Everyday Heroes: Spotlight on Author Yvonne Ventresca and Interview with Dan Meers, KC Wolf
To inspire hope and courage, I dedicate Monday posts through the months of March and April to authors and professionals on the subject of heroes, historically defined, and also the transformation in today’s society. I like to think of this term as the Everyday Hero. Here today, I have fellow author Yvonne Ventresca with her definition and spotlight on her story “The Art of Remaining Bitter.” Also today, Dan Meers, the man behind the NFL Chief’s mascot KC Wolf talks choices, kids character programs, and investing in your life.
[Erika] What is your definition of a hero (historically or in today’s world), how does your hero fit the definition and then finally, why did he or she fall?
[Yvonne Ventresca] In “The Art of Remaining Bitter,” Sylvia comes from ordinary circumstances, but she questions the beliefs of her family and society as a whole. In her world, everyone thinks that negative emotions have no purpose. She is doomed to have hers “removed,” as all citizens do, when she turns twelve. To counter this, she strategizes ways to remember what will be taken away. She fails because no one else supports her beliefs, leaving her alone in her struggle. But that doesn’t mean that she won’t rally as a hero in the future!
Her Story: The Art of Remaining Bitter
“The Art of Remaining Bitter” is about a girl who recognizes the motivating power of sibling rivalry in a society that only values positive emotions. Can feeling jealous ever be a good thing?
About Yvonne Ventresca
In addition to contributing short stories to anthologies, Yvonne Ventresca is the author of two young adult novels and two nonfiction books for teens. BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES was published by Sky Pony Press in October 2016. Her debut YA novel, PANDEMIC, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Yvonne’s other works include the short story “Escape to Orange Blossom,” which was selected for the dystopian anthology PREP FOR DOOM, along with two nonfiction books, PUBLISHING (Careers for the 21st Century) and AVRIL LAVIGNE (People in the News). Yvonne blogs regularly about creativity and writing-related resources.
Dan Meers Interview: Kids Character Building Programs and Investing in Your Life
According to stopbullying.gov, Bullying has recently been defined as “unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition.” Direct and indirect behaviors include “physical, verbal, relational (e.g., efforts to harm the reputation or relationships of the targeted youth), and damage to property.”
Based on the studies I read, middle school students seem to be the primary age group. Bullying happens in classrooms, the cafeteria, the gym, bathrooms, playgrounds and even the bus. Cyberbullying happens anywhere since the primary tool is the cell phone.
FACT: 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying
FACT: 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.
FACT: In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas FACT: 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.
Today, I have Everyday Hero Dan Meers, the man behind KC Wolf. He’s been teaching character building programs for youth. His two top programs are, “Don’t be a Bully – Be a Buddy” and the A-B-C of Success. As the mascot for the Chiefs NFL football team for 27 years, he’s worked in his role to develop character-building programs for kids almost from day one. A man of faith, family, and channeling every effort of his own life to make an impact on this world, Dan Meers blew me away in his interview.
[Erika] What is the purpose of each of these programs?
[Meers] I love working with kids and helping make a positive impact in this world. Being a mascot and presenting these programs to kids is a natural fit. They tend to like mascots. The idea is to help kids make good choices. Currently, the most popular program is the A-B-C of success (attitude, behavior, and character). We talk about the importance of living with a positive attitude, treating people with respect and living a life of good character. I’ve delivered the program to junior high schools and some high schools as well.
I also strive to be a role model and live the ideas I talk about with my thoughts, so my words and my actions match up. My goal is to be authentic and to be real with people. I have learned when you are authentic and real, people can tell. So often in life, we hide behind a mask, and we pretend we have our lives altogether when they’re not. We live this way because we are afraid. We don’t want others to see our faults and fears and failures. We put on a mask. By taking off the mask we admit to mistakes and how we aren’t perfect. We all have our struggles. I have struggles like everyone else and when you admit them you become your true self and who you are supposed to be.
[Erika] Tell me about the successes of the programs?
[Meers] I get text messages and emails from principals. They thank me for coming out and talking to their students. Every now and then I get letters from kids. They come as an individual letter other times I get an envelope with letters from an entire class. Sometimes they color pictures of KC Wolf and send them to me. Since I speak at so many schools and locations, I never really know the true impact or outcome I have on students. Sometimes I run into someone like just recently a principal at one of the schools I spoke at told me she remembered when I came to her own elementary 20 to 25 years ago.
[Erika] What advice do you have for people?
[Meers] Three years ago I about lost my life. Going through something like that puts priorities in perspective in a hurry. In the six months of rehab and therapy, I wrote a book on the lessons I’ve learned in my journey and my career as a mascot. I gave all the money back to missions and charities like Haiti and battered women’s shelters. Whenever I speak at corporate events, I bring my books and sell them. We’ve made 30,000 from the sales, and all of it went to multiple charities to make an impact.
I always share with groups; your life is like your finances. You can spend it or invest it. When you invest, what you do will multiply and come back. A life spent selfishly will be wasted. Life invested influencing others will bear fruit for a long, long time. Be investors and be a blessing to other people. When you live that way, you reap what you sow in life. Every day, I go out and try to be a blessing to others and promote hope.
[Erika] Do you have an everyday hero?
[Meers] Christ first. The Lord has also put some people in my life I admire for the way they live their lives. My parents set good examples for me. Rod Handley, an administer for Character that Counts and integrity is an Everyday Hero. I have an accountability group that holds my feet to the fire and helps me make sure I’m not just blowing a bunch of hot air.
Dan Meers book Wolves Can’t Fly, is available on Amazon.
Thank you for taking time out of your day, Mr. Meers. And Yvonne, I can’t wait to read your story!