Make it so!

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Just the other day, September 18th, Matt and I presented two sessions to students an elementary school on Long Island. In the first session, kindergarteners, first graders and second graders in attendance, we spoke of issues concerning personal space and the need to be aware of just who the people you are near to are. Our second session, third graders, fourth and fifth graders, dealt with internet safety.

That evening, I listened to a news item concerning an internet sting operation that New Jersey police had successfully enacted wherein twenty-four, TWENTY-FOUR, potential child predators were apprehended. Today in the Long Island daily, Newsday, police captured a recently released violent offender who had wantonly murdered a coed in Ames, Iowa. According to the article, the alleged predator had spoken about how he wished to “rape and murder a woman.” Previously the similar murder of Mollie Tibbetts had played across the airways, print and social media.

Matt has told me often of comments he has received from other child advocates that our mission was too narrow; that we had to address the issue of predators being familiar to their victims. Others have said we were alarmists in promoting fear of strangers in parents and thereby children. We are not burying our heads in the sand concerning the overwhelming issue of child abduction by persons known by the children. We are responding yesterday, today and tomorrow to what so achingly ravaged a family, the Brucia family. If the news items above don’t speak to the legitimacy of our mission, I ask the doubters to look again.

I leave you with this:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide.  As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.  Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.  The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make”?  The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”.

THAT ONE! As Jean Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise, echoing the commands of his predecessors in the British navy, would say to his crew, MAKE IT SO!

Be safe! Let all of us make it so!

 

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.

Don’t Tell Your Mother

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

My college aged granddaughter and her friends love horror/thriller movies. The scarier the better, she tells me. These films, according to psychologists, can provide catharsis of suppressed aggression, an adrenalin rush, pure excitement, curiosity, intense emotions, and dispositional alignment, a concept in which the viewer enjoys the violence visited on those the viewer feel deserve it. Wow! As a teenager I loved the old school Universal Studios monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man. I am not a big fan of the genre, but will sit through one, waiting to be scared, then being surprised when I am startled. As I have aged, the appeal of horror films has greatly diminished.

Do you like scary movies? Recognize the quote? Horror film buffs will remember it as the opening of the movie, Scream. The phone rings and Drew Barrymore picks it up and hears that line. In another thriller, When a Stranger Calls, a young woman answers the phone and hears, Have you checked the children?

When I started writing this blog, those two lines of dialogue immediately came to my mind. Phone calls in both films introduce the dread that is about to impose itself upon the actors who answered. Reread those lines of dialogue, so effectively spooky, so ominous! In the former instance, a stranger implies you are about to participate in your own existential nightmare; in the latter, a nightmare beyond belief has already unfolded.

The first principle of stranger safety awareness that Matt and I present to school assemblies is the concept of personal space. We ask student volunteers to demonstrate wordlessly what this idea means to them. We attempt for a child to be able to easily describe the space around them using extended arms to make visible to all the sacred area that no one may enter without the child’s permission. We ask the children to name people they would allow into their personal space. We believe it is an effective teaching method. Any story, any fairy tale that uses a ruse by a stranger to get near a child is exploited by us.

Read the newspapers and you will understand why I get apprehensive that times have changed so quickly that we have to up our game. The instant communication of today amazes and dismays me. Letter writing seems so quaint and archaic. Texts with emojis and phonetic abbreviations glut messages from those younger than I. Voicemail, mostly unwanted and unsolicited, fills answering machines no matter that your number is on a state no call list!

Here’s a sample of what I mean. This headline appeared in Newsday, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The article below the banner filled half a page.

Voicemail left for girl helps nab sex predator

 Astute mom, LI police lead to capture in Calif.

How’s that for sending a shiver down your spine? The registered sex offender who has done this phone tag before had made a call that was answered by an 11 year-old girl. Think of the odds of dialing THAT number! The apprehended predator said he was calling random numbers and the girl’s voice sounded young. He had warned the 11 year-old not to tell her parents. The mother luckily overheard part of the voicemail and took the phone away from her daughter. She then purchased a phone app she used to unblock the predator’s phone numbers.

