The Secret Word

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

“Innocence is always unsuspicious”Joseph Joubert

That is a quote that rings loudly in my head as I write today’s blog to kick off the first school day of “Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week” in New York State.  It drives home two very profound thoughts that motivate all the volunteers at The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation.  One, that children are probably only innocent for a very short time in today’s society.  It is difficult for parents to maintain their innocence with constant bombardment of advertising and a continual feed of “information” available through the media and the internet.  Two, due to their innocent nature, it is very easy for a child to fall victim to circumstance.  As somber as that sounds, we strive to maintain innocence in children for as long as possible – the world is tough enough without having to thrust them into adulthood prematurely. Enough philosophy – let me get to the point.

Since children may be tricked into a dangerous situation if their parents aren’t around, here’s what we can teach them without having to scare them.  Creating a secret word with your child can be the key to making sure they may not be tricked into going with someone they should not.  This will work outside the realm of stranger safety for it is very simple.  If the child is not told the secret word, they do not go with that person.

Parents: Sit down with your child and create your very own secret word.  It is a word that only you and your child will know. It is very important that you stress that they do not tell ANYONE this word.  It will only be told to them, never the other way around.  Once you have created it, teach your child that they will only hear this word if you cannot come to pick them up somewhere.  You will be the only person in the world that can share this word and you will only do it in an emergency.  Practice with them to show different circumstances where the word would be used.  Now, no one will be able to tell your children that you were in an accident and that they sent that person to pick them up; they won’t fall for the stranger offering them a ride to school; they even won’t fall for a familiar person trying to trick them.

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.

All Week Long

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

With the Governor officially signing in the third week of October each year as “Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week” in New York State, please be on the lookout for our posts on each day of this special week.  Its purpose is to bridge the gap between a casual discussion about “stranger danger” and a true educational curriculum to enhance your child’s skills when it comes to dealing with strangers.

My first thoughts on the daily blog were to highlight our top 7 stranger safety awareness tips to bring them to the forefront of conversation, while also reminding teachers in NY State that our free program is available to add to their daily lessons.  Unfortunately, today’s news on Long Island started with an eery reminder of why we do what we do.  According to News 12:

MERRICK – The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District has alerted parents that a man tried to lure a student into his car.

The district says a man approached a Calhoun High School student on Merrick Avenue yesterday and offered a ride to the student. He continued to approach the student in his car, saying “hello” before speeding off.

The suspect is described as a man in his mid-40s with receding brownish red hair. He was wearing sunglasses, a red shirt and driving a white sedan.

I never like to use scare tactics to reinforce why it is so important for children to be properly prepared to deal with a stranger, but it is sometimes necessary to bring reality into the discussion.  This may be an opportune time for parents & teachers to speak with middle and high school children about the story of my cousin, Carlie Brucia.  She was 11 years old and on her way home from a friend’s house on Super Bowl Sunday in 2004.  As she walked home, she took a short cut off the main road, behind a car wash.  It was there that she encountered a stranger who would abduct her.  This story is not meant to scare, but meant to teach a few important concepts; the very concepts that this foundation is founded upon:

Always walk with a friend – use what we call “The Buddy System”.

Always stay visible when heading anywhere – no short cuts.

Walk with confidence – keep your head up and make eye contact with other people.

Learn how to mirror a stranger’s movements – make the identical movements they make, only in reverse. (they step toward you, you step away).

If you don’t have a driver’s license, does it make sense for someone that does to ask you for directions? Stay away from cars that approach children.

Keep in mind, these concepts may seem like common sense to an adult, but adults cannot always be with children at all times.  As children grow, they like to spread their wings and flex their independence.  It becomes important for us, as adults, to teach the proper foundation for which our children will express their independence when the time comes.  I know I look back and thank my parents, teachers and friends for helping me become the man I am today.  Let’s do the same for our next generation.

Please check back with us each day as we post a stranger safety awareness tip for “Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week”.

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.

