Fifteen-year-old Khori Turpin refuses to be defined by his bullying experience.
Instead he chooses to tell his story to inspire others to be strong in the face of difficult situations. Khori experienced incidents of bullying throughout elementary school. He was often called a “Momma’s Boy” and teased for his good behavior..
The bullying, however, quickly escalated one afternoon when Khori visited his neighborhood park.
“I was out playing with my friend… and we bumped into these guys and they attacked me,” he said. The attack was completely unprovoked.
The bullies “told Khori that if he would not be part of their gang, then he would get a ‘beat-down,’” said Khori’s mother, Tisha Turpin-Hauges.
The boys began kicking and punching Khori. When he tried to run home, the group of boys blocked the way and continued their assault. The bullying finally ended when Khori’s sister ran to get help. Khori was nine at the time of the attack, and his bullies were all between the ages of 10 and 13.
The attack left Khori with a severe hip fracture and avascular necrosis, death of bone tissue because of a lack of blood supply. Seven months after the incident, he had to receive emergency surgery from complications involving his injury. He was wheelchair bound for a year.
When Khori reaches his twenties, he will need total hip replacement surgery. The family finally found justice through the juvenile courts after receiving limited help from schools and the police department because of the young age of the children involved.
Because of the bullying, Khori suffered with depression for several years. He could no longer play any contact sports, and he had to complete the fifth grade through hospital/homebound services. But instead of being upset by his experience, Khori decided to share his story and encourage others to seek help when facing incidents of bullying.
Khori remembers one night.
“I was laying in my room watching the news, and I found out that a girl had committed suicide over bullying. I thought, ‘I want to inspire people who are in school getting bullied.’”
He decided to write a book based on his experience. The book, “Be a Lion at Heart,” tells Khori’s story through the character of Timothy, a young boy who deals with bullying and the ramifications of those events.
“Be a Lion at Heart” is a family project that started at the beginning of this year. Inspiration for the book title came from a project that Khori’s younger sister, Tanohoa, completed for school that asked her to describe her hero. She wrote about her brother and included a picture of a lion. This picture became the cover art for the book. Tanohoa also served as illustrator for the rest of the book.
The family’s ultimate goal is to print as many copies of the book as possible and get them into the office of every elementary school counseling offices in the United States. To help reach this goal, the family has set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/bealionatheart to assist with the cost of production as the book is self-published.
At the moment, Khori is preparing for the book’s launch on Saturday from 6-8 p.m. at Southern Arc Dance at 40 Greenway Court in Newnan.
During the event, which is open to the public, Khori and his family plan to celebrate life and overcoming obstacles. There will be cake and food, and Khori will tell his story to demonstrate the effects of bullying.
Khori is also busy maintaining his website, The Social Encouragement Network, a positive, safe digital space, he created for his peers at K12, an online education program, to talk and create a supportive community.
Khori does not know exactly what his future holds. For now, he simply wants to inspire others.
He dedicated his book to “anyone who has ever been bullied or who has ever bullied anyone.” His message is one of hope and bravery, and he encourages those who are being bullied to not be ashamed and seek help.
He writes in his book: “If you’re being bullied, please don’t bury it on the inside … tell someone! Go to someone you can trust, and seek help before it's too late. Be a lion at heart.”
By EMILY KIMBELL