It’s time for another episode of Child Safety Source! For our 31st episode, we’re speaking with Rich Specht. The Specht family suffered a terrible tragedy. Rich’s 22-month old son, Rees (Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht), perished after drowning in the family’s backyard pond. Since then, the family has worked hard at keeping Rees’ memory alive. Additionally, they’ve worked to pay forward the kindness that they received in the time since Rees’ untimely demise.
As you’ll learn in this in-depth interview hosted by Life Saver Pool Fence’s president Eric Lupton, the Specht family’s goal is to remind people of the importance of community, compassion and respect. In fact, they have a sad, yet beautiful story about water safety to tell about the days following Rees’ passing.
Click for the full video interview with Rich Specht.
Learning More About Rich Specht
Rich Specht holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Mary Washington and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Stony Brook University. Prior to embarking on his career as a public speaker and advocate for kindness and water safety, Rich was a science teacher for 15 years at Great Hollow Middle School in Nesconset, New York.
In addition to his speaking, Rich is also the published author of the award-winning children’s book, A Little Rees Specht Cultivates Kindness, and the upcoming A Little Rees Specht Stops a Bully and A Little Rees Specht for Water Safety. You can learn more about the Specht family’s work at the official website: www.reesspechtlife.com.
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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Source interview with Rich Specht from September 14th, 2018:
Episode 31: Rich Specht
Eric Lupton: And that’s it, we are live on the Internet. The magic of the World Wide Web we are connected and in front of people. How you doing?
Rich Specht: I’m doing well, how are you doing man?
Eric: I am fantastic, thank you for asking. By the way, I love that the name of your organization is a pun. I am a giant fan of puns, and when I realized that you guys, what you were doing, I’m like oh, that’s fantastic. Like, that is amazing.
Rich: Yeah, well I mean, Rees’s named fit, you know, it all fit with our story so, it was kind of a natural thing. And I do have to qualify because, you know, you mention that right away; everyone thinks that we named my son Reese with our last name Specht. And, I didn’t do that, his name was Richard Edwin Eimer Specht
Eric: Right… It was an acronym
Rich: Yeah, and my mother… when he was born, my mother-in-law noticed is that, you know, you notice she noticed that, you know, his initials are REES; she’s like, he’s Rees. And I said, mom so am I, cuz I’m Richard Emmett Edwin Specht. So, I’m actually a Rees too, but I never went by it, I never did that. But, my mother in law… I was a junior. So, I was always called little Richie and I hated that. I hate, you know, I’m a big guy actually. So, you know, even as an adult, my dad passed away, you know, almost ten years ago and I’m still little Richie to everybody. So, and I didn’t want that for him. I was like, oh, we need another name; well we call them Reese, and I said, that’s not gonna work. I mean, he’ll be Rees Specht no! And, that’s where it started…
Eric: I think it’s great and I’m also oh, we’re not home. If I was at home, you see behind me tons of Superman stuff I have. I’m a Superman fan and I have a life-size Superman bust on my coffee table, and I’ve got Superman figures and statues and pictures. And yeah, I am obsessive Superman fun.
Rich: So am I, we have to share love. I’m a huge fan, so yeah that’s… I got the shirt on. I always have something super men on all the time. Actually, you know, I even have… I have a Superman wallet.
Eric: Someone gave me a superman wallet for my birthday a few years ago
Rich: Do you use it?
Eric: I do not because it was… I had a better wallet at the time, so I kind of…
Rich: Yeah, well, you’re an adult, you know. My daughter’s make fun of me like, dad you’re the only adult I know who shops for their wallet in the kids’ section.
Eric: It wasn’t made out of paper, I would have; it was like a cardboard cutting, but it was cool though. Absolutely, and I like the branding. So, I like the branding… you started with Rees Specht Life right? And then you got into the water safety stuff later, which is neat. So, can you talk a little bit about your foundation and kind of what you guys… what your mission is, and what your plan is?
Rich: Well, I mean, we started …when we first started it, I you know, I kind of fell into this… which I think a lot of parents in our situation do; we lost Rees two days before superstorm Sandy, to a drowning, and
Eric: You’re in the Northeast right?
Rich: Yeah, October 27, 2012, it was two days before Sandy was coming and I was getting ready for the storm. And, you know, we knew it was gonna hit, there was no doubt. I mean, this storm was to size the Atlantic Ocean and we knew it was coming. I told my wife I’m… we gotta get ready, you know, gotta get the house ready, and she was gonna go out and get all the food and stuff we needed to get through everything. And, at the time, we had three children, my daughters Abigail and Lorelei, was seven and five, and Rees was 22 months old. And, she was gonna take all three shopping. And, you know, I wanted to be, you know… I wanted to be the hero, and I saw he was acting up, being a typical toddler, and I could see the stress on her face and I said, you know, leave him home with me. Well, you can’t do both; you can’t watch, you know, him and take care of the furniture, and, you know, inside I agreed with her but I still wanted to, you know, just be that hero. And, I was like, don’t worry, I’ll figure it out. And so, she left, and she took my daughters and she left me with Rees. And, you know, I looked at him, I realized I can’t do both. I can’t, and I figured she’d come home that the furniture wouldn’t be done but at least I would have watched Rees and then my best friend called me and he said, I’m getting off work early do you mind if I stop over? And I said, no, no; can you come over right now. He’s like yeah, absolutely. And so, when he got there, and I asked him, you know, would you mind watching Rees while I put away the furniture? He’s like yeah, no problem. And so, I did. I got all the furniture way, and you know, when I went to go put that last piece away, my friend was standing there with Rees, and Rees had a toy he wasn’t supposed to have. And, I got angry and I took it away, and I said, you know, this isn’t meant for him; that’s it’s a choking hazard. And, my friend and I got into an argument. I calmed down, I said listen, just take it away from him, and I handed it to him. And, I went into my garage, I remember I close those garage doors. I gave myself five minutes to cool off, and when I was done, I walked back out came and, you know, came into my house and my friend was sitting there watching TV. And I said, where’s Rees? And he said, I thought he was with you. And that was it; it was those five minutes where he wandered into our back yard and he fell in the pond, and that was that. And then, of course, Sandy came and I didn’t care what happened to us. We lost our power for two weeks, I have no phone, no communication, my friends and family… actually, most of them lived down in Florida; they couldn’t even get up to see us because most of the flights got canceled. So, you want to talk about being completely isolated, it was just awful. And, I was just… I can’t imagine a worse, worst time in my life for me that was it, you know, you couple the storm with what happened to my son, and it’s… it was just the worst. And, you know, it’s also opened my eyes for the best. I think, you know that there’s a truth to this idea that, you know, in order to see the light, you have to have a darkness to contrast it by. And, it was a week after Rees died that we… this complete stranger shows up in my house, and he offered to clean up my yard. He was a landscaper, and when he came to my door, I remember it, and we really, you know, we had people coming and going, and friends and family. So, when the stranger showed up, I was just like oh god, you know who’s this? I opened the door and I see his shirt says, Kelly Brothers Landscaping, and he starts with, you know, I heard what happened with the little boy; is there anything I can do to help. And I just looked at him, I saw, you know, I saw his shirt, I just wanted to kind of, like you know, just cut to the chase. I’m like, you know, I really don’t need landscaping now, you know. He looked at me and said, Mr. Specht, I don’t want anything from you, you know. He’s like please, let us clean up your yard. And, I’m like, I don’t have the money. He’s like, I don’t want your money and he refuse to take no for an answer. And so, he did. He cleaned up our yard, he completely redesigned my whole