HUNTLEY – Growing up, 18-year-old Camille Paddock was bullied by her peers.
The Huntley High School senior was diagnosed with a form of alopecia, an autoimmune disease, when she was 8 years old. The rare disease caused her to develop bald spots while growing up, and she eventually lost all of her hair.
Although the disease is not life-threatening and does not cause any health concerns, Paddock said it sparked relentless teasing and insults from her fellow classmates, especially during her middle school days.
“It was unbearable for me at that point,” Paddock said. “It was a constant, everyday thing of being in school and on social media. There was just no way for me to really get away from it.”
Paddock said she finally decided to take action when she was in eighth grade.
“So I wrote a letter to my school’s superintendent, who came to the school and put an end to the bullying,” Paddock said. “And from there, it set a new path to our school’s bullying policy, where now it really is zero tolerance.”
During this time, Paddock also was inspired to start her own blog, called “Dare to be Different,” as a way to vent about her experiences and talk with others who are going through similar things. Now, Paddock has her own anti-bullying organization called “Cam’s Dare To Be Different.”
To further share her story, Paddock will give an opening address at the annual People in Need Forum in Crystal Lake, which connects people to community resources and provides important information to those in need.
The forum will be from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at McHenry County College, where Paddock and more than 20 other speakers will discuss various topics including homelessness, cyber safety and suicide prevention. Paddock’s topic will be “Dare to be Different,” with the intent of raising awareness about bullying and its devastating effects.
“People need to learn more about the power of words, and that words can affect people more than we really know,” Paddock said.
Since 2013, Paddock has gone to different area schools to share her story and spread awareness of her anti-bullying efforts.
“I think the most important part that I want people to take away is to just be kind to people and spread compassion,” Paddock said. “Bullying is a topic that not many people truly know what to do with because kids are really good at hiding it.”
When she’s not working on her blog or spreading awareness to students, Paddock’s hobbies include reading, shopping and writing. She’s involved with her school’s newspaper as the online editor and is part of the National Honors Society.
“I also love finding out about other people’s stories and sharing them for others,” Paddock said. “Everyone’s interesting in some sort of way, and I love showcasing that to people.”
Paddock also has been modeling since she was a little girl – she was named Miss Teen Illinois International 2014.
“For me, she’s my hero, and she’s an inspiration now to a lot of people,” said Melissa Paddock, Camille’s mother.
The Huntley senior said she’s mainly choosing between two colleges for next year – the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Florida. Paddock said she still is unsure what she wants to study, but she is considering journalism and psychology.