NY State Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week

by Matthew J. Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Next Monday, October 21st, kicks off Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week in New York State. Governor Cuomo signed in Resolution K1252-2011 declaring the week.  Here at the foundation, we are very excited to bring our free Stranger Safety Awareness Program to every elementary school in New York State.  The program has been designed, by no accident, to deliver five separate short instructional videos, each with a lesson plan, written to NY state guidelines for Health & Safety. There is one lesson for each day of this special week so that teachers may deliver vital stranger safety concepts to students so that they may practice these skills as they enjoy trick-or-treating on Halloween the following week.  Here is a copy of the resolution that you may share with your PTA president, school principal, or any NY State teacher to make them aware of the event as it unfolds:

LEGISLATIVE   RESOLUTION  memorializing  Governor  Andrew  M.  Cuomo  to
proclaim October 22-26, 2012, as Rose Brucia Stranger  Safety  Awareness
Week in the State of New York

WHEREAS, The State of New York takes great pride in recognizing official
weeks  established  to  increase awareness of serious issues that affect
the lives of all New Yorkers; and
WHEREAS, It is the sense  of  this  Legislative  Body  to  memorialize
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to proclaim October 22-26, 2012, as Rose Brucia
Stranger  Safety Awareness Week in the State of New York; each year, the
third week in October will be declared as Rose  Brucia  Stranger  Safety
Awareness Week in New York State; and
WHEREAS, The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation was founded by Matthew
J.   Barbis when his 11 year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and
murdered in Sarasota, Florida, in 2004; the Foundation was  named  after
Rose Brucia, Matthew’s grandmother; and
WHEREAS,  The  mission of the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is to
reduce the number of  child  abductions  in  America  by  educating  and
empowering  young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction;
and
WHEREAS, The Rose Brucia  Educational  Foundation  so  effectively  is
carrying out its mission by spreading its vital message to all elementa-
ry school-aged children across the State of New York; and
WHEREAS,  Utilizing  puppets  and  simple self-defense techniques, the
Rose Brucia Educational Foundation provides elementary schools with  the
Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Program at no charge; and
WHEREAS,  Since  its inception, the Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Aware-
ness Program has been  welcomed  into  the  community  with  open  arms;
Matthew Barbis’s way of life was sadly changed by Carlie’s tragedy which
prompted  him to take serious action and help other children in America;
and
WHEREAS, Carlie Brucia’s story was highly publicized and today  stands
as  a call to action for families and individuals everywhere to stand up
to child predators; and
WHEREAS, It is the custom of this Legislative Body that  when  founda-
tions  of  such noble aims and accomplishments are brought to our atten-
tion, they should be celebrated and recognized by all  the  citizens  of
this great Empire State; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED,  That  this  Legislative  Body pause in its deliberations to
memorialize Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to proclaim October 22-26, 2012, as
Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week in the State of New York; and
be it further
RESOLVED, That a copy of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be tran-
smitted to Matthew J. Barbis, Founder, Rose Brucia  Educational  Founda-
tion.

Please feel free to view the Stranger Safety Awareness Program and share it with as people as possible to extend the reach to the far corners of the state.

www.rosebrucia.org/downloads

We will continue to provide updates as additional grades are added to the program. There are extra lesson plans provided for second-fifth grades until such video productions are made available.

Thank you for joining us on our mission to reduce child abductions in America.

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.

It’s almost Halloween….

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

October is a great month! Children are back into the swing of things at school, the weather starts to change, and of course, Halloween is right around the corner! If you happen to live in New York State, the week before Halloween has been declared “Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Week” by Governor Cuomo.  This special week is the perfect opportunity for your local elementary school to use the free Stranger Safety Awareness Program which consists of instructional videos and corresponding lesson plans, one for each day of the week, leading up to the most important stranger safety awareness event of the year…Halloween!

Here is a look at one of the videos which actually speaks to children about what to do to stay safe on Halloween.

Please familiarize your children with a few basic stranger safety tips before you and they head out to trick-or-treat this year:

Do not go trick-or-treating alone. Bring someone with you and use the buddy system

Never go to houses that are not well-lit

Try not to wander ahead of your group even though you are excited

Always have an adult check your treats before you eat them

If a stranger does approach you, move away from them immediately – run to a trusted adult

Halloween is all about having fun.  Take some time to reinforce these tips so that you can be especially sure it will be the best yet!

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.

 

 

Location! Location! Location!

By Patrick M. Chierichella

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation 

            Located along the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati boasts a metropolitan area population over 2.1 million people. [Read more…]

Time to Stand Up for the Innocent

by Lori Ann LaRocco, Board of Directors, The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

This morning I was on Facebook and read a heartbreaking story of Cherish Perrywinkle, an 8 year old Florida girl who was shopping in a store with her mom and was abducted and murdered.