The concept of personal space must be updated. How much more personal is the space when a complete stranger can be invited into it with a simple hello? The whispered message of a predator does not easily recede from the mind. The sex offender was arrested through the teamwork of Long Island’s Garden City Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on felony charges of making criminal threats, attempted child molestation and annoying or molesting a minor.

Many years ago a fellow teacher told me he was giving up all his coaching duties. Why, I asked. When the kids were younger, he said, I could actually believe that I didn’t need to be there 24/7. Trust me, he added, as the kids age you have got to be there more than ever.

Parent involvement matters. Who knows what message might hook your child when a strange message is heard. I think the following partial list of expressions that might be heard forms the basis for a good conversation with your children concerning messages from unknown sources. You can call them warning sounds, bells, or whistles. Tell your children that should they hear any of these statements in a message, they must immediately tell you. You must tell the police. Use any, some, all of these statements or one you believe focuses your child’s mind on the danger lurking on unsolicited calls.

  • I’m here for you.
  • You’re so funny.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I would love to spend time with you.
  • You seem very smart for someone your age.
  • You are so impressive. Will you show me how you did that?
  • If I hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?
  • We have a lot in common.
  • I really think we should meet.
  • You’re really cute. How about sending me your picture?
  • I believe in you.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Go for it! Don’t let anybody hold you back!
  • I really, really like you.
  • Are your parents as clueless as mine were?
  • What we have may be special. How about we keep it just between you and me?
  • I love you.

 

Do you like scary movies? Have you checked the children? These classic movie lines thrill and chill, for sure. Now, if we add a real life predator’s plea, Don’t tell your mother, how much fear does that instill?

Stephen King had one of his characters realize Grownups are the real monsters!

Being safe takes time, effort, patience and vigilance. You’ve got to be there more than ever. What a world!

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.

Super Bowl XXXIII

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

David J. Liberman, PhD, in his book, You Can Read Anyone, calls memory an anchor, an association or link between a specific set of feelings or emotional state and some unique stimulus: an image, sound, name or taste.

Do you recall SuperBowl XXXVIII? In what Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King called the greatest SuperBowl of all time, the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32-29. The game, played on February 1, 2004, was decided on a field goal with four seconds left on the clock. Tom Brady was named the MVP as the Patriots won their second Lombardi Trophy in three years. Replays of the kick would be shown over and over for the next few days. Replays of Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show would be replayed far more often than the game. Remember it now?

Another video replay would also make its way to television sets throughout the country that week. The setting was Evie’s Car Wash on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, Florida. People in the community knew that cutting through its parking area allows you to round the corner and save some walking time. Many had done it before; many do so today. Carlie Brucia would not get the chance.

          Video surveillance cameras at the car wash caught a not too clear image of Carlie being grabbed and pulled away by a man dressed in work clothes, his name fuzzily scrawled on a patch on his chest. It is the last picture of this young girl, too easily recalled for family, friends, law-enforcement officials, and interested by-standers who have viewed it online: the young girl being forcibly dragged towards the unknown abductor’s car, an old station wagon, off camera.

If you go online to view or review this video, you cannot but help feel the need to speak out to the child, to shout some warning that danger lies near. Mark Twain wrote that man is like the moon; everyone has a dark side. Masks are part of everyone’s psyche.

We will never know why Carlie walked unaware into mortal danger.

Here’s a question for you: When you look at the world, what do you see? If you are like me, you see a world that is the reflection of you, of all you know and think you know. Did Carlie see any reason to be upset, worried or scared?

William Butler Yeats said, There are no strangers only friends we haven’t met yet. This is a lovely sentiment but begs qualification. Say it to a child, profess its truth and you may place an innocent in harm’s way.

