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MANKATO, Minn. — James Willmert is a 5th grader at Franklin Elementary in Minnesota. He has a learning disability, and he is often bullied for being different.

When a group of five boys saw the way James was treated, they took matters into their own hands.

“Why pick on someone who has special needs?” the boys asked rhetorically.

The boys learned that James was adopted from an orphanage in Columbia, and that just six years later, his new father passed away in a bicycle accident.

So Gus, Tyler, Landon, Jake, and Jack and took James in as one of their own.

“He used to not want to go out for recess or anything. It would be like a struggle. And now he can barely eat his lunch to get outside to play with those guys,” James’s mom, Margi Willmert, said.

James, now part of the gang, plays sports with his new friends.

“We just got a basketball hoop last week because he now loves basketball. They’re changing him,” Margi said.

Changing him in a good way. And they’re not done yet.

“We asked him if he had any sports games. And he was like ‘no, I don’t have any video game systems,'”

With some of their own money, and some from their parents, the five boys pitched in to buy James video games and a new PlayStation.

“Everyone one of ’em was smiling like crazy,” Margi said.

It was the first time friends had come over to play with James.

“I’ll never forget it. Never,” Margi said.

Even though the school year is over, the friendships are just beginning. And James doesn’t have to worry about being bullied any more.

“He’s an awesome kid to hang out with,” one of the boys said.

“All of these guys are the best friends anybody could ask for…I love you guys,” James said.


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