It’s stories like this that drove me to become part of the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation. The organization provides free stranger safety education to schools and parents around the world. One of my friends from Junior High, Matthew Barbis created the organization after his 11 year old cousin Carlie Brucia was abducted and murdered on her way home in Sarasota. Her abduction was the first ever caught on tape and created national headlines.

What I have found during my time on the board is my growing frustration with the educational and political system in this country to get such a program in place at schools. The U.S. Department of Education met with Matt and Patrick Chierichella, Rose Brucia’s Educational Coordinator a couple of years ago and they said they love the program but they can’t suggest schools in putting it in? Why not? We have the ‘no child left behind’ mandate?

I’ve personally met with Governors like Scott Walker who were interested in the program only to have the foundation knock their head against a cement wall with his lower level government workers who wouldn’t return calls or emails. A bi-partisan House Resolution created by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WY) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) to declare a stranger safety day has been sitting in the Judiciary Committee for two years now. I was told by several of my hill contacts the reason is not only because the House decided not to pass anymore resolutions because of the flagrant abuse of passing hundreds but because “We haven’t done anything in years and we don’t want to catch flak that we are passing honorary days instead of working…. Like sitting down with the senate and passing a budget.” Sigh, even our kid’s safety are caught up in the disfunction of Washington.

The time is now to protect our kids. Spread the word on how we can keep our kids safe. You don’t have to be an educator to teach these tips to your kids. The videos and the how-to’s are all there for you broken down. I’m’ Lori Ann LaRocco and I practice stranger safety with my kids- do you?

To start practicing stranger safety with your children, please visit www.rosebrucia.org/downloads 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.

Invest in Others awards four advisers grants to bolster their causes

 

Charities focus on child protection, nutrition, education and genetic disorder NF

The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation has recognized the efforts of four financial advisers, awarding them each with $5,000 to go toward their charitable endeavors.

Invest in Others, which initially was established by top brass at LPL Financial LLC, recognizes the philanthropic work financial advisers perform for their communities.

The group also partners with InvestmentNews for its annual Community Leadership Awards, which honors advisers who are making a difference in their communities.

Last September, Invest in Others kicked off its Catalyst Grant Program, which encourages advisers to apply for the opportunity to win up to $5,000 for a charity in which they actively participate. Winners were chosen based on how they would use the funds to advance their charity’s goals and outreach.

The following advisers and their charities have been chosen for the award this year:

Matthew J. Barbis, an adviser with Creative Wealth Management LLC in Islandia, N.Y., and founder of The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation.

The group aims to reduce the number of child kidnappings by educating children on the dangers of abduction and basic techniques to defend themselves.

Mr. Barbis applied to the Catalyst Grant Program for funding to cover a national safety educational DVD launch, commemorating Aug. 22 as the National Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Day.

Carl Bailey, president of Bailey & Beatty Financial Services LLC in Danbury, Conn., and president of the Danbury Grassroots Tennis & Enrichment Program.

This program partners with the Danbury School System and others in the community to bring tennis, nutritional education and tutoring services to low-income children in the area.

When applying for the Catalyst Grant Program, Mr. Bailey asked for funds to launch a matching-gift program of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program vouchers — food stamps — at the local farmers’ market to encourage summer participants to eat healthily.

“Our program has three legs: education, exercise and nutrition, and tennis,” said Mr. Bailey. He kicked off a program to match participating families’ food stamps to help them purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at the local farmers’ market. The $5,000 from the Catalyst Grant Program will help subsidize the effort.

“Once kids are obese at 9 or 10 years old, it’s a lifelong battle: You’re struggling forever. This is a critical component of our program,” he added.

Alan Yonack, an adviser with Morgan Stanley and a member of the board at Vogel Alcove in Dallas.

This charity provides early-childhood education to local homeless children, as well as free child care and case management services for homeless families.

Mr. Yonack plans to use the grant money toward a new family enrichment program called Family Matters, which will provide weekend entertainment for homeless families.

Diane Bark, owner of DNB Financial Services Inc. of Baltimore and president of the board of directors at Neurofibromatosis Mid-Atlantic.

This charitable group provides information and support to individuals with neurofibromatosis and their families. Known as NF, the condition is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on the nerves. There is no cure for NF.

Ms. Bark applied to the Catalyst Grant Program to seek funding to kick off a social-media outreach program that will enable one of her volunteers to speak with others who suffer from NF.

