Stage Fright

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Through my teaching years there were several days when I felt anxiety-the first day of any class year when I got the only chance to make a first impression, a transfer from one building to another, the day of finals. With our Foundation, every time we enter a building there is anxious anticipation about how we will interact with the school’s students, whether we can engage them in our lesson and, by and large, see if we can keep the adult audience similarly attentive. There is also an exhilaration, at least in me, having the mind and spirit to do it all again, something akin to the retired firehouse dog responding to an alarm at the station.

Of all the times we have appeared at schools, one recent presentation appeared on our scheduled that actually filled me with more worry/concern; perhaps we may have expected too much of ourselves.

We are usually contacted by school representatives who search the web and find a link to us under the generic heading, “puppet shows”. This may have been how we started, but in Rose Brucia 3.0, our latest iteration, although some form of puppet show is included in our lessons, we have moved far past “puppet shows” being our defining characteristic.

In March, we were asked to make a presentation for Eastern Suffolk BOCES (Board of Cooperative Education Services) at their Bellport Academic Center. Could we provide two separate shows for an audience that would total 100 children with special needs? The Center services students who have mild to moderate behavioral and/or intensive counseling concerns and/or mild to moderate learning disabilities.” The students range in age from 16 to 21, with cognitive abilities topping out about 6th grade. The group included students with Downs Syndrome, autism, and other developmental issues. With such disparate learning abilities, how to get our message across?

Matt and I, after communicating with Steven Berkowitz, in charge of transition from the classroom to life after school, agreed to go. I expressed to Matt my unease and/or my distrust in my abilities to connect with this group of students. My discomfit rises from the personal knowledge that such students truly need some protective skills of stranger safety awareness to get along in the “real world.” My grandson has a form of mental retardation known as Williams Syndrome. Everyone he meets is his new best friend. At a workshop during a national Williams’ convention several years ago, my wife and I learned to our horror how the mentally disabled are sought out by sexual predators because these children are far too eager and willing to please people…any people.

So, with mixed emotions and some trepidation, Matt and I went to Bellport. After being approached by a security guard on the grounds (we were already lost!), gaining admission to the building, meeting with Mr. Berkowitz, and being shown into staging area (the kitchen classroom), we met our first audience member.

“Hi, I’m Jesse,” the young man said. “Are you the puppeteer?” I countered that I might even use him to be a volunteer puppeteer. (We never introduce ourselves by name to any of the audience until the very end of the presentation; that’s part our lesson). And then the rest of the audience filed in.

It would be better to say the audience moved into our hearts. One hundred students, each so different, each so unique, each so willing to participate, each becoming a veritable actor on this very private stage. After our shared learning and laughter, after these people moved out of the classroom, stopping to shake our hands, to say thank you, in each class one young man spoke to me. After the first session, Jesse said, “Patrick, you are good at what you do. You should keep on doing it.” After the second session John said, “Patrick, you have earned my trust. I trust you!”

This quote from one of my favorite authors speaks to the impact THESE YOUNG MEN and YOUNG WOMEN HAD on ME that day.

“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring…                                                                                                    ― Leo Buscaglia

The risk was worth it, for them and for us.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

National Fundraiser Hosted by Best-Selling Author at Barnes & Noble in NYC

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Tomorrow night, March 18th at Barnes & Noble at 150 E. 86th Street at 7pm, Best-Selling Author Lori Ann LaRocco will be launching her new book “Opportunity Knocking” published by Agate Publishing and donating her royalties to The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation.  We are inviting all our supporters and the general public to join us.  All attendees will have the opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of the book while helping support The Stranger Safety Awareness Program that is available, free of charge, to all parents, teachers and elementary schools across the globe.

In honor of LaRocco’s support, Barnes & Noble will also donate a percentage of the March 18th purchases to the foundation.  To ensure that your purchases benefit The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation, please use book fair voucher #11321908 at the checkout when you make purchases in-stores or online. The voucher will remain in effect online through March 23rd.

Known as “the producer with the trillion-dollar Rolodex”, LaRocco knows how to get business leaders and entrepreneurs to talk.  She has worked with leaders from many different industries, and brings their knowledge to light with her “Opportunity Pyramid”.

