An unlikely partnership between two Shore-area natives and Pro Wrestling Champion Kurt Angle are teaming up hoping to teach kids about the importance of standing up and preventing bullying.

Freehold native Robert Gibbons and Toms River resident Anthony DeGraaf started the program called United Strong Against Bullying (USA Bullying) along with WWE/TNA superstar and Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle which aims to educate and motivate students to stand up against bullying and stand strong in the face of adversity.

The program is in its infancy now, being started as a joint-venture between the two Garden State residents and pro wrestler, who formed an unlikely friendship after the pair worked with him on several other of Kurt Angle’s side ventures. Gibbons’ says that they plan to use the appeal and personality of Kurt Angle in order to convey the message to participants of all ages.

He says USA Bullying’s goal is to continue building onto the work done by other national and statewide organizations while working to improve wherever possible. Hopefully, setting the standard in some areas for others to follow.

He says what makes Angle’s speeches relatable is that while he is a larger-than-life sports entertainment personality; his struggles through life have been very relatable.

“A lot of times people, especially pro wrestlers like Kurt, they’ve been bullied when they were little, and that’s what actually motivated them to be great and be champions and succeed in all of things that they do. ”

The tri-fold message of unity, responsibility, and perseverance is something Gibbons and his partners want to take to schools throughout the area, making sure to reach out not only to the bullied, but the bullies also. He notes that sometimes the worst bullies could be the school’s best athletes.

“You protect the people. You’ve been given physical gifts, either god given or through incredible hard work, and by having those gifts you are responsible for the people that aren’t maybe as blessed as you are. ”

He says that it’s important to let the victims of bullying know, “it gets better” and that they should continue to persevere. Gibbons references the struggles Kurt Angle has faced, from bullying throughout his childhood, to the murder of his Olympic coach, to breaking his back six months before trials, to the unfortunate passing of his brother. He says that while the bullied feel very much like victims, it’s important to let them know they can rise above it.

“We are living and walking proof that if you just stay focused on the positive and find the positive, there’s a positive in every situation. You want to promote that good things can happen from bad situations; it’s what you make of the situation.”

Gibbons says that Kurt Angle has signed on his own personal time to work with the program however they are currently in talks with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) to expand their roster of speakers to include other performers.