Darla Mercado covers life insurance, annuities and retirement products for InvestmentNews, and she’s looking for advisers’ informed opinions, plus chatter on products and other industry developments.
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.

We are not alone!

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Educational Coordinator, The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

 

I was born a while ago in 1944. My generation is called either “war babies” or “the silent generation,” people who do not like to rock the boat. Seriously? Status quo types! Don’t question! Toe the line! Are they talking about me? Do the talking heads even know us?

Television was in its infancy. Pre-dinner shows consisted of Howdy Doody, Hopalong Cassidy, and serials. Of particular interest to me were those cliffhangers emanating from the cathode ray tube depicting the perils and derring-do of Flash Gordon. Even then, I knew (I saw it on TV, for goodness sake!) there was life out there. Sci-fi movie themes of the 50’s saw our world threatened by the inhabitants of Mars, by some creature named “It”  that came from Outer Space, by “The Thing” , and of course by weird aliens in flying saucers! We knew we were not alone! Tacky, cheesy, and, of course, hyperbolic promotions inflamed imaginations to bring us all to the movies week after week to see the only plausible outcome for the human race: our survival and the defeat of all comers.

I’ve been fully involved with the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation for almost 4 years. We have the financial backing of many individuals through our fund raisers; if not for their generosity and belief in us, we could not attempt to fulfill our mission. During that time, I’ve worked with resolute individuals to help craft a curriculum of which I feel justifiably proud. Our educational format is non-pareil, truly unique. With little prep time, any organization, any school can take our lessons with the attendant lesson plans and provide introduction and/or reinforcement of stranger safety awareness principles and skills. Furthermore, I and my colleagues are confident that because our efforts are proactive, children will be better prepared to deal with avoiding abduction. We estimate five lessons per grade, lasting approximately 20-30 minutes per lesson (dependent on the depth the teacher pursues), would entail a maximum of 100 minutes for the entire school year. Consider the school year and remove days for national/state/local testing, field trips, etc., and you are probably left with 150 instructional days. School lasts at least 6 hours daily, or 360 minutes. Multiply 150 by 360 and you get 54,000 minutes of instruction.  We believe this instruction will use up 1/540 of an educational year, or 1/10 of 1 percent of instructional time.

Here’s my problem. Until very recently, I have been awash in a sea of desperation concerning our program. Parents and educators are swamped with demands for quality time, focused learning experiences and performance demands on state and national tests. I appreciate the issues particular to their world. At the foundation, we score daily hits for downloads of our program. There is, as you would imagine, a noticeable spike in hits on our site the day of and the days after a kidnapping or an attempted abduction. There is nothing wrong with this. I’m just impatient to get our program out there. My enthusiasm gets drained by the disregard for our program. Sometimes I think we are carrying our own good fight in our own little bit of the country. Who knows about us? Who sees us as useful, necessary beyond family, our volunteers and our friends?

Yes, there are individual schools that invite us to present our lessons – over 50 districts locally. Schools in Sachem, Connetquot, Brentwood, South Manor, Great Neck, West Islip, Patchogue, Deer Park, the Bronx, to name a few,  and one in New Jersey near a location with a rash of attempted abductions last November have asked us repeatedly to come into the school. We go. The Girls Scouts of Suffolk County have asked us to present. We have done so at Camp Edie this past summer and during Spring Recess this year. We are preparing a needs assessment document for them to show the validity of our program.

We all read, see or hear the stories. Names of taken children stain the news with too regular a pattern. I feel for Matt and his/our mission. Sometimes it feels like my head is banging against a brick wall. I thought we are supposed to learn from our past, especially our past mistakes. Isn’t that taste of ashes in our mouths supposed to drive us to make the present better? I have to argue with yesterday’s futurists, with Edgar Rice Burroughs, with Arthur C. Clarke, with Isaac Asimov, with Carl Sagan: I do not care about the mathematical probability of life OUT THERE, HERE the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is ALONE!

Or, at least that is how I felt until Saturday, April 20, 2013. This is now a very special day for me, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. This is the day when I, along with my wife, Kate, realized the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is most certainly NOT ALONE!

