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This article originally appeared on December 4, 2019
Bullying is a huge problem. According to DoSomething.org, 1 in 5 students ages 12-18 in the United States are bullied during the school year, and approximately 160,000 teens have skipped school because of bullying.
So when Randy Smalls of South Carolina discovered that his teenage daughter was making fun of a classmate over her clothes and makeup, he took swift action.
Smalls instantly felt sympathy for Ryan Reese, a seventh-grader at Berkeley Middle School, having been bullied in his youth. So he took money meant for his daughter and went on a shopping spree with Ryan to get some new clothes and a makeover.
Smalls’ wife and Ryan’s mother Richauna Reese are friends, but they weren’t aware of the bullying until recently. The families got on the phone after speaking to Ryan, and Smalls asked if he could take Ryan to buy new clothes and get a makeover at the beauty salon.
Smalls used money initially intended to buy his 13-year-old daughter some new clothes, but after learning about her bullying, he decided to spend the money on Ryan instead.
“I say, ‘When you laugh along, you’re co-signing the bullying,” Smalls told Yahoo News.
“My daughter was upset, especially because she is into fashion,” he said. “So she came with us and helped pick out Ryan’s new clothes.”
While his daughter was at church, Smalls took Ryan to the beauty salon and paid for twice-a-month appointments until the end of the year.
After hearing about the good gesture, local salons have also offered to keep Ryan looking stylish for the next few months.
Richauna, Ryan’s mother, told Yahoo News that her daughter was struggling after the recent deaths of her father, grandfather, and aunt, as well as non-epileptic seizures caused by the stress.
The shopping trip has helped Ryan immensely. “I wasn’t expecting it. I just started to cry. It (the bullying) was really sad for me because I had lost my grandpa, father, and aunt, and it really took me deep down in my depression,” Ryan explained.
“This is the first time I have seen a parent take such a stance on bullying,” Richauna added.
Smalls was overwhelmed by the response and says that it’s helped his daughter see her mistake.
“I didn’t expect for this to get big but I’m glad if other parents [can learn from it],” Smalls said. “My daughter learned her lesson.”
“As parents, we have to take responsibility for what our children do,” Smalls told ABC’s Strahan, Sara, and Keke. “We can teach our children, but when they go and are around other children they can veer off a little bit. When situations like this happen, we have to take action and be the parent and not the friend.”
And the pair seem to be getting along better for the experience. “They’re cool now,” Richauna said.