The bullying began when Camille “Cam” Paddock was just 8 years old.
She was tormented in person and online by kids at her Huntley school. Camille suffers from an auto-immune disease called Alopecia Areata that causes hair loss and other serious health issues.
When her eyebrows and clumps of her hair started to fall out in fourth grade, kids called her a “hairless cat” and meowed at her relentlessly. Camille said the bullying increased from there and got so bad that she didn’t want to go to school, didn’t care about her grades, and didn’t want to talk to anyone.
She was bullied to the point where she wanted to die.
Her mom Melissa Paddock pleaded for help and support from school officials and the parents of the other kids. She got no response and the abuse continued.
“I couldn’t take it anymore,” said Melissa. “I told my daughter that if she wanted to fight back, we’d fight.”
Right then and there, Camille decided that she had had enough.
“I was tired of being a victim,” she said. “I wanted to be a survivor.”
Fighting Back, Reaching Out
She fought back with words. Positive words.
Then something cool happened - people responded positively. At the time this article was published, the page had 2,290 Likes and was still growing.
Her message went global. People in the Philippines, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan and Canada responded. So did people in nearly every state including Illinois, New York, California and Ohio. People from nearly every Chicago suburb reached out to Camille to learn how to deal with bullying and how to prevent teen suicide. Her inspirational story hit home with kids and parents.
“People started responding to the page saying that I inspired them,” Camille said. “I love that. I think they like it that I’m a teenager who can honestly say, 'I’ve been there. I know exactly how it feels to be different. I wanted to die – but I didn’t.'”
“Now, it’s the best feeling in the world,” she added, “to know that I’m helping others.”
October is Anti-Bullying Month. Camille wants to tie into that increased exposure to talk to as many kids as possible about bullying, depression and suicide prevention. She also wants to help get anti-bullying groups in every school. They would be sponsored by a teacher but run by kids, called Cam’s Dare To Be Different.
The Ripple Effect
Camille has a speaking engagement at Carmel High School in Mundelein on Oct. 29, and has been asked to speak at Libertyville High School. She is in the process of becoming a a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.
She has been invited to go to both the 2014 Kid’s Choice Awards and the Oscars in California to distribute her Dare To Be Different, or DTBD, merchandise to the winners backstage.
Camille is currently in talks with people from Katie Couric's television show to be a featured guest on Katie.
Her passion is all about helping others. Camille is a Global Alopecia Mission Junior Ambassador and has raised more than $800 for the organization. Now age 15, most of Camille’s hair has grown back but not her eyebrows. Still, she models and enjoys cheerleading but mostly, encourages others to dare to be different.
“I always tell parents – fight for your kids,” Camille said. "And I tell kids how important it is to be nice to each other."
Melissa agreed. “It’s a ripple effect. One kind word can make a difference. It can save a child’s life.”
For information, contact Camille at CamsDTBD@gmail.com or on her Facebook page.