Patricia (Pat) Abrams is the team leader of the Sarasota K-9 Search & Rescue, www.http://k-9sar.net, in that Gulf Coast city. Pat and her husband, Joe, moved to Florida 24 years ago from northern New Jersey. They established this wonderful, dedicated and honored group 23 years ago as a way of dealing with their own personal introduction to the horrors of strangers and child abduction.  Their mission is to locate the missing, educate all parties regarding safety and build a professional partnership with all agencies to assure a successful outcome in the community. The K-9 group was sponsoring a family day, K-9s 4 Kids, A Child Safety Event, on Saturday April 20th. Pat asked if the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation would like to come to the event. I told Matt my wife, Kate and I were definitely going to be there, that we would represent our group. Loaded with coloring books, pins and our videos, Kate and I flew to Tampa and then headed south to Sarasota.

It is important for all to understand just what this invitation meant. Pat and her group were called out after Carlie was abducted. They were charged with following all possible leads. When the Sarasota Police Department had a lead on a possible burial site for Carlie, Pat’s K-9 group was called to the large site of the Central Church of Christ on Proctor Road in Sarasota. One of the group’s volunteers, Wes Weysham, was searching the area. His dog lay down near a plot of freshly disturbed earth. A once hopeful rescue mission became a recovery mission.

There was no reason on Earth for us not to attend. It would be an honor to meet Pat, Joe and others in this group.

I hope I can be as hospitable as the people I met at this event. I had called Pat Friday evening and offered our help the next morning before the event. As if it was needed! Arriving at the site in Nokomis, FL , we were unsure about the parking area. A truck pulls up next to us and the driver (I later found his name, Justin Colburn) asks if he could help us. He looks at me, looks at my shirt and says, “You’re the Rose Brucia people. Are we ever glad to meet you! We’re glad you could make it.”

We were introduced to a human dynamo by the name of Pat Abrams. Warm hugs were given to Kate and me. A handshake from Joe Abrams confirmed the obvious strength he had; you saw the type of man you wanted in your corner, one to have your back. Names and handshakes came at us from every direction. Astoundingly, we kept hearing the same message: You do not know what an honor it is to meet you. Kate and I were nonplussed. US? We represent a small organization hoping to get some traction and spread our program from Long Island into schools and organizations throughout the USA. Yet, we were at their event and they were thrilled someone from Rose Brucia was there.

Pat showed us a table from where we could distribute our information. Pat even asked me to say a few words at the beginning of the day’s happenings. A polite round of applause was followed by a day of steady conversation with so many attendees. There were 11 groups gathered in an educational center for this event: the Sarasota County 911 Call Center, Florida Forest Service, Sarasota Fire Department, Ambulances, Sarasota County School Resource Officers, Animal Services, K-9 Search and Rescue, Manatee Gun Club (child safety around guns), Healthy Choices for children, a wellness and neonatal information unit from the local hospital, Chick-fil-A, and Rose Brucia. Members of each group took time to meet us and talk about our program. Is it possible that each person was nicer than the previous one? It sure seemed that way.

Then there were the dogs! And what fantastic animals!  Different breeds, big dogs, medium sized dogs, veterans of years of search and rescue work now retired to act as therapy dogs, rookies to the program still in training, but each bonded to his/her handler! At announced times there were demonstrations: working dogs from the K-9 Search and Rescue, Fire Marshalls’, the County Sheriff’s Office, from Fish and Wildlife, each with a specific task and every animal demonstrating its skills.

Parents, teachers, members of a homeschool support group, and relatives who thought their family would use our program, they all eagerly listened to Kate and I talk about our Foundation, its mission and its delivery method. They liked what they heard. They especially appreciated that all our materials are available for free. DVDs for free? How many may I take? To a person, each recognized the need for stranger safety awareness. They also thought the use of puppets a valuable non-threatening teaching method. We didn’t make converts, but made new associates.

For a while it felt as if we were caught in some adult version of a Berenstain Bear story: of the place we went, oh the people we met. People such as Fr. Arnold Zebrowski of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Venice, Chief Marshall Ed McCrane of the Sarasota Emergency Services Division, Detective J. Szalbirak, Deputy Larry Dagnon, Deputy K. Szalbirak, Jeff Mangrum of Chick-fil-A, Tami Treadway and Wes Weysham, and  Cyndi O’Neill.

