Retro Bill is still making good on a promise he made when he was just 14 years old. It’s what motivates Lucky Kat’s new partner-in-preventing-crime and boosting self-esteem, “Retro Bill,” - also D.A.R.E.’s official safety buddy - to pursue Boy Scout ideals. While he’s at it, he’s helping kids discover their own potential to achieve their dreams, even when a bully’s standing in the way.
He’s dedicated his life to empowering children to navigate their challenges and make safe, wise, healthy choices. But first, Retro Bill - the zany, energetic and kind-hearted alter ego of writer, director and producer Bill Russ - had to overcome his own.
Brace yourselves for his story, moms and dads. As parents, we worry; we sometimes imagine the worst. We can’t “eagle eye” our kids’ every move - so how do we protect them?
First, we can offer them credible sources of advice and information. (Ever notice they listen better to others then to their parents sometimes?) Retro Bill’s earned his kid-friendly chops. He survived not just one, but two childhood traumas that almost took his life, proving, as he often shares, “adversity does make us stronger.”
Drowning in Fear
Growing up, Retro Bill says his bad teeth, pimples, and lack of athletic prowess gave bullies plenty of fodder for torturing him. But it was a terrifying experience at camp that cemented in his memory the power a bully can harness over a child.
“I was just one community service project away from earning my Eagle Scout badge. At camp, where I went to earn the final badge, a Boy Scout two years older than me tried to drown me in the lake – literally,” said Retro Bill. “The other kids around me encouraged him, and by the time the adults came, he threatened to kill me if I told them what he’d done.”
When it was time to head to the scouts’ meeting the following week, Bill refused to go. His parents couldn’t understand it, and why he subsequently quit Scouting. He never spoke of his ordeal until finally confessing to them some 20 years later.
“They felt terrible. But my parents were loving, kind and involved – so if I was afraid to tell them, I could only imagine how difficult it was for kids who didn’t have it as good as I did,” said Bill.
It’s why Retro Bill’s message doesn’t just resonate with kids. “I tell parents – get into your kids’ lives. Know their friends; play their games online with them. Know what’s going on in their social media. Make certain they feel safe enough to tell you the hard stuff,” he said.
Prayers Answered & a Promise Kept: An anti-bullying crusader is born
After speaking with Retro Bill, I’m convinced someone’s looking out for this guy. Surviving one brush with what felt like imminent death was one of two profound experiences that paved the way to that promise I told you about.
During a rousing game of neighborhood hide-and-seek, he plunged from a treetop some 35 feet, landing flat on his back with a horrifying thud. Paralyzed from the neck down, Bill, whose parents instilled in him a strong faith, launched into prayers. He vowed if he could get up and walk and talk again, he’d use his abilities to help make the world a better place because he lived.
He made a full recovery, and made good on his promise to deliver hope, courage and inspiration to children. Now, Retro Bill travels the United States and Canada 300-plus days a year, taking his one-man road show to assemblies of kids, very often in tandem with D.A.R.E. officers, school districts, PTAs and PTOs, and a host of other children’s organizations for whom Retro Bill serves as a spokesperson. When it comes to working with D.A.R.E. officers, Retro Bill says, “kids need all the heroes they can get, and who better than the police officers that serve in their neighborhoods and schools?”
Dressing in his signature style - a nod to the era of old-fashioned values he cherishes - Retro Bill sports an exaggerated pompadour haircut. His wild outfits and zany props add energy, fun and visual metaphors to his messages. One of his own inspirations is also one of my favorites - the iconic Mr. Rogers. “He was filled with goodness and kindness; I want to be a contemporary version of him!” says Retro Bill.
“I tell kids to never let a bully get the best of them, and that they’re never, ever alone. There are caring adults all around them, and they just have to tell one of them that someone is trying to hurt them. I tell them I know they can do whatever they put their minds to. Now, they just have to believe it and do the work to get it!”
Kids aren’t the only people Retro Bill tends to inspire! We’re thrilled Retro Bill’s added his name to our cast of characters on Lucky Kat World, and to the long list of organizations, causes and projects to which he’s lent his talent and support.
You know, I’m pretty certain Retro Bill’s earned that one last community service badge that always eluded him. Um, can someone make this guy an honorary Eagle Scout?
Check out Retro Bill’s safety videos now featured on LuckyKatWorld.com; and look forward to tips and advice from Retro Bill right here on our blog in the coming months. If you are interested in scheduling RETRO BILL to speak at your school or other children/family-related event you can contact him via his official website www.RETROBILL.com or via email firstname.lastname@example.org" data-mce-href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you have a story to tell about a bully that got the best of you as a kid? Leave a comment; let’s get the conversation going!