Brother of suspected Parkland school shooter launching anti-bullying campaign
"I want kids to know that there’s something out there for them," said Zachary Cruz, the brother of Parkland, FL school shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz.
“There's hope out there," said Zachary.
Thursday, Zachary traveled from Verona, Va. to Washington, DC to help launch a national anti-bullying campaign.
Zachary is rolling out a national, 24/7 help hotline for bullying victims. This will also be part of a larger, non-profit program designed to help kids being targeted, as well as the school leaders.
It's called the 'We Isolate No-one', or 'WIN' campaign. That means bullied kids or fellow students wanting to report an issue can dial in for immediate help.
Zachary says something like this could've helped his brother.
“He was open to trying new things, so this organization - let’s say a kid would’ve saw him at Douglas by himself and that kid would’ve approached him and became his friend, I really think that person would’ve changed this whole thing.”
18-year-old Zach Cruz is opening up about his brother - the alleged Parkland gunman, Nikolas Cruz - and he believes Nikolas took explosive action after years of feeling alienated.
This new non-profit program will gather information in calls, send reports to the school districts and make sure leaders follow up. If they don’t, legal action is possible.
Working with civil rights law firm Nexus Derechos Humanos, Cruz hopes to set up chapters with volunteers in every state.
The inspiration to start this came after the tragic mass shooting in Florida last Valentine’s day, 17 died and 17 suffered injuries.
In the following weeks, Cruz ran into some trouble, including a trespassing charge in Broward County for returning to the site of the massacre.
“I’m nothing like my brother in that way, I don’t want to hurt anybody but I don’t want people to judge me based on my brother’s actions. I’m my own person. I’m trying to do something to benefit everybody, so I don’t want people to cast that judgment on me.”
Mike Donovan, the president and CEO of Verona-based Nexus Services, is backing Cruz’s efforts.
He helped Zach start a career and new life in Virginia and now he’s standing by him as he looks to help bring troubled kids out of the shadows.
His organization will fund at least $800,000 to start this campaign. Donovan says he is willing to go to great lengths to support a bright, caring and kind young man.
“He’s told me that he was very very fortunate to have met us and I tell him that we were very fortunate to have met him... he’s going to do amazing things in his life and this is just the start of it," said Donovan.
Zachary says he is adjusting well to life in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
“It’s nice - I like it more than Florida. I have a new family basically and a support system and I didn’t have that in Florida.”
“I can think of no better place for this organization to do great work than in Augusta County where those values are values we hold dear every day," said Donovan.
Cruz now plans to spend the next several months traveling to find allies to grow this program.
If you need help or know someone who does, you can call 1-800-329-5507 day or night.
You can also visit the website for this new foundation: www.weisolatenoone.com.