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Retired from the U.S. Marine Corps due to combat wounds, 30-year-old Tim Brooks is now a medical student in West Virginia.

He is also a single father with full custody of his 5-year-old son, Austin, and a proud supporter of the HeForShe movement. Tim spoke with Austin about the meaning of HeForShe. The child’s reflection: It was “weird” to him “because shouldn’t we be nice to everyone?” Tim smiled and said yes—and added, “Keep an eye out and stand up for those who need you.”

Tim coaches Austin’s little league T-ball team, and the two hit a home run for gender equality at batting practice in October, 2014. Some of the boys started arguing with a couple of the girls, insisting that boys are better baseball players and that they could beat the girls in a game. Hearing the argument, Tim wanted to see how Austin would handle it, knowing there would be other times in his life when he would face similar situations. Austin chimed in as if on cue: “Girls and boys can both be good at playing baseball, and making fun of the girls isn’t nice.”

We are a team, and we play as a team.

The boys continued to tease. At that point, Tim stepped in and stopped the practice to talk to the whole group. He told the kids, “We are a team, and we play as a team. Without the girls, we wouldn’t be a team, and without the boys we wouldn’t be a team. It would be hard to play alone and wouldn’t be as fun.”

To prove his point, Tim had the team play two games that day. The first 20-minute game was girls versus boys, and the girls ended up beating the boys 3-2. The second 20-minute game had teams made up of both girls and boys. One team won 7-6, and everyone felt that they won together. All the kids agreed that the second game was fun and that the first wasn’t, because “it didn’t feel right playing without the girls or boys.” They also agreed that girls are just as good as boys in playing baseball.

Veteran, father, coach and HeForShe supporter Tim Brooks with his son Austin

Afterward, Tim sat the kids down and spoke about HeForShe and its beliefs—respecting others, doing the right thing at all times and standing up for what is right. He adds: “I also ran through some age-appropriate situations with them. They all realized that in the beginning they were wrong, but from then on they would do what is right and stand together as equals. The team played better together after that day, and they all became great friends.”

Thanks to the great positive change created, Tim has been invited to speak to his son’s class about HeForShe in February and to present a video of Austin telling his story for graduate psychology students at Marshall University, where he is enrolled.

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