As the afternoon passed, Pat Abrams came to me and asked if I would fill in for the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office Resource Officers who were scheduled to teach a Stranger Danger lesson. Five minutes to show time! Kate looked at me, then at Pat and said, “He’ll do it. It will be fine.” She was right. All I had to do was select pieces from lessons that Matt and I had developed this past year. The best was glimpsing the parents behind the audience of youngsters. Nodding heads, smiles, and laughter at the appropriate time meant I was doing something right. Rose Brucia was a hit! Moreover, Pat Abrams liked our program, loved our teaching style and wanted to partner with us in our endeavor to prevent child abductions. I was stunned. I mean, this Florida organization, with a generation of honorable work under its belt, with its history of helping families reunite or to reach closure, an organization recognized throughout Florida on a local and state level, this organization wants us involved with them!

A phone call several weeks ago allowed me insight into the Pat and Joe Abrams. Let’s see what words I can use to describe them: resolute, driven, caring, empathetic, kind, compassionate, outgoing, funny, tired, friendly, intelligent and amazingly creative. You see that and you feel that in their presence, an unpublicized power couple. Pat is an author of books written for children about the work of K-9 dogs see knew. Written from the dog’s perspective, Pat provides a wonderful hook to get children to read (ah, those English Language Arts lessons) while teaching valuable lessons in stranger safety awareness.  So far, three books have been published: Noah and the Search Dogs, The Story of Boo, and The Story of Tracker. Each story concerns a different team of the Sarasota K-9 Search and Rescue group. I’ve read them and have given them to my grandchildren to read. Filled with photographs of the dogs at work and with their handlers, these alone will pull the children through the pages. A fourth is in the offing. A seven book series is planned. A Long Island principal recently reviewed the books and loved them, noting the vocabulary and structure suitable for 3rd grade and even strong 2nd grade readers.

At a dinner the night of the event, Pat, Joe, Kate, I, Tami and Wes, Cyndi and her husband, Ed and his wife, and Jeff Mangrum talked of the past that united us and the true fellowship the day generated. We heard stories of remarkable determination, funny vignettes about the dogs in the group, poignant memories of recovery operations. As I looked around the table, I thought back my teaching years. After I retired, my district asked me if I wished to come back and take over for a person they had let go. With some hesitation I said yes. I met a group of 9th and 10th graders that became one of my all-time favorite classes. After my career was seemingly over, I get treated to this unexpected present. Similarly, in my golden years I meet a band of wonderful people who feel as I do. They want us to journey with them. They have my attention and respect.

As dinner was ending, Pat said there would be a small presentation to Kate and I for the Foundation. Jeff Mangrum (After spending the day next to his table at the event, I realized you would see his picture in the dictionary next to the word selfless.) spoke of our organizations sister missions, of looking into the hearts of everyone and seeking their goodness. He presented us with a clock he had made from a cypress tree he had cut. This gnarly piece of lacquered wood shone with an amber brilliance. He had attached plastic/ceramic roses to it to symbolize our group and, at the bottom of the piece, had added a ceramic cross with lettering citing a quote from Isaiah. He said if we went to the burial site we would see this passage inscribed on a granite block. (That is another story for another day.)

Felix J. Palma wrote, Perhaps love that a human being can generate is exclusively his own and will die with him. After that the universe, despite its unfathomable vastness, its apparent infinity, will no longer be complete.

Loss diminishes us all. The loss of a child numbs us, brings us to our knees, but rather than making us capitulate to grief, to become isolated, it can force us to rise and reach out for the hands of fellow human beings.

We are not alone.

 

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.

I Didn’t Mean it!

By Patrick Chierichella

Educational Coordinator, The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

I am always fascinated by the ads that announce new toys hitting the market. After all, a grandfather has to keep current with what is hip for the kids. Legos are the big, big toy in our family. This corporation has wisely started marketing toys especially for girls!  About time, too!

In 1960, the Ideal Toy Company put out a new toy: a walking and sound producing mechanical man known as Mr. Machine. Wind him up and watch him go! With a rather narrow “head” and boxy body with arms that moved in sync with his circular legs, Mr. Machine became all the rage. I remember a comedian using the toy for a punch line. As I recall, the comic was going on about how kids of that generation never owned up to some misbehavior or transgression. He said he knew of a father who, upon hearing some crash in the next room, went to investigate. The father found his son staring at a football that had obviously smashed a lamp. The father said, “What happened?” The son replied, “It wasn’t me, dad. Mr. Machine did it!”