Opportunity Knocking is a wonderful compilation of business ideas, compelling leadership stories and a realistic peek into the personalities behind the corporate veil. Lori Ann LaRocco brings otherwise inaccessible business leaders right to the reader. Her unique style allows the reader to gain insight into each individual business mind and then she breaks down their techniques and ideas for easy implementation. I thoroughly enjoyed her own comments at the end of the chapters. I would recommend this book to all who enjoy their work – from those just starting out to the most seasoned in the business world. A great read!

But don’t take my word for it – listen to what some of the greatest business leaders in the world have to say:

A must-read filled with big ideas from some of the best in the business. LaRocco breaks down the steps to achieving success with a unique and actionable strategy. Compelling“, says real-state mogul Donald J. Trump.

Lori Ann has put together an impressive anthology“, says Dick Armey.

This is a seven-layer opportunity pyramid one must climb up to achieve uber success“, says industry titan Wilbur Ross, Chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co, LLC.

Great writer, interviewer, and conceptual thinker – Lori Ann LaRocco has it all“, says investment leader Ron Baron, Chairman and CEO, Baron Capital Group.

In her latest book, LaRocco targets a wide audience—company owners, employees, and entrepreneurs—looking for inspiration and guidance in furthering their careers…[providing] a slew of engaging profiles of business leaders.” —Publishers Weekly

Lori Ann LaRocco shares real-world examples from some of the world’s smartest, most innovative leaders about how they prepare for, identify and embrace opportunities. Weaving in her own analysis, experiences and wisdom, she shows readers how to apply these leaders’ strategies and lessons to their own unique circumstances.“—SUCCESS magazine

Please share this blog with everyone you know who wants to know more about how to achieve success AND help children remain safe!!!!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Shop at Barnes & Noble Online to Support Rose Brucia, March 18 – 23rd: Voucher #11321908

by Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

I am proud to present the voucher that every supporter of The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation can use NATIONALLY to purchase items at Barnes & Noble book store online at BN.COM/bookfairs.  A portion of your purchase will immediately support the foundation as a direct result of Best-Selling Author, Lori Ann LaRocco’s philanthropic book launch at Barnes & Noble on March 18, 2014.  Lori Ann’s book, Opportunity Knocking, will be introduced at Barnes & Noble Upper East Side, 150 E. 86th Street at 7pm. Everyone present will have the exclusive “Opportunity” to have their copy of the book personally signed by the author and a few of the entrepreneurs in the book.

Please use this link to obtain our voucher code, #11321908, which must be presented for all purchases between March 18th and March 23rd in order to help support our Stranger Safety Awareness Program.

BNvoucher_March 18

Visit BN.COM/bookfairs to support us online from 03/18/14 to 03/23/14 by entering Bookfair ID 11321908 at checkout. A percentage of your Barnes & Noble purchases will benefit Rose Brucia.

Once again, I would like to thank Lori Ann LaRocco, Agate Publishing, Barnes & Noble and you, our faithful supporters, for helping us bring the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge, to teachers, parents and students across the globe.  Our goal is to teach children what to do BEFORE a stranger approaches!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Shop at Barnes & Noble to Help Support Rose Brucia on March 18th, 7pm in NYC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: 
Anjali Becker, Agate Publishing
847-475-4457 ext. 4#
becker@agatepublishing.com
 

 Author Teams Up with Barnes & Noble to Donate Proceeds from Opportunity Knocking Book Launch to The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

 

New York City—Lori Ann LaRocco, author and producer of CNBC’s Squawk Box, will host a book release party for her forthcoming title, OPPORTUNITY KNOCKING: Lessons from Business Leaders (Agate B2, 978-1-932841-87-9, $24) on March 18th at Barnes & Noble/Upper East Side (150 East 86th Street).  This event will begin at 7:00 pm, will include a presentation and book signing, and is free and open to the public.

