainted by the bad press. The organization and the people involved are dedicated to making the lives of children better, and countless children could miss the opportunity to be involved if this place is unfairly tagged as a bully, not to mention the stress it is causing for the child and his family.
The internet is quick to point out error but slow to accept apologies. The centre responded in the best way possible, the child and his family were never offended by the award and changes will be made to ensure no future awards will be offensive, leaving no need to push the issue. Advocates can quickly become bullies themselves if they aren’t willing to accept a genuine attempt to right a wrong. It’s time to quit crying about the injustice, which didn’t offend anyone involved, and move on. Or better yet, let’s start a conversation about how beneficial this organization is to the youth in that community.
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