RENO, Nev. — A professional rodeo clown who co-founded an anti-bullying program that is used nationwide is hitting the road in Nevada to promote his cause.
Marvin Nash of Cheyenne, Wyo., on Friday began rolling his 130-pound rodeo barrel from Reno to Las Vegas with a goal of completing the 450-mile feat by the Oct. 4 start of an anti-bullying conference in Las Vegas.
Nash said he plans to take a combination of back roads and highways, and roll the barrel about 10 to 12 miles a day. His wife, Darlene, will drive a support vehicle and accompany him on the trek that will mostly be on U.S. 95.
The two formed Bullying Hurts, a mentoring program that helps schools, parents and students deal with bullying. The program has taken hold in some 300 schools nationwide since its inception in 2001.
"People expect only comedy from a rodeo clown, but the program deals with a serious issue," Nash told The Associated Press. "Kids can't learn if they're worried about getting beat up in the playground. You're entitled to a safe place to learn."
This isn't the first time Nash has rolled out his barrel — which is used to protect fallen cowboys from bulls at rodeos — to raise awareness about the cause. In 2010, he pushed the barrel 130 miles from Washington, D.C., to a New Jersey town.
And in 2001, he rolled it 1,800 miles from Ocala, Fla., to Cody, Wyo., to promote his earlier "Sort It Out" youth character awareness program. That latter feat took over four months to complete, while his current trip is expected to last about 40 days.
"Starvin'" Marvin, as he's known on the rodeo circuit, was in full clown costume as he embarked on his latest trip Friday from Reno's Grand Sierra Resort.
His group is organizing the Leading the Charge Against Bullying Conference from Oct. 4-7 at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A similar conference is planned for Reno in 2012.
"There exists a great need for a statewide unified approach to deal with bullying in our schools and communities," Russell D. Smith, state senior deputy attorney general, said in a statement.
Some 13 million students, about a third of all those attending school, are bullied every year, according to the White House. Experts say that puts them at greater risk of falling behind in their studies, abusing drugs or alcohol, or suffering mental or other health problems. Kids who are seen as different because of their race, clothes, disability or sexual orientation are more likely to be bullied.