The author will donate all royalties from the event to The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to reducing child abductions. In honor of LaRocco’s support, Barnes & Noble will also donate a percentage of March 18th purchases to the foundation. To ensure that your purchases benefit The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation, please use book fair voucher #11321908 at the checkout when you make purchases in-stores or online. The voucher will be good for online purchases through March 23rd.

Known as “the producer with the trillion-dollar Rolodex,” LaRocco knows how to get business leaders and entrepreneurs to talk. While LaRocco has worked with leaders from many different industries, she came to recognize that all leaders shared similar methods for both identifying opportunities and executing on the strategies for success.

In Opportunity Knocking, LaRocco guides readers through these methods for exploiting opportunity through her “Opportunity Pyramid.” LaRocco illustrates each level of the pyramid through an in-depth interview with a business leader whose story helps illustrate that principle. The book features interviews with Ford’s Alan Mulally, The Case Foundation’s Steve Case, BlogHer’s Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jory Des Jardins, as well as an introduction by Dick Armey and afterword by Wilbur L. Ross. By giving readers real-world examples and bringing them into the mindset of these successful executives, Opportunity Knocking provides a blueprint for achieving success by recognizing the right opportunities—and seizing them.

About Lori Ann LaRocco

Lori Ann LaRocco is the senior talent producer at CNBC and “C-Suite Insider” columnist for CNBC.com. She has worked at CNBC since 2000, when she was hired as one of Maria Bartiromo’s producers on Market Week. She lives outside of New York City with her husband and three children.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Casting Shadows

by Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

As I was reading in our den, I could hear the soft murmur of the TV coming from another room. A few seconds later my wife entered the room. She looked saddened and before I could ask what was going on she said, “They found that little boy, the autistic boy who ran away last month. They said the police found his remains; they mentioned body parts.” She sighed and asked, “That means someone took him, doesn’t it?”  The boy was missing for over 3 months and his body was found at a distant location from his home. With our involvement in the foundation, knowing how children can disappear, it was an easy conclusion to draw given the set of particulars-a handicapped child, roaming the streets of a borough of New York City, no money, no jacket, lost and possibly finding it difficult to communicate his plight to strangers. As time passed and more information came out,  the remains were definitively determined to be those of Avonte  Oquendo, the 13-year old autistic child who had walked out of his school and been missing since October 4, 2013. And this is all that is known. The tragedy strikes the hearts and minds of everyone. At least, I hope that is true.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program (OJJDP) prepared the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway (NISMART) children. The 2002 publication of the study present the following information:

A runaway episode is one that meets any one of the following criteria:

  • A child leaves home without permission and stays away overnight.
  • A child 14 years old or younger (or older and mentally incompetent) who is away from home chooses not to come home when expected to and stays away overnight.
  • A child 15 years old or older who is away from home chooses not to come home and stays away two nights.

A thrownaway episode is one that meets either of the following criteria:

  • A child is asked or told to leave home by a parent or other household adult, no adequate alternative care is arranged for the child by a household adult, and the child is out of the household overnight.
  • A child who is away from home is prevented from returning home by a parent or other household adult, no adequate alternative care is arranged for the child by a household adult, and the child is out of the household overnight.

Analyzing the data, the study concludes

  • In 1999, an estimated 1,682,900 youth had a runaway/ thrownaway episode. Of these youth, 37 percent were missing from their caretakers and 21 percent were reported to authorities for purposes of locating them.
  • Of the total runaway/thrownaway youth, an estimated 1,190,900 (71 percent) could have been endangered during their runaway/thrownaway episode by virtue of factors such as substance dependency, use of hard drugs, sexual or physical abuse, presence in a place where criminal activity was occurring, or extremely young age (13 years old or younger).
  • Youth ages 15–17 made up two-thirds of the youth with runaway/thrownaway episodes during the study year.
  • There is suggestive evidence that the runaway problem may have been smaller in 1999 than it was in 1988.

The numbers themselves are dry, simple nouns.  Add just a bit of what you know about abduction and exploitation and far too many of them in this report are chilling: 71%, drugs, abuse, criminal activity, all red flags.