Sally L. Satel, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale school of Medicine, wrote an essay in the Sunday, February 24, 2013, New York Times, titled Primed for Controversy. Ms. Satel wrote about “the goal-priming effect…the power of subtle cues to influence our attitudes and actions.” What struck me was the following statement: “Furthermore, goal priming carries an exculpatory whiff of ‘don’t blame me, blame my brain’-or better yet, ‘blame the world around me’. After all, if stimuli we are not aware of can influence us, then perhaps we are not as accountable for our actions as others might want to hold us.”(The emphasis is mine.)

This opinion is not confined to our shores. A Catholic prelate from Africa also disturbingly misspoke about  an issue. “From my experience, pedophilia is actually an illness. It’s not a criminal condition, it’s an illness,” said Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa, quoted in a report by Reuters. The firestorm of outrage that followed his statement brought about a subsequent apology for his remarks and an offer of total assistance by the Church to any victim of abuse.

EXCULPATORY????  I became extremely uncomfortable reading both these statements. If the mind and body respond to cues in the environment without thinking, I guess the old reptilian brain is at work and control is out of the question. I guess everything is stimulus-response. No reflective consideration of what I am doing; just a genetic predisposition to some action. Or, in a rather facile explanation, I am sick. I was preyed upon, so now I do the preying.  Either way, I am guiltless.

The idea of “I couldn’t help myself” is not new. The abductor in the film M uses this defense to explain his crimes to a jury of criminals. In the movie, 360, one character, a level 3 sexual predator, is released from prison and must fight his inclinations to act upon his predilections in a far too unsettling scene involving a young girl.

So an abductor has a built-in excuse: My wiring is different than yours. Is it any wonder why I, and the rest of the people at our Foundation, urge you to arm your children with skills to protect them from these predators? Abduction, exploitation, and things far worse to consider are what we adults must face. Our children must be taught, in non-threatening ways, how to deal with people who do not have their health and safety in mind. Check out our lessons online. Ask your school if there are lessons about stranger safety awareness taught throughout the year, not just at Halloween.

I know when I say to my grandkids, “Have a great day,” I am really praying they come home safely. It is uncomfortable to have to face such an issue. I would prefer we adults face it, rather than our children fall victim to it.

 

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.

 

Bon Voyage! Adios! Buona Fortuna!

In any language: Have a Safe Trip!

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Educational Coordinator of The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

It’s that time of year once again. Presidents’ Week is upon us. In five or six weeks, spring recess will be here. And with these two vacation periods comes the anxiety of preparations: booking airline tickets, securing that time share slot, praying snow will not impact departure or return, and hoping and praying that everyone will just relax and have a good time. One other important thing to check off in your preparatory list: going over stranger safety awareness pointers with your children no matter their age.

A short while ago, my wife was shopping in a neighboring Long Island village. She saw a gentleman with his children, a boy and a girl. About to enter a store, the man turned to his son who was finishing a drink. “Stay out here until you’re done. Then come in and find us.” The little girl said to her dad, “But daddy, someone could take him.” The father’s response: “That doesn’t happen where we live.” But, of course it does. To account for over 800,000 children reported missing in the United States annually, it has to happen here.

This does not even come close to the instances of child abduction world-wide. Let me ask you a few questions. How safe is the specific destination where you and your family will stay? Have you researched your vacation destination for any recent stories about abductions? Have you gone on the web and checked out sources concerning the number of abductions attributed to the country you are entering? A recent travel alert said that CHILDREN are acting as abductors in foreign lands. Have you reviewed stranger safety awareness skills that you have taught your child/children? Do your older children have curfews?

Natalie Holloway, on a trip celebrating her recent graduation from high school, disappeared in 2005 in Aruba. Madeline McCann disappeared at a resort in Portugal in 2007. Such instances propel us to generate rapid learning curves. The questions are simple: Did we learn for the short-term or long-term? How many of you remembered the generalities about these cases but not these names? The disappearances of the teenager and young child garnered world-wide notoriety.  Did either or both of these cases prompt you to develop and use stranger safety awareness stratagems with your family? Remember, the goal for a child, for each of us, is not to just say what the stratagem is but to produce an instinctual response mechanism that moves your child out of harm’s way. Practice indeed makes the lesson ingrained.

We, at the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation, know you protect your child/children. We hope that our program and strategies can help you be better prepared for the world in which we live.

Enjoy your day in the sun, on the slopes, on the links, at those fantastic restaurants and venues wherever you go. Do not take your safety for granted.

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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