Every Wednesday at Michael’s there is always an elephant in the room. Exhibit A: Roger Ailes, who made a rare appearance earlier this summer just days after being ousted at Fox News. This week’s pachyderm was of the plush variety and came with Ross Ellis, founder and CEO of Stomp Out Bullying, the country’s leading anti-bullying organization which has some serious celebrity supporters, including Taye Diggs, Elizabeth Olsen, Hoda Kotb and Hamilton star Javier Munoz (all of whom have shot PSAs) and The New York Jets organization.
Fresh off an appearance this morning on Fox 5’s Street Talk, Ross plucked the adorable stuffed toy out of the shopping bag she was carrying and sat it on our table and said, “This is ‘Kind’ and he’s about to go viral.”
The toy is the mascot of Stomp Out Bullying’s new campaign to foster kindness in kids. ‘Kind’ will be superimposed on images from all over the world and posted on social media by a variety of influencers encouraging followers to guess where he is. “We’ve got to get kids talking about kindness and this is a fun new way to do it,” said Ross as we settled in for lunch.
After we got our order out of the way (chicken paillard for her; roasted beet salad for me), she got down to business. Next month is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month which is always observed on the first Monday of October. Here in the city, The Empire State Building will be lit all in blue on Oct. 3. This year for the 11th anniversary of Stomp Out Bullying she said, “Our big push is on kindness. It’s critical to teach kids about kindness and spread the message around the world given current events. ”
Since Ross founded Stomp Out Bullying in 2005, it has grown from a small grassroots effort to become the standard bearer as the go-to organization and authoritative source on bullying and cyber-bullying. It started as a small initiative as part of Ross’s other charity, Love Our Children USA. “When we put something on the website [about bullying], it crashed two days later. I knew we were on to something.” Today, said Ross, “I’m amazed that we’ve become the most influential anti-bullying organization out there.”
I’m not. Thanks to Ross’ tireless efforts to build awareness (all while selling swanky million dollar properties for Halstead Property here in Manhattan), Stomp Out Bullying has helped over 5 million kids and teens resolve bullying situations. The organization’s HelpChat Line for kids who have been bullied, cyber-bullied or at risk for suicide has reached over 55,000 students and helped save countless lives.
Ross told me Stomp Out Bullying receives over 1,000 emails a day about issues surrounding bullying as well as a stream of non-stop calls. Some are adults — who aren’t calling about a child. “They just want to talk to someone about something that happened to them,” said Ross. “But we only handle children’s [issues] up to the age of 24.” But she does offer these words of wisdom to adults who were bullied as a child, tween or teen: “Don’t let what happened to you as a child define who you are as an adult.”
Anyone who was bullied back in the day, can recall the relief of getting off the bus and taking emotional shelter in their home after school. Thanks to cyber-bullying, today’s kids don’t have that option. “The internet is great for kids to learn and to stay connected to friends and family but when they are bullied on social media it all stops,” said Ross. “It is up to parents to raise digitally responsible children.” All of this is part of the overall message of Blue Shirt Day® World Day of Bullying Prevention™.
The support Stomp Out Bullying has from corporate sources is quite impressive. The New York Jets hosted the first annual anti-bullying symposium two weeks ago for tri-state educators at the Jets Training camp. Eric Decker stopped in to meet the attendees. “The Jets have been incredibly supportive in their “Tackle Bullying” Campaign as our partner for the second year in a row.” Members of the team visited several area schools with Stomp Out Bullying to speak about the issue and how to handle it. Other companies that are active supporters include Planet Fitness, Pilot Pen USA, Hollister and the Bon-Ton stores (who have produced the official t-shirt for five years running).
All of this is making a difference, said Ross. “Every year more and more schools across the country and around the world are joining us in raising awareness within their school climate. The students love the day and we’ve actually seen a slight decrease in bullying as a result.”
With a 24/7 real estate career and two national charities to run, Ross’ ability to oversee a national anti-bullying advocacy and education organization begs the question: How does she do it? “I couldn’t do it if I didn’t love both. I love selling real estate and I love the work we do at Stomp Out Bullying and Love Our Children,” said she as we finished up our coffee. “We have to teach our kids to be kind to one another and it wouldn’t hurt if adults learned something, too.” You got that right.
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Literary ladies who lunch — and write: Esther Newberg, Lynn Sherr, Faye Wattleton, Anna Quindlen and Jurate Kazickas
2. Joan Jakobson and Ina Garten
3. Kate Johnson-Edelman
4. Mitch Kanner
5. Herb Siegel and Wilfred Frost
6. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina, Andy Bergman, Michael Kramer and a mystery guest. Anyone?
7. Bill Stanton
8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Brooke Hayward
9. Paul Friedman and Lynn Nesbit
11. Tivo’s Tom Rogers
12. Producer Joan Gelman and radio icon Joan Hamburg with “two other Joans.”
14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew
15. Katz Media’s Mark Rosenthal
16. Michael Wolff and Jim Vandehei
17. James Cohen
18. Quest’s Chris Meigher and Sir Harry Benson
20. Jack Myers
21. British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger with Fran Pomerantz. I introduced Ross and Jack while he waited for Fran to arrive and I’m so glad I did! Jack told Ross he’d run her print PSA in an upcoming issue.
22. Gordon Davis
23. Jon Corzine (yes, that Jon Corzine) wearing jeans
24. Martin Puris
26. In this week’s ‘All Roads Lead to Michael’s’ segment: Stu Zakim was dining at Michael’s in Santa Monica this summer and Michael McCarty posted a picture of him on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Stu got a message from Suzanne Murphy, also on Michael’s friends list, who asked if he was related to her mother, Linda Zakim. Lo and behold, they’re cousins … and were meeting for the first time today.
27. Ross Ellis and yours truly
29. David Sanford and Lewis Stein who were there celebrating their 48th anniversary as a couple. Congrats! What’s your secret?
Faces in the crowd: Kira Semler and Vi Huse chatting with Liz Woods at the bar. I wish I’d had more time to catch up with the terrific trio …. Town & Country hosted a very swanky lunch for VIPs under a pristine white tent this past Sunday at The Greenwich Polo Club, where I ran into Michael’s regulars RHONY’s Dorinda Medley (she is still reeling from “the girls'” epic backstabbing this season) and attorney Mickey Sherman (he’s got some very big and for now, top secret plans in the works). The well-heeled crowd (think lots of very thin ladies in big hats and sockless men in seersucker) mixed and mingled while nibbling on salmon and sipping rose. Between the non-stop action on the polo field and the solicitous representatives from Lancôme and David Yurman, it felt as if we’d stepped into a live action version of the magazine.
Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.