Why bring up this data? Let’s never forget the endgame of the abductors we are trying to thwart. We are dealing with a group of individuals who wish to satisfy their particular desires. They need a supply of victims to attain their goal. Whether these victims are coaxed or coerced into this world of criminality, the end result of degradation and the potential for death are too real to ignore.

The SuperBowl takes place February 2nd in New Jersey. Read the newspapers, listen to the radio or TV and you learn of all the hoopla , overkill and excess that surrounds the game, how it is a financial boon to all aligned businesses.

Cindy McCain, wife of US Senator John McCain of Arizona, is in the forefront of efforts to combat human trafficking, said this in relation to the upcoming 2015 SuperBowl set for her home state: (The SuperBowl)…will be the largest human trafficking venue on the planet.

Bradley Myles, CEO of the Polaris Project, a non-profit working to combat sex trafficking, notes…the overall size of the phenomenon in the US is much more significant than statistics show.

Danielle Douglas, who says she is a sex trafficking survivor, says visitors are coming to the SuperBowl to have sex with women, and/or men or children.

I wonder how many of the missing, abducted, runaway and thrownaway children are or have been part of this dark underside of the game. Where do you think abducted children wind up?

February 1st marks the tenth anniversary of Carlie’s death. The world has gone on. There has been healing to close the wounds of her passing. She didn’t live to fulfill her dreams. From some English course I took many years ago, I remember the professor exhorting us with a line-something about measuring the greatness of your soul by the shadow it casts. Carlie’s shadow falls on us even today.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

No Thanks, I’ll Walk – Carlie Brucia’s 10th Anniversary

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Last night I settled down in bed and was just checking in with the social media world when I came across a note from an old friend.  She reached out to me to share a news piece from NBC in Florida.  It was a three minute news spot titled, “Remembering Carlie Brucia”. It recounted Carlie’s abduction 10 years ago.

I don’t think I have to tell you that I don’t need a video to help me remember, since I have made it my life’s work to think of Carlie each and every day.  On a daily basis, I and my very devoted staff, educational committee and volunteers continue to sharpen our focus on educating children about what to do before a stranger approaches.  Nevertheless, the video brought me right back to that very day and the extremely difficult times following Carlie’s abduction. After reflecting on it most of the night last night, I came to the exact same conclusion I came to 10 years ago – there may not be anything we can do to stop a stranger from taking a child, but we can certainly teach children to stay away from predators in the first place.

The foundation took an entire year to get off the ground. I knew nothing of developing a charity, screening volunteers, or even where to begin when it came to developing an educationally sound program, but with the help of many special people, we were able to bring my dream into reality.

Today, I would like to share with you the culmination of 10 years of that dream. The video episode is called, “No thanks, I’ll walk”. It takes place in a very real neighborhood, with a very real child on his way to school, in a very real situation that seems to all too familiar and stereotypical – offering a child a ride in a car. Attempted abductions are on the rise. No surprise there because the local news and school districts are constantly reporting students being approached and offered rides in cars and vans almost weekly.  This is our answer to the question, “Do you want to go for a ride?” – No Thanks, I’ll Walk”.

This video was made possible due to the continued support of our donors, particularly Invest in Others, The Marcie Mazzola Foundation and one of our very own spokespeople, Donald J. Trump.

My wish is for this video lesson to go viral on the internet so that it may be shared with every child on the planet – what better way to show our love for Carlie? Please help me make that happen. We love you Carlie Jane.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Defying Gravity

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

 

I believe you remember this fable by Aesop:

A scorpion meets a frog on the bank of a stream and the

scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back.

The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?”

The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

 

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,

the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of

paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,

but has enough time to gasp “Why?” The scorpion says

“It is my nature…”

          While the recent Newsday article trumpeted a recidivism rate around 3% for three years after a convicted sex predator has been released, my mind goes back to a conversation I had with a clergyman this past April. He sorrowfully noted a man he had known for years had been removed from his church office because he had been convicted as a child predator. This acquaintance had absolved himself of all blame because he felt there was nothing wrong, morally or legally, with his behavior. It was the way he was made. I guess nature tops nurture in that case. Tell me how to deal with that mindset.

