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The Karlssons stand up to bullying

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LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: Melinda Currey (L) and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators attend the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Melinda Karlsson is more than just the face of Can’t Dim My Light.

Can’t Dim My Light is the anti-bullying initiative founded by Erik Karlsson and his wife, Melinda. Last year, they partnered with Ottawa-based youth empowerment organization Proud to Be Me.

“Melinda’s passion for Proud to Be Me and Can’t Dim My Light has been incredible. You wouldn’t think having such a busy schedule she’d be as involved. But she runs the board meetings, she’s in constant contact and very hands on,” Jody McCombe, Chief Operating Officer of Proud to Be Me, said. “Even when they moved to San Jose, she’s been very present via e-mails, calls, anything we need.”

Among their projects, Proud to Be Me and Can’t Dim My Light have installed “buddy benches” and painted inspirational murals at local elementary schools.

It was Melinda herself who selected the slogan, “In a world where you can be anything, choose to be kind” for St. Michael’s Corkery Elementary School.

Photo credit: Proud Wings Inspirational Mural by Kate Ryckman

“She’s the one who introduced it to me, got me hooked on wanting to do this,” Erik Karlsson revealed. “It’s mostly her effort, why we’re in this position.”

He pointed out that even the organization’s name, Can’t Dim My Light, originated from Melinda.

“No matter what happens to you, you should always have a light inside you, you should always let it shine bright,” he explained. “You shouldn’t let other people take your spirit away.”

It was from darkness, however, where Can’t Dim My Light came.

In October 2011, 15-year-old Jamie Hubley, son of Ottawa City Councillor Allan Hubley, committed suicide. Hubley was bullied because he was openly gay.

Allan Hubley, in a statement released after his son’s death, wrote, “Bullying doesn’t always take the form of physical violence. Especially today with cyber bullying on the Internet, children often feel there is no safe place to go; even when they are at home they can still be victims.”

The tragedy of Jamie Hubley touched both Karlsson and the-then Melinda Currey deeply, one of many events that led to the conception of Can’t Dim My Light.

“There are many youth affected by bullying and cyber bullying. Young people who had been bullied to the point where they can’t take it anymore. As an organization we wanted to do more,” McCombe noted. “We started talking with Melinda three years ago after she had mentioned in a blog post that she was interested in starting her own anti-bullying initiative.”

Can’t Dim My Light held its first event in September 2018, a two-kilometer Walk of Light in Ottawa, raising over $40,000 for Proud to Be Me. Both Erik and Melinda Karlsson took part, supported by Councillor Allan Hubley, Daniel Alfredsson, Mikkel Boedker, Mark Borowiecki, Cody Ceci, Ryan Dzingel and Magnus Paajarvi.

“Growing up is hard enough. Learning to explore, find, accept and love yourself is hard enough if there are other people making it even harder. Right now, together, let’s decide that regardless of what’s happened to us, we aren’t going to let them be right,” Melinda Karlsson asserted at the inaugural Walk of Light.

“They call you ugly, you show them your beautiful smile. They call you stupid, you show them how smart you are by rising above. They try to scare you, but instead, you become braver. That’s my hope for Can’t Dim My Light.”

“That’s what we’re trying to accomplish, educate younger people to realize the impact that they could have on someone else by not being nice enough,” Erik Karlsson said.

At the event, Erik and Melinda Karlsson announced their personal donation of two buddy benches to local elementary schools in honor of Jonathan Pitre and Jamie Hubley.

Even though Erik Karlsson now skates with the San Jose Sharks, Can’t Dim My Light shines on, with another Walk of Light scheduled in Ottawa in August 2019.

“Expansion is definitely something Melinda has mentioned,” said McCombe. “It would be wonderful to have these events in all NHL cities.”

Meanwhile, fans in San Jose can stand with Erik and Melinda Karlsson’s anti-bullying initiative by purchasing clothing from the Can’t Dim My Light apparel line. All profits will go to Proud to Be Me.

“People look up to you and you have a voice,” Erik Karlsson observed. “We’re trying to use that to do as much good as we possibly can.”