How many of us tell our children to respect adults, adults are in charge, that children owe these people obedience due to their authority? Saul McLeod, in a 2007 article, Obedience to Authority, stated Obedience is a form of social influence where an individual acts in response to a direct order from another individual, who is usually an authority figure. It is assumed that without such an order the person would not have acted in this way. Obedience occurs when you are told to do something (authority). Obedience involves a hierarchy of power / status. Therefore, the person giving the order has a higher status than the person receiving the order.

          So we prepare and reinforce the template for dealing with authority for our children. It is possible that children a) accept as permissible the commands of an adult whether or not they hold a position of authority, b) regard the position held as the reason to obey such a command, or c) base the acceptability of the command on a combination of position of power or just by the person being an adult.

What goes on in the mind of a child? Do you know? I surely do not. Our children, no matter what we think they know, what they tell us, what they keep from us due to fear of disappointing us or from some overwhelming sense of shame, remain deep secrets and mysteries to us.

I believe I read of John Walsh, Adam’s father, saying something like I wish I had taught him to scream instead of worrying about some stranger’s feelings. He further said, Adam’s abduction was our private hell-but it was not an isolated incident. On any given day, any number of children are absent from their homes for diverse and numerous reasons.

The why of Carlie’s behavior remains a mystery. Her fate was a tragedy.

February 1, 2018 is the 14th anniversary of Carlie’s passing.

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.

Nothing More

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Education Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Education Foundation

 

A few years ago I was watching an episode of NCIS. As the episode ended a poignant melody accompanied the images on the screen. I found the name of the song was Nothing More by the band Alternate Routes. In the lyrics of this song I found two lines that struck me as exceptionally potent in their simplicity:

We are how we treat each other when day is done.

We are how we treat each other and nothing more.

I will make some personal assumptions here: that those of you who know of our organization and read our blogs will attest to both these statements; that the vast majority of people in the world believe likewise; and that those who harm children physically and emotionally, those predators, abusers, pornographers who steal a child’s innocence, do not hold to such notions.

It is a sad fact that the narrative in our minds of our children growing up untouched by the ugliness of predatory adults must be tempered by the reality of our kids and grandkids physically maturing more quickly than in generations past, that they can’t stay kids for a longer time. Their bodies may reach maturation more quickly but not necessarily their minds and their emotional states. What pressures they must have as the biologic changes in their bodies outstrip the growth curve of their judgmental processes!

Decades ago education was swamped with various catch phrases that pointed us in new directions: It takes a village…; Top down support for bottom up reform; Just say No!, and Common Core.

In the arena which The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation has chosen to perform, there are some better, stronger phrases that I think applicable, ones that have been around far longer and are time-tested. Our stated goal is to reduce the number of child abductions. Consider these mottos from some of our armed services and how well they apply to our group:

This we will defend. The United States Army

Semper Paratus (Always prepared). The United States Coast Guard

Can do! The Seabees

We could not have better descriptors of our mission and our programs.

We are how we treat each other when day is done, today and tomorrow.

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.

Déjà Vu

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Taken from the French expression, literally meaning “already seen,” déjà vu is that eerie sense of “I’ve experienced this before.” This may occur from the current situation producing some clues that may subconsciously trigger retrieval of an earlier experience.

In 2004, Central Florida TV station Local 6 reported that investigators found 11-year old Carlie Brucia’s remains between 12:45 a.m. and 1 a.m. on Friday, February 5th outside a church a few miles from the car wash where she was taken.

“Our prayers on behalf of everybody here in Sarasota County go out to the family,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill in a press conference, naming Joseph P. Smith, 37, as the suspect who was charged with the girl’s kidnapping and murder. Smith had been arrested at least 13 times in Florida since 1993, according to state records and convicted of drug possession and other charges. He was arrested in 1997 in Manatee County on kidnapping and false imprisonment charges, but was acquitted a year later.

Investigators found the body after negotiations with Smith, said the TV report. Earlier it had been said that Smith, believed to be the tattooed man in a mechanic’s shirt shown in the surveillance video leading Carlie away by the hand, had not been cooperating during police questioning.

At a nationally televised press conference shortly after 7 on Friday morning, sheriff’s authorities announced, “We have found Carlie and the person responsible for her murder is in custody.”