When I taught physical science, I would present information about the forces of nature to my charges. Students would present so many instances they had gleaned from TV or the misconstructed ideas they had formed about the natural world. Newton, I am sure, must have had so laughs when he heard our discussions. My favorite to this day concerns The Case of the Falling Elevator. It is very possible my students came to class with fully formed concepts about gravity based upon the behavior of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner and Daffy Duck. Thank you Warner Brothers! Concerning the elevator in distress: my students would argue that, should they find themselves in a rapidly descending, out of control car, they would only have to watch the lights indicating the present floor level, wait and jump just before the car hit the bottom of the elevator shaft! I always told the kids, you have to obey gravity; it’s the law!

How naïve their preconceptions! But chalk it up to youth and imagination! But when a local newspaper article reports recidivism rates at “only 3%”, tell me how you would feel if your child, grandchild, nephew, niece, neighbor’s child, or any other child is included in that 3%? When is the number statistically relevant?

A recent song by the Goo Goo Dolls, Come to Me, includes the lyric, History’s like gravity. History has weight; it has substance. Georges Santayana wrote about those ignoring the past being doomed to repeat it.

Learning is an always thing. We cannot simply open our charges minds; pour in correct thinking along with right actions. Learning needs reinforcement.  The trick is to make learning stranger safety awareness skills games that can be continually revisited.

Small things can make a difference. Here’s something that you might find helpful. First, go over the meaning of personal space. Have your child stand and physically describe their personal space. They should spread their arms out to the side and turn slowly back and forth to show their space. Write the letters D, E, R, U, T, T, and S on index cards or pieces of paper. Have your child(ren) spell out as many words as possible with these letters. Hopefully they will get to the word, T-R-U-S-T-E-D. Go over with them why they can call someone “a trusted adult.” Your home and therefore your rules and definitions! On a sheet of paper, print in large letters, T-R-U-S-T. Stress to your child the idea that trust is a bridge one person makes to another person. Draw or have your child draw a figure of a person on each side of the word. Draw a line over the top of each letter and reinforce the idea of the “BRIDGE’ from one side of the word to the other. Ask the child to identity the middle letter of the word. The “U” represents the child. Tell them YOU are the center of the activity we call TRUST. Ask them what would happen to the “bridge” if the letter “U” is removed. Hopefully they’ll say the bridge is broken, does not stand, or the bridge is incomplete. Tell them that without “U/YOU”, there is no chance of trusting someone. There can be no bridge.

If there is one word to be stressed over and over again, it is T-R-U-S-T! Say it loudly and often.

I wish I could come up with some rhyme based on Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” something based on the idea of would you trust them in a car. Maybe one of you out there can help us.

We cannot defy gravity. We CAN give our children the skills and wherewithal to fly safely into their future.

Be safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

‘Tis the Season

By Patrick M. Chierichella,

Educational Coordinator, The Rose Brucia Educationall Foundation

Let’s look at some of the advertising language that I saw in promotions used to describe this year’s cinematic presentations:

  • Spectacular! (The Hunger Games)
  • The Year’s Best Movie! (12 Years a Slave)
  • The sharpest comedy in years! (American Hustle)
  • A movie to watch for the rest of your life! (Nebraska)
  • He (She) gives the performance of a lifetime! (Choose your critic and make your pick!)

Ah, the season of excess, the yearly verbal indulgence in hyperbole! It is simply one of the ways the media uses to describe success. They know it when they see it.

I gleaned these tidbits from all the newspapers I read and scanned over the weekend. Publicity people know how to choose the correct words to help persuade the audience to take a chance and pay their hard earned cash to spend a couple of hours in the dark in a willing  suspension of disbelief in hopes of being amused, moved or frightened. It is success at the box office that drives the marketplace. Movie companies, actors, actresses, directors, distributors and movieplexes are all truly happy when the box office results for their films total several millions sometimes over 300 million dollars.

Happy! I tried to look up the derivation of the word; it is commonly thought to come from the word “hap” which means luck or good fortune. So, I guess, it is properly used with the movie industry, a good fortune is made by the studios.

