How a group of bikers put a bullied Streamwood teen on 'Cloud 9'
The bullying got so bad for Megan Kuntz last year that she had to eat lunch in a school office to avoid classmates who took her food and threw it in the trash.
It got so bad that some students at Canton Middle School in Streamwood hurled anti-gay epithets at her because she was the only girl on her youth football team.
It finally got so bad that her mom pulled her out of classes for the final two weeks of the last school year and Megan completed her coursework from home.
So it was understandable that there was plenty of trepidation for the 13-year-old Streamwood girl when it came to returning to school after summer break.
Those fears were set aside, at least for one day, when a few dozen tough-looking (but kindhearted) bikers escorted Megan to Canton on Monday in a show of a support that had the eighth-grader excited about school for the first time in a long time.
"She's on Cloud 9 today," Megan's mom, Jill Kuntz, said after her daughter fist-bumped her way through a column of bikers and made her way to class Monday morning.
Megan's special trip came together quickly and, as is often the case these days, through social media. She and her mom were driving together last week when they came across a group of motorcyclists. Megan waved hello and inspiration struck.
"She said 'Mom, how cool would it be to show up to school on the back of a motorcycle with a bunch of bikes'," Jill Kuntz said.
Jill shared her daughter's thoughts on Facebook, and the idea went viral from there. Paul Muttini, one of Megan's Monday escorts, said her story spread coast-to-coast and even to Alaska.
Many of the bikers who took part in Monday's ride didn't know one another beforehand, but were drawn to Megan's story and the opportunity to give her spirits a boost, he said.
"It's just a bunch of bikers getting together about something that's got to stop," Muttini added. "Everyone thinks bikers are mean, bad guys. Obviously not."
Jill Kuntz said she worked with Canton administrators last year to address the bullying. She even took part in meetings with parents of the worst offenders, but their efforts did little to end the harassment.
"At some point, the parents need to parent," she said.
Mary Fergus, spokeswoman for Elgin Area School District U-46, said administrators hope to continue working with Megan's family to address the situation.
"Our principals talk about bullying often and how to deal with it," Fergus said. "We don't tolerate it and want to eliminate it."
Before being escorted to school Monday, Megan and the motorcyclists met in a store parking lot near her home. There, they gave Megan riding gloves and a jean jacket inscribed with her football-inspired nickname, "Tackle."
"When they pulled up, her jaw just dropped," Jill Kuntz said. "She was up at 4 a.m. this morning she was so excited about it."
It wasn't just bikers at Canton to support Megan. Sandy and Craig Reeves from the anti-bullying organization Stand for the Silent were there as well.
"We believe no child should feel unsafe and not feel comfortable at their school," Sandy Reeves said. "You don't push a child out of school because you don't like them."
• Staff photographer Bev Horne contributed to this story