“What would you do if you saw a kid crying on the playground?” asks comedian/educator Gab Bonesso of a kindergarten-age girl.
The girl replies: “I would go up and say ‘Hi,’ and ‘Do you want to play with me?’”
This small moment is just one of many in the “Know What’s Right, Do What’s Right” campaign against childhood bullying. It’s part of a series of short Public Service Announcements commissioned by the Marcus L. Ruscitto Charitable Foundation that run periodically on WQED and before the previews at local movie theaters.
Childhood bullying seems like such a big, pervasive problem—and as inevitable in childhood as skinned knees.
That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done about it, though. The Ruscitto Charitable Foundation hopes that a little empathy and small gestures of kindness and understanding, like in the scene above, can take a bit of the sting out of bullying.
Most of them include the musical comedy duo, The Josh & Gab Show. Though they have fairly successful careers apart—Josh Verbanets in the rock band Meeting of Important People, and Gab Bonesso in comedy—it’s their show for kids that has really taken off.
So far, they’ve taken their catchy blend of anti-bullying songs, stories and comedy to more than 500 schools, camps and community groups. They developed their program using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program curriculum, and estimate that they’ve performed in front of 300,000 students and educators since 2012.
The Ruscitto Foundation is funding part (or all) of the cost of a live Josh & Gab Show performance for schools that can’t afford it. Schools who are interested can apply at ruscitto.org.
The late Marcus L. Ruscitto founded the large local internet service provider Stargate. Since 2011, they’ve focused their energies on anti-bullying campaigns.
“We were seeking out a single issue, so that we weren’t spreading too thin our limited funds,” says Ruscitto Foundation board member Jonathan Rosenson, who manages the “Know What’s Right, Do What’s Right” initiative.
They had to move beyond airing their message solely on WQED not because it wasn’t reaching kids and parents—never doubt the drawing power of Daniel Tiger—but because it wasn’t reaching schools and administrators. Showing it before screenings at movie theaters was more successful in that regard.
Know What’s Right, Do What’s Right began in 2014. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so the Foundation plans to ramp up a new anti-bullying campaign then. They are actively soliciting grant applications from schools for live Josh & Gab appearances for the fall, too.
Finding Josh & Gab has worked out extremely well so far.
“I’m a technology guy,” explains Rosenson. “It’s a volunteer effort. We needed to find people who already knew how to do this.
“[Josh & Gab] were from Pittsburgh. We didn’t have the capacity at the time to go national. They were in-demand. They convinced me they could create original content. We had money to front for schools that couldn’t afford to bring them in.”
The Ruscitto Foundation has other anti-bullying content ready, or in the works. Rosenson describes a new yet-to-debut initiative as “a social/emotional framework, that includes an app to measure effectiveness,” in partnership with a major area university.