Long before Const. Tad Milmine donned the Red Serge and vowed to protect the public as an RCMP officer, he was just a kid.
A shy and quiet kid. A kid who grew up without his mom, but around an alcoholic father and an abusive stepmother whom he would come to know as the "devil."
Milmine was banished to the basement of his dad's house from around the age of five, with just the four walls surrounding him as his companions.
As a child, all he dreamt of doing was helping people, even if no one seemed to want to help him.
He was teased, bullied and picked on in school in nearly unimaginable ways.
Milmine had no friends and was never really taught the necessary skills to socialize.
He was alone in his dark thoughts of suicide.
The man, who would eventually be called on to save lives as a police officer, cried every day of his young life.
It wasn't until he ran away from home at 17 that the tears finally stopped.
Eventually, Milmine got his life together after living on welfare by working in the restaurant industry.
It wasn't until he was 32 and met an RCMP member on a softball team that he started to realize his dream of helping people.
Milmine became a Mountie and joined the Surrey detachment.
It's a remarkable story - one that an attentive group of Citadel Middle School students in Port Coquitlam got a front-row chance to hear last Friday.
But Milmine's tale doesn't end there.
While he was out catching bad guys during his regular shifts on the beat, the officer's dream of helping kids, like the child he was more than 20 years earlier, started to take two routes.
Inspired by the tragic story of Jamie Hubley, a gay teen from Ottawa who committed suicide in 2011 after years of being bullied, Milmine started speaking to schools and developing both a website and project called Bullying Ends Here. It was all done on his own time and dime.
It was also around that time that the three-year veteran of the force was asked to take part in an RCMP video called It Gets Better.
In it, he and several other RCMP members described both their struggles and triumphs in dealing with their sexuality, in hopes of reaching out to kids in similar situations. The video, which was released in November, won the praise of many at a time when the force's image in B.C. had been battered by scandal and misconduct.
Speaking to The NOW, Milmine said it took him seconds to agree to take part in the project.
"I'm openly gay and I'm an RCMP officer and I do a darned good job," he said.
"Any positive message we can put out there for youth or society as a whole is a good thing."
In December, the force gave Milmine the opportunity to work on his anti-bullying program fulltime.
He is now crisscrossing the province and country until April, spreading his message to middle and high students that bullying ends here.
On this day, he's telling some 75 Grade 7 students at Citadel that he knows what it's like to be them - to feel down and alone.
"I also know what it's like to overcome it and live my dream," he said.
Milmine also offers a message to the kids who might be the bullies, or the ones standing around watching the behaviour.
"Right now, if you make the choice from this moment on you're going to be a better person - well, bullying is done," he tells the kids. "It's over, we just solved it."
Milmine also offers his own ear or hand to any student who needs help.
For the students, the message appeared to hit home.
"I felt it was inspirational," said Grade 7 student Thomas Manship, who added he wants to make the world a better place.
Halley Pazuric said she wants to do whatever she can to stop bullying, while Kamilla Pap said she felt as though the officer was talking to every individual in the room. Kamilla also said she wished she could have been there to help Milmine when he was her age.
"I would be his new best friend," she said.
But even Milmine knows that telling teens their lives will get better may not be enough.
"We need to come up with a way to let them know today we can do something to fix it," he said.
To learn more about the Bullying Ends Here project, visit www.bullyingendshere. ca.