COLUMBIA — Stopping the scourge of bullying became an even more important cause for Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice when it impacted his family.
Rice’s younger sister was bullied by another girl when he was in middle school and was struck in the eye with a rock.
"My mom was telling me she wanted to let my sister go take care of business, you know, you take care of it one time and maybe she won’t bother you no more," Rice said. "I told my mom it’s not the right thing to do. The school will take care of it. We got the principal involved, we got the police involved. I think we got it under control.
"I want to get the message out that some people are not alone. If you feel like you’re in that dark cloud, you got to speak up because the only help to recovery is admitting that something is wrong."
Speaking to a large group of kids and parents Friday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion at "A Ray of Hope", Rice left the crowd with a strong message about not retaliating and utilizing the proper channels to seek assistance.
During the pro-kindness, anti-bullying, teen prevention event, Rice referenced the suicide of 15-year-old Grace McComas.
McComas endured months of cyber bullying before the Glenelg student killed herself on Eastern Sunday this year.
After that tragedy unfolded, Rice spoke at a similar anti-bullying forum at Howard High School.
"Well you know after I heard about the story about the little girl losing her life over somebody’s words, you can’t imagine somebody’s life being taken over words," Rice said. "I live by the creed that sticks and stones they break your bones, but words can never hurt you. In this case, words killed somebody. When you think about it, we all put ourselves in somebody’s shoes, a different family’s shoes.
"Whether we have kids or not, we can feel that family’s pain. I felt that pain and I felt like it’s time for me to be a voice out there. In another situation, you’re talking about retaliation. That’s not the kind of retaliation that you need in this kind of situation. It’s getting your voice out there to help any other situation."
Rice was raised in a rough neighborhood in New Rochelle, N.Y. by Janet Rice, a single mother who teaches special-needs children.
Janet Rice has motivated her son to give back by using his status as a professional athlete.
“I don’t want to take away from parents, but people respond to athletes," Rice said. "Some of these kids look at me as a role model. The main thing I try to share is my story because I can relate to many different situations in life. I can relate to adversity.
"I can relate to change. I can relate to poverty. I can relate to a lot of things. When I speak and hear a crowd that really pays attention, it makes me feel good about doing something."
Rice made the point that it’s difficult to change bullies’ behavior, but noted that they should be motivated by wanting to avoid a life of crime and potential incarceration.
"Anybody will tell you that they don’t want to see jail," Rice said. "If anybody tells you that they grow up and they want to see jail, they’re lying to you. Jail ain’t the right place for you, no matter how troubled your household is. I don’t think essentially you can go ahead and say we’re going to change a bully’s behavior. Their behavior has started at home.
"If that kid is running around hitting people and he’s talking back and he has a foul mouth, what do you think he’s doing when he gets to school? The same exact thing. I can’t tell you how to raise your child, but I’m just one that came from a household where my mother was the queen and the king of the household. I knew what it was to show respect and quite frankly, that’s how I treat people now every day of my life.”