Elsewhere, from an article from the New York Times on Sunday, December 15th titled, A Formula for Happiness, by Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, DC, I lifted this sentence: After 40 years of research, they (social scientists) attribute happiness to these major sources: genes, events and values.

That sentence gave me pause. It set me thinking about our Foundation. How can these sources deal with issues of stranger safety awareness and child abduction? How can happy be applied to this frightful situation?

Let me try to make my case for the antonym, hapless.

As I do research on the mindset of child predators, the one thing that keeps coming to the fore is that they are wired differently than you or I. These feral, amoral beings are out there. Something happened prenatally to these people to make them the way they are. Physically they may resemble you or me. But some disturbance occurred in their brains that predisposed them to harm children. Mental illness or psychosis, it doesn’t matter. They are different. This is not excuse for the crimes they commit. They know they are committing criminal acts. They know they are pariahs. The sooner we recognize this the better we will be able to formulate programs early in our children’s educational and psychological growth that provide a touchstone for stranger safety awareness skills. Brooks notes that up to 48% of happiness is hard-wired in our genes.

Books reports: Up to an additional 40% comes from the things that have occurred in our recent past. When will the passing of a child not be the recent past for any of us?

So, let’s see if my math is correct? 40% + 48% is 88%, leaving us with up to 12% of happiness defined by our systems of values? The perpetrators of sexual assault, changing forever a child’s view of life, and those that go so far as to murder their captives have no system of values, no superego or conscience influencing their ids or their reptilian brains, that any right-thinking person can understand.

Carlie, Leiby Kletzky, and Jessica Ridgeway were all hapless, without luck or without good fortune.

But the Rose Brucia Foundation and similarly minded groups are happy or blessed to have within their membership a value system that drives them to say NO MORE! ENOUGH! NOT ON OUR WATCH!

At this time of year I want to thank all the people who are working to strengthen our children’s stranger safety awareness skills. My thanks to

  • Matt Barbis deserves any and all accolades that come his way. His vision and drive are the heart and soul of this organization. To his wife, Renee, for her belief in him.
  • Maryann Barbis does yeoman like service in keeping all our records up to date and us in contact with each other.
  • The education committee continues to work in the shadows, preparing lesson plans that align with our newest state standards.
  • Lorcan, aka Smarty Pants, and all those involved in the production of our 2nd grade set of stranger safety awareness DVD lessons
  • Mike Pepe and Charlie Comstock for stepping up to teach classrooms and auditoriums filled with eager children
  • Dr. Charlie Kolenik for his encouragement, input  and review of our lessons and opinion papers
  • The prize committee for all their hard work (and my wife for putting up with me)
  • All the volunteers, sponsors, golfers and dinner guests who made our third annual outing so successful
  • Pat Abrams and the Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue Team for reaching out to us to form an educational partnership
  • Loriann LaRocca for her powerful essays
  • All the PTA presidents and members that took our materials for school and personal use at this year’s PTA Conference in Columbus, Ohio
  • The principals and teachers and PTA’s in Great Neck, NY, and New Jersey who invited us in and then back again for repeat performances- your faith in us makes us want to do even better.

So I guess I made my own Best of 2013 without really thinking about it.

The end of the years is never complete without some resolve on our part to make ourselves and the world around us a little better. Use the video lessons. Connect to other websites and see how they deal with the issue. Ask your local PTA’s to consider having us make a parental presentation in your school. We may even be able to schedule a presentation for your children’s school. The worst they can say is NO. But at least give them the chance.

My wish for 2014 is for you and your children and grandchildren, all children to BE SAFE. See you in 2014!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Into The Lion’s Den

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

Today, I had the opportunity to join the audience for the newest lesson added to The Stranger Safety Awareness Program.  Pat Chierichella, the foundation’s Educational Coordinator, along with Mike Pepe & Charlie Comstock, both from the Educational Committee, presented live in front of the 320 students in The Lakeville School.  The Principal of the school informed us that “it was a great combination of critical content and engaging presentation”.  The new lesson was an adaptation of an old story handed down over the ages. Pat told the tale of an old, but wise Lion who moved into a new neighborhood.