Forrest Carr, in his February 17, 2004 article, Covering Carlie: A News Director’s Perspective, said

  • Some critics believe the media exploited Carlie Brucia.
  • We needlessly frightened parents and children… leaving people with a distorted view of reality and a feeling that the world is scarier than it really is.
  • I would venture to guess that every mother in America had a conversation with her child about strangers. Every parent I know had such a conversation. Every teacher I know did the same.
  • They had the conversations because for one heart-rending week, not just the community but the entire world was reminded that monsters do walk amongst us, and that we need to be aware of that. Telling children about this is not an easy conversation to have. It frightens them. Though painful, it’s an inoculation against a reality of life that many parents have come to feel is necessary. It is necessary. (Emphasis mine).

 

On May 31, 2017 twelve year old Naomi Jones was reported missing from her home. Last known contact with the child was by a friend who had texted her at 12:21pm that day. Police theorized that Naomi probably died within 24-36 hours of her abduction. Her body was found by fishermen on June 5th. The Sheriff’s department noted Naomi may have been a possible target through social media.

Several years ago I wrote a short blog entitled There be monsters! I spoke of imaginary as well as real individuals who inflicted unspeakable harm to children and their families.

Pensacola, Florida is located in Escambia County. The county’s Sheriff’s office Chief Deputy, Chip Simmons announced that a convicted sex offender, in prison for 15 years for two counts of sexual assault and rape, released from prison 4 years ago, was arrested. Simmons said, “We have caught our MONSTER (emphasis mine). We have caught the killer that took Naomi’s life-a twelve year old girl who had her whole life in front of her.”

That word, MONSTER, describes so clearly the revulsion the rest of society holds for these killers of children. As Forrest Carr said, the painful conversation between parents/guardians and the children they raise is NECESSARY. Carr described the dialogue as an inoculation. I am sure we all recall how we winced as the needle with the preventative medicine neared our child’s arm. I suggest it is time to have another such important discussion with our children. Dr. Charles Kolenik noted that booster shots of reminding and refreshing the concepts of stranger safety help keep the original inoculation strong.

These cases of déjà vu we can do without.

As always, and especially now with the freedom of summer vacation upon us, 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.

Countdown to Summer – Important Summer Stranger Safety Tips

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Summer is almost upon us. Here are a few tips to review with your children to help them stay safer as the days get longer:

  • Remind your children that they are never to go anywhere with a stranger – no matter the reason.
  • Create a secret word to share with your child that will only be used if you send someone other than yourself to take them anywhere. If the stranger cannot tell your child the secret word, your child is immediately to run to a trusted adult.
  • Always use the buddy system. Your child should always have a friend with them whether they are riding their bicycle, walking to the park or even hanging out in the front yard.
  • Beware strangers in cars, trucks or SUV’s offering rides. 

The moral of this story is for your child to never go anywhere with a stranger. Summer is a fun time to be enjoyed with friends – the more, the merrier!

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.

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation 2016 Year in Review

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you” – Althea Gibson

As we come to the end of 2016, it is natural to reflect back to the accomplishments of the year – and The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation has accomplished a lot this year thanks to its dedicated staff, volunteer committees, devoted supporters and sponsors!

The year started off strong with the foundation receiving a grant from Nature’s Bounty to film the remaining 22 video episodes to round out the free online program available across the globe. The summer kept us busy with the NYC PS summer program, Girl Scout camps and an important lesson developed as a result of Pokémon Go!.

