We’ve met plenty of driven, multitasking folks in Michael’s dining room over the years — like this week’s man of the hour David Zinczenko, who continues his quest for (media) world domination with his new book (read on). He was front and center at Table One today celebrating the completion of the first of his books to be published as part of his headline-making deal earlier this year with Random House. And, of course, there is no end to the list of type-A power lunchers (fill in the name of your favorite here) whose burning ambition is to see their name in print every time they ink a deal.
Then there’s Ross Ellis, who I met in this very room a while back. Having had a successful career in public relations and marketing toiling for several Fortune 500 firms, Ross changed gears eight years ago and became a residential real estate broker for Halstead Property LLC. Since then, she has become a widely recognized expert on the Manhattan marketplace, quoted in the New York Daily News and CBS MarketWatch, among other outlets. While that would be enough for even the most ambitious Gothamite, Ross somehow found the time — and energy — to launch STOMP Out Bullying, an extraordinary non-profit whose mission is to eradicate bullying, the true scourge of the modern age. While Ross has developed many fundraising initiatives to fund the organization’s initiatives, many of them involving celebrities who also believe passionately in the charity’s mission, she also donates a portion of her commissions from her real estate sales to the charity.
Somehow, between finding luxurious lairs for Manhattan’s movers and shakers, Ross, drawing very little attention to herself — instead, insisting the spotlight be focused on her cause — has built STOMP Out Bullying into the nation’s leading national anti-bullying and cyber-bullying organization for kids and teens in the United States. Not too coincidentally, October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, so our talk today was particularly timely. Ross told me STOMP came out of her first not-for-profit, Love Our Children, which she founded in 1999; its mission was to prevent child abuse and all forms of violence and neglect against children. “I knew this was something that deserved a lot more attention than it was getting at that time,” she says. “Bullying was the signature issue at Love Our Children, and I wanted to do more.”
And did she ever. Since founding STOMP, Ross has become the go-to expert on bullying and cyber bullying. She has engaged many national outlets and media partners, including Fox Sports and Access Hollywood, and traveled across the country to speak to community leaders (most recently to my Greenwich neighborhood, where a high schooler tragically committed suicide on the first day of school this year after being the victim of years of bullying) to advise them on how to build awareness and prevention campaigns. She’s also gone to far-flung locales like Korea where, she tells me, bullying among teens is “a big problem.” She also created Blue Shirt Day World Day of Bullying Prevention, which takes place on the first Monday of October every year, when children are encouraged to wear blue to create awareness and signify the important of stomping out bullying. This year, SJI Associates designed a limited-edition blue shirt that was sold by Bon-Ton Stores and at Bonton.com. “It’s a way to empower children and engage them in the campaign,” says Ross who added that China, Chile and Mexico participated in the campaign this year.
As the parent of an 8-year-old, who has already experienced the “mean girl” phenomenon, I was extremely interested to hear what advice Ross offers adults in dealing with the social epidemic. The biggest problem, she told me, lies in the growing problem with cyber bullying. “Most parents are clueless when it comes to the Internet,” she says. Ross advises parents to have access to their kids’ user names and passwords to social media sites and to do periodic Google searches on their kids. “Parents need to know what is being said about their children online. It’s critical to stopping bullying and catching potentially dangerous situations from escalating.”
Ross is well aware of the power of celebrity and to that end has enlisted the help of plenty of famous faces to raise awareness and funds to further STOMP’s goals. This month, from the 18th until the 31st The Sixth Annual Celebrity Stomp Out Bullying Auction is being hosted online and features a plethora of celebrity experiences, including a day at the office with Nick Cannon, the chance to co-host Lance Bass’ radio show on Sirius, a set visit to Royal Pains, drinks with Andy Cohen (we’re in!) and tickets to a LeAnn Rhimes’ concert as well as a meet and greet with the star. “The support we have received from the entertainment community has been amazing,” says Ross. “So many of them also serve as our global ambassadors as well. I know that they can draw attention to stopping bullying and bring the money we need to keep the programs running. I’m really grateful to them.”
Last month, Ross was recognized as one of Town & Country’s and Longines Women Who Make A Difference at the Fifth Annual Awards and was presented with the prestigious honor (and a pretty swank watch!) by Melissa Joan Hart, one of STOMP’s global ambassadors. She’ll be featured in an upcoming piece on the awards in the magazine’s February 2014 issue. Bravo, Ross. Well deserved.
Thursday, October 10, 2013