Former professional bullrider and rider Gary “Roach” Hedeman stopped by Bonham Elementary School on last Wednesday to talk about bullying — and he didn’t mean Bill, the 1,800-pound Charolais-cross bull he brought with him.
Bill is the main character in the book “Billy Is No Bully,” written by Hedeman’s wife, Cindy Hedeman.
The book focuses on Billy, a bull who is bullied by the other bulls for being different. Students learn by reading the book how they, too, can overcome bullying.
“We are teaching the kids ways to deal with bullying and how to get information, who they should trust or go to if they need help,” Gary said. “Hopefully we can put a dent in bullying today.”
Hedeman’s wife, who is an elementary teacher, wrote the book to provide a positive message to kids everywhere. Her husband, who is now retired from the Professional Bull Riding rodeo circuit, read the book to the students before they had an opportunity to meet the real-life Bill.
“I want the kids to go home and say they have met a real-life bull today at school,” Gary said. “They are going to remember this program for years later, and hopefully will have the impact on the kids not being bullied anymore.”
The presentation was organized by the school’s counselor Julio Mascorro to help promote a positive school environment.
“My hope is that with my guidance lessons and presentations like this we create awareness about these issues,” Mascorro said. “The students are going to see how a professional bull rider is interested in them feeling safe at school. That it’s not just us at the school but also people in the community who care about them.”
The book will help serve as a teaching tool as well long after Gary and Bill are gone.
“We ordered the book so we can use it to help promote our anti-bullying message,” principal Sandra Portillo-Sanchez said. “It will help communicate to the kids that we are buddies, not bullies.”
The students dressed up in western wear to help support the anti-bullying message and tie in with the program’s theme.
Kindergarten student Devon Dominguez proudly sported a black cowboy hat and boots. He spoke enthusiastically about petting the gentle bull and about what the book taught him.
“I liked the bull,” Devon said. “I learned about bullying today, and bullying is bad.”
Hedeman is no stranger to bulls, spending many years as a professional bullfighter, or rodeo clown, as well as riding them in his formative years. His brother is legendary bull rider “Tuff” Hedeman, who also is in town for the Tuff Hedeman Championship at the El Paso County Coliseum this Saturday.
Visiting Bonham Elementary is like a homecoming for both brothers who were born in El Paso.
“I am just tickled to be here. This is my hometown. I grew up here,” Hedeman said. “It’s just great to be back home and give back to the community.”