Henderson finds a connection to Port

Former Packers player who was bullied as a teenager brings his message and bike ride back to city that he says embraced him and his mission last year

FORMER GREEN BAY PACKERS fullback William Henderson, pictured in Port Washington’s Coal Dock Park last year, will be back in the city this weekend leading the riders in Henderson’s Ride for Hope, which raises awareness and funding for anti-bullying efforts. The event includes activities in Coal Dock Park on Friday and Saturday, as well as 60, 25 and five-mile bike rides. Press file photo
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press Staff

When former Green Bay Packers fullback William Henderson was in high school, he was bullied.

“I was 270, probably 6 foot 3 and playing football, and I was being threatened physically,” Henderson said. “I had to talk with the principal and counselors to find a safe place for me to be.”

Bullying is epidemic in this country, Henderson said, noting that it’s the No. 1 cause of teen deaths, ahead of drugs and motor vehicle accidents.

It’s a cause he’s spent much of his time fighting since leaving the Packers, and one reason he is bringing his Henderson’s Ride for Hope back to Port Washington’s Coal Dock Park this weekend for the second consecutive year.

“The people of Port Washington kind of adopted me last year,” Henderson said, and the Ozaukee Interurban Trail is an amazing bike path through scenic countryside for his namesake event.

“I’ve enjoyed being able to ride on it,” he said. “I put my love of helping the underdog with my love for physical fitness in this beautiful setting.”

Henderson’s Ride for Hope benefits anti-bullying causes and the Lakeshore Regional Child Advocacy Center, a nonprofit agency that helps children and their families dealing with abuse and violence — everything from bullying in school and the community to sexual and physical violence in the home.

“They help with the issues kids today are dealing with,” Henderson said. “They can get involved where teachers and principals can’t always.”

Henderson said he’s trying to help youngsters and adults realize what bullying is and how destructive it is.

“I struggle with figuring out why and how our society has gotten so callous,” he said. “What these kids don’t have are borders.”

He recalled one family whose daughter had been bullied and committed suicide and found that wasn’t the end of the trauma. Others continued to post nasty comments on an online memorial site.

“Stephen King couldn’t have written some of these stories,” Henderson said.

With social media today, it’s harder than ever for youngsters to get away from bullying, he said.

“They don’t have an escape,” he said. 

Henderson’s mission is to get into schools and let students know they are the first line of defense against bullies, he said.

“I’m trying to get them to understand,” he said. “A lot of people look at bullying as the playful banter they went through. But today kids are alienating each other or torturing each other. They need to take the responsibility for what they’re doing. We need to help our children learn to be more socially responsible.

“We’re trying to support young people in school who are dealing with these bullying issues. We want to help kids reach their true potential and give them a voice.”

He’s fortunate to have been given a chance to make a difference, Henderson said.

“I learned from Reggie White that the platform God has given us, we’re supposed to use to help others,” he said.

An event that centers around riding a bike is a perfect way for him to raise awareness and funds but also to incorporate his passion for biking, Henderson said.

“Biking is my way of staying active, being competitive,” he said.

Henderson’s Ride for Hope begins Friday with Party With the Pack, an event that runs from 5 to 10 p.m. with music by the Eddie Butts Band in the Bofferding Beer Garden at Coal Dock Park, which Henderson said is “one of the most scenic places I’ve been to in Wisconsin. It’s absolutely stunning.”

 A number of past Packers players will be on hand for the event, and there will be a play area for children.

On Saturday, on-site registration for the bike rides opens at 7 a.m. The 60-mile ride begins at 7:30 a.m. and the 25-mile ride at 9:30 a.m. A 5-mile family ride begins at 10:30 a.m.

“We want to make this available for everyone in the family,” he said. “You don’t have to do 60 miles. You can do the family ride.”

Henderson said he will ride with the 60-mile race for about the first 10 miles, then drop back to ride with the 25-milers. Later, he will join the family ride.

The routes were drawn up by Be-3, a local fitness group, Henderson noted.

Former Packers players as well as some Olympic gold and silver medalist speedskaters will also take part in each ride, he said.

After the ride, there will be music, children’s activities, food and an autograph area.

The day will end with a walk at 6 p.m.

Among the players participating in the weekend will be Santana Dotson, Dorsey Levens, Tony Fisher, Najeh Davenport, Doug Evans, Tyrone Williams and Matthew Dorsett.

It’s not hard to recruit his fellow former Packers for the event.

“I’m very fortunate to have a lot of friends,” he said. “When I ask, they typically come.”

Current players are busy at training camp, and after Clay Matthews broke his nose in a charity softball game this summer, many are leery.

“I do encourage them to come through and say hi,” he said.

For more information, visit hendersonsrideforhope.com.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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