The lion was very keen and devised a plan to lure the other animals in the neighborhood to his lair. The lion made it known to all that he had a luxurious home with all the newest technology: Ipads, big screen tvs, games systems, exotic cars, etc were displayed for all to see (as I said, it is an adaptation). All the trappings starting to arouse curiosity in the other animals, and one by one, they made their way to the Lion’s den. You see, the Lion was very hungry and needed more money to pay for the most expensive of dinners in the local restaurants.

First to arrive was the Zebra. He galloped up to the Lion’s door and announced his arrival. “Come right in”, said the Lion. “What an incredible home you have”, said the Zebra. “All the better to make you want to come in…and now I’m going to sell you to the zoo”. And with that, the Lion sent over his zoo keeper, who took the Zebra out the side door to the zoo.

Second to arrive was the Giraffe. She meandered over to the Lion’s door and announced her arrival. “Come right in”, said the Lion. “What amazing gadgets you have”, exclaimed the Giraffe. “All the better to make you want to come in…and now I’m going to sell you to the zoo”. In came the Zoo Keeper, who swept the Giraffe out the garage door to the zoo.

Next to arrive was the Tiger. He quietly stepped up to the Lion’s front door. “Come right in”, said the Lion. “What incredibly fast cars you have in the driveway”, said the Tiger. “All the better to make you want to come…and now I am going to sell you to the zoo”. Again, the Zoo Keeper moved in to capture the Tiger, and quietly stole away with the Tiger out the kitchen door.

Lastly, the Monkey made his way over to the Lion’s property. Being the wisest of his friends, he carefully examined the sprawling estate. Knowing never to travel alone, the Monkey made sure not to set foot on the Lion’s property. The Monkey was also wondering why he hadn’t seen his other friends in the last few days and became suspicious. Now it was the Lion who’s curiosity got the best of him. The Lion noticed the Monkey not coming closer and left his home to investigate. “Why don’t you come in”?, asked the Lion. The Monkey replied, “I noticed that there are many foot steps going into your home…tiger footsteps, Giraffe footsteps and zebra footsteps, but none coming back out. I think I will keep my distance and avoid your obvious trap”. The Lion became afraid that his devious plot had been exposed, so he roared and ran at the Monkey, who in turn, mirrored his movements and ran the other way before the Lion could reach him. The Monkey ran right to a trusted adult, the Sheriff, who then returned to the Lion’s den and arrested the Lion and freed his friends from the zoo.

The story provides many stranger safety awareness skills if your children examine the story closely. Many times, children are very trusting and that leads them to make poor decisions. Although the Lion used the trappings of wealth to lure his victims, a stranger may use other, less obvious tricks; a lost puppy, a new ipad, a ride in a new car, even a simple candy bar. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation stresses over and over, we can’t do much to stop a stranger from taking a child, but we can teach a child to stay away from the stranger in the first place.

Please repeat this story to your children, as it has been over the ages, to keep reminding your children that things are not always as they may seem. A stranger giving away free treats or asking them to join them in their home or in their car are always up to no good. Help them so they are not lured into the lion’s den.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Perplexing

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator
The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Ehrenstein illusion

When I taught, students were required to prepare and present a research investigation that hopefully demonstrated their skill in using the scientific method. Very often my charges would offer their work based on optical illusions. The above diagram is one of many called Ehrenstein illusions. What do you see?

Perception is singular yet we hope universal. We live knowing we are connected with others; that these others experience the world in similar fashion. Back in 6th grade, I learned I was red/green colorblind. Now this does not mean I have no color receptors, but that mine function differently from most of you out there. I do have color confusion with browns and greens. There have been numerous times when my wife has urged me to change the color combos I dressed in that day. I wonder if my appreciation of artwork is based on some misperception of the work. An artist’s palette cannot be decoded by me.

A while ago, we visited friends in Florida during the first week of February. I rose early and went outside to retrieve the daily newspaper. I was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt. As I picked up the paper I saw a gentleman out for his morning walk. He was dressed in sweatpants, parka, winter cap and gloves. He looked at me and I looked at him as if we were both a little bit off.

