Campaign spooks bullying away this October

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Monster Frank Shelly visits schools across Utah encouraging kids to "not be a monster." The anti-bullying campaign "Don't Be a Monster" partners with local haunted houses like Nightmare on 13th in Salt Lake City. (Don't Be a Monster)
Monster Frank Shelly visits schools across Utah encouraging kids to “not be a monster.” The anti-bullying campaign “Don’t Be a Monster” partners with local haunted houses like Nightmare on 13th in Salt Lake City. (Don’t Be a Monster)

A monster named “Frank Shelly” is putting an end to bullying in schools across the country.

Local haunted houses, like Nightmare on 13th in Salt Lake City, are partnering up with seven Utah schools to bring Frank Shelly’s anti-bullying message to students. Through the “Don’t Be A Monster” campaign, Utah students have the opportunity to choose not to become bullying monsters.

Frank Shelly is a friendly monster created by campaign developers Chris Stafford and Jon Love. He visits schools and empowers students to question their behavior and harmful habits toward others. “Don’t Be A Monster” helps kids and teens change their behavior to “not be a monster.” The campaign encourages showing compassion and kindness to people who may be different.

Nightmare on 13th in Salt Lake City chose to partner with “Don’t Be A Monster” for the first time this year.

Melissa Riley, the PR director for Nightmare on 13th, wants Utah teens to see that Nightmare on 13th supports a worthwhile cause that is relevant to them.

“We have a very high teen suicide rate here in Utah,” Riley said. “As a very strong business and a leader in our community of haunted attractions, we want to use our resources to help fund and promote this anti-bullying message.”

Stafford and Love began in the haunted house business as owners of 13th Floor Haunted House in San Antonio, Texas. After having a successful career in scaring, they decided they wanted to give back. Sticking to what they knew best, they created the monster Frank Shelly. Frank Shelly, named after Mary Shelley and her creation of Frankenstein, became the face of “Don’t Be A Monster,” according to dontbeamonster.org.

Mario Ochoa, the campaign’s PR director, was part of the process of developing Frank Shelly and his message.

“It really only took us 15 to 20 minutes to dream up this idea,” Ochoa said. “We then reached out to 15 schools in San Antonio with our idea, and it all took off.”

The campaign had such a positive impact on the schools that Ochoa and his team spent the next year expanding resources to spread the campaign. “Don’t Be A Monster” started partnering with many of San Antonio’s most successful haunted attractions and eventually spread to Utah and other states.

The partner haunted houses want teens to realize that the monsters inside their attractions are only actors. They aren’t real.

“Even though the monsters in haunted attractions aren’t real, the bullies in students’ lives are very real,” Ochoa said.

“Don’t Be A Monster” licenses the character Frank Shelly to haunted houses. The campaign sends costumes, scripts and promotional materials to each partner. The houses then hire actors to play Frank Shelly. Frank Shelly is designed to represent students who are singled out and bullied every day at school because they don’t fit in. Instead of acting out like a monster, Frank Shelly chooses to be kind.

“Students get wristbands showing that they’ve chosen peace and tolerance just like Frank,” Ochoa said. “We also expanded the range of monster characters to better represent those who may feel bullied or are the friends of those bullied.”

“Don’t Be a Monster” isn’t the only message the campaign is sending. Frank Shelly teaches students to be upstanding. Presentations teach 10 steps for identifying bullying and stopping it. They also teach students how to be an “upstander” against bullying culture and when to reach out to a safe adult, teacher or friend for help.

BYU students interested in anti-bullying efforts support the message of the campaign. Kendelle James, a sophomore at BYU, was bullied by girls on her high school volleyball team.

“As a sophomore, I made it on the junior varsity team,” James said. “But soon it became apparent that I wasn’t the type of girl the rest of the team socialized with. They preyed on my insecurities, and I had never been so miserable in my entire life.”

James’ coaches and fellow teammates didn’t seem to care, and the bullying affected not only James but her mother as well.

“Bullying affects friends and families too,” James said. “I like how the campaign takes a unique look at bullying. Bullying is different for everyone. Bullies and the bullied come in different shapes and sizes.”

Through the help of haunted attractions and the voices of students experiencing bullying, “Don’t Be A Monster” sends a message of hope to students around the country.

“It’s all about making a choice to let bullying continue or to choose to make a change,” Ochoa said.

In a promotional video for the campaign a phrase sticks out: “Nobody is born a monster; it is a choice that everyone has to make.”

“Don’t Be A Monster” starts presentations in middle schools in Utah and Davis Counties on Oct. 2. The campaign is also presenting this year in New York; Atlanta, Georgia; Phoenix, Arizona; and Austin, Texas. Anyone interested in learning more about the campaign and getting involved can visit dontbeamonster.org.

“We want this program to reach every student that it possibly can with the resources that we have,” Ochoa said. “We want the message to be meaningful and go beyond the Halloween season.”