Three years of bullying ended for 11-year-old Finn Williams when his school finally embraced the anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day last year.
Finn, who was then at Laingholm Primary School in West Auckland, said he was called names by different people and "sometimes it was physical". He didn't know why.
"Some people say it was because they were jealous of my intellect, I haven't really sussed that out yet," he said.
"I had been standing alone for three years. No one had stood up for me."
Things finally changed when his mother Nicky Noble mentioned the bullying at the Mental Health Foundation, where she worked. Communications officer Sophia Graham, who was planning a video for Pink Shirt Day events at the Devonport naval base, invited Finn along, and the navy welcomed him as a hero.
The video shows a naval training instructor putting his arm around Finn and telling the trainees: "We're trying to show him that actually a lot of people care about bullying."
They gave him a badge for his courage and a large group put on pink shirts to chant with him: "Speak up, stand together, stop bullying!"
Laingholm School principal Martyn Weatherill said the school later showed the video at an assembly and belatedly marked Pink Shirt Day.
"Finn spoke. They did discussions. They did the 'standing up for what is right' message. They did chants," he said.
After that "everything changed" Finn said.
"There was no bullying from that day forward that I was aware of."
Mr Weatherill said the school had been aware of the bullying and had been running a "standing up for what is right" programme for several years.
Last year it linked it for the first time to Pink Shirt Day and to another programme encouraging children to be "superheroes" by stepping in if they saw someone else being bullied, even if no one else did anything.
The Defence Force is again getting involved with Pink Shirt Day, held tomorrow, providing tours of the naval base and Whenuapai air force base for Finn and five children who won a national competition to write about what Pink Shirt Day means to them.
Winners from out of town and one parent each are being flown to Auckland for the day.
The children and their parents will have breakfast hosted by the commanding officer on HMNZS Canterbury, then watch trainees learning to fight fires and floods, attend a graduation parade, have lunch with naval chief Rear Admiral Jack Steer, travel by inflatable craft up the harbour to Whenuapai and tour the air force base.
Pink Shirt Day
• Started in Canada in 2007 when a boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Friends printed 50 pink shirts and wore them to school to support him.
• Marked in New Zealand since 2009.
• This year's events will be held tomorrow, May 22.
• United Nations designated May 4 as Anti-Bullying Day in 2012.
• For more information: pinkshirtday.org.nz.