Differing perspectives from the same set of data will produce head scratching conclusions. It can be perplexing, to say the least.
Just before the recent elections, my wife and I received in the mail a letter telling us of the recent relocation of a Level 3 sexual offender to a street near an elementary school in our home town. The man had served his time and, with our county closing trailers in which he and others had been housed, needed a new residence. This man had been convicted of forcible sexual assault on an EIGHT YEAR-OLD child. He was now living on a street bearing the name of that elementary school! The letter urged us not to vote for a particular candidate since he and his party leaders would continue to do this type of relocating. The powers that be have decided they see no problem with housing such an offender in an area where he will see, daily, children walking to and from school. In my mind’s eye, I previewed a true horror film in which, to paraphrase an old thriller movie, the voiceover intones, “He’s on your block!”

A November 12th, WPEC TV essay in Palm Beach, FL, Sexual Predators: Why the laws aren’t working, highlighted a glitch in the system that allowed released offenders to describe their residency as transient, meaning they more or less resided in a general area of the county. A TV reporter attempted to find some of these offenders at their so-called addresses and came up empty. Newsday, Sunday November 24, warns about 467 sex offenders that New York State cannot locate. Movies and TV shows will use the relocation and hopeful anonymity of a sex offender as a theme in its dramas. Advocacy for fair treatment of released offenders speaks of humane treatment for this group. But, they are not all Valjeans, nobly trying to live an honorable life, nor are we all Javerts intent on destroying whatever chance they have.

A 1990 study by HE Barbaree and WL Marshall published in Behavioral Science and Law found that the recidivism rate for child molesters with female victims ranged from 10% to 29% and for child molesters with male victims the range was 13% to 40%. Recidivism is the act of a person repeating an undesirable behavior after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behavior, or have been treated or trained to extinguish that behavior. It is also used to refer to the percentage of former prisoners who are rearrested for a similar offense.

In 2005, The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence found that overall follow-up studies typically find recidivism for sexual offenders at 10%-15% after 5 years, 20% after 10 years and 30%-40% after 20 years. The article notes these numbers are conservative because not all offences are reported.

Conversely, a Wall Street Journal article from January 24, 2008, by Carl Bialik writes that recidivism is more an emotional response than a reality. Recidivism rates vary widely depending on which crimes are counted, the timeframe of the studies, and whether repeat offenses are defined by convictions, arrest or self-reporting.

Arthur Herman, in his book The Cave and The Light, writes of the philosopher Plato. “…there is always a higher standard, a model of excellence by which everything we do or say or encounter must be measured-and inevitably be found wanting. At one level we become …conscious of our own shortcomings and weaknesses. We move through life aware we could be, or should be, someone different: more honest, more courageous, more compassionate.”

Recidivism is therefore a troublesome issue. There are advocates for the released/paroled sex offenders. There are community activists, NIMBYs, rightfully frightened by the potential for harm to their children, putting a former predator so close to prey. It is easy to be philosophical about the question, to wish for more honesty, courage, and compassion. I do not question the visceral response of any community.

Not all offenders fall into the category of child abductor. Yet I cringed when I read an article that categorically noted how rare the murder of a child such as Carlie Brucia is. Doesn’t the very fact that it happened make it one too many? Dylan Thomas wrote, After the first death there is no other.

We all have different viewpoints on a multitude of issues. I believe we must universally agree to insure our children’s safety. We can keep a watchful eye on our kids. We can lobby for stronger pre-reentry psychological programs prior to relocation. We can argue for prudence, for compassion. We can press our case against the audacity of policies that put violent offenders near potential victims. And, then again, put forth the proposition that people are entitled to a second chance. It is all about perspective.

But we cannot ever blithely go on as if these offenses will never be repeated or that we will be there forever. Better to instill, to build in our children a sense of self-reliance and strength to deal with questionable situations they encounter.

Furthermore, Remember the most dangerous predator is the one unknown, the average looking one, the one unidentified, and now the one hiding from authorities.

It is in our hands to deal with this unsavory issue in as caring and delicate manner as possible.

Be Safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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