As soon as filming started, courtesy of Nature’s Bounty, the educational committee, under the direction of Pat Chierichella, went to work on 9 new lessons to correspond to the 9 videos being produced by the volunteer cast members. Please put your hands together to applaud Joe Richetti, Giovanna Richetti, Natalie Pisani, Pat Chierichella, Lorcan Phelan, Cheryl Valentine, Mike Pepe, George Lozides, Craig Toman, Kristen Sullivan, Beverly Lee-Wo, Bobby Fagan, Mike Saidens, Nancy Giffone, Kathy Chierichella, Nick LaGrega, and Roni Yadeska for their fine performances in front of the camera. The 9 lesson plans were the foundation’s most ambitious undertaking since they were written not only to NY State standards for health & safety, but also written to common core standards! Special thanks to Dianne Muro, Nicholas LaGrega, Roni Yadeska, Nancy Giffone, Dawn Kollmer, Lisa Eaton, Lori Medina, Gina Heyder, Mike Pepe, Charlie Comstock, Mike Saidens and Dr. Ben Tieniber for all your effort and guidance with this enormous accomplishment!

The foundation’s 6th annual golf outing was a tremendous success. The hard work and dedication of the 2016 Golf Committee was apparent from the 116 golfers and 130 dinner guests who attended. Special thanks to Karen & Tom Brucia, Kathleen & Robert Chierichella, Patrick & Kathy Chierichella, Charlie & Maureen Comstock, Matthew Colson, Joe Coreno, Dr. Frank Favazza, Michael Gagliardi, Nancy Giffone, Rocky Grasso, Gina Heyder, Dan Kresh, Lori Ann LoRocco, Pat Magri, Jessica McAleer-Decatur, Lorcan Phelan, Mike Saidens, Joseph Schwan, Brian Simonetti, Ben Tieniber, Ron Trotta, CJ Twomley, Ray Kaminek , Cheryl Valentine, and last, but never least, Renee Barbis. We thank our sponsors who support the event to help provide funding for The Stranger Safety Awareness Program.

After the golf outing wrapped, preparations immediately went into the 4th Annual Rose Brucia Car Show under the direction of Joe Coreno & Novak Motors.  Thank you to each and every Novak employee for donating their time and energy to make the day extra special. Thank you Karen Aiello, Amy Baires, Danielle Barberio, Angela Bekker, Elizabeth Brunner, Jeff Cafaro, Dolores Calleja, Frank Cannizzaro, Nicole Capolongo, Raul Caraballo, Michael Castranuovo, Raymond Clinton, Cristian Conde, Dawn Connor, Ryan Coreno, Steven Davis, Amy Doberman, Miguel Escalante, Alex Felicio, Annalea Ferrari, Nicole Gordon, John Gribbins, Gregory Hampton, Dashawn Hurd, Ana Isaza Duque, Stephen Kundla, Raquel Lally, Joseph Messina, Scott Misino, Crystal Nifong, Krishna Patel, Brandon Paulino, Kayla Prass, Jeffrey Rivas, Melina Rosa, Kevin Schiffbauer, Stephanie Tracy, Christina Veltman and Lashanda White for revving up interest and participation in a great event!

October brought us to our Stranger Safety Awareness Week in New York State. The third week in October brought the foundation to over 2,500 students in five school districts locally, averaging two live performances per day for 7 days. It has become a tradition to present in these districts for the last 12 years and we love visiting the students each year.

The foundation’s main vehicle, the online Stranger Safety Awareness Program, which is available to every elementary school, teacher and family across the globe, was downloaded 3,112 times over the course of the year as of December 13th, 2016. The program is being utilized in over 92 countries across the world and is available in two languages, soon to be expanding to four languages.

A very big thank you goes out to the Executive Director of the foundation, Maryann Brucia-Barbis. Maryann keeps operations running on a day-to-day basis and juggles all the projects of the year along with all the visions, plans and goals of the foundation. She handles and oversees every detail of the golf outing, records and thanks every generous donor for each donation received into the foundation and keeps all committees organized. It is an exceptional job performed by an exceptional person.

Finally, to our family, friends, sponsors and donors: we would never be able to have all these exceptional accomplishments without your generosity. Whether you have donated $10 or $10,000, your kindness and philanthropy allows us to drive the program forward, reaching more and more children. We thank you for your support and renew our commitment to reduce child abductions.

Best wishes for a very Happy & Healthy Holiday Season with positive thoughts for a very Happy & Safe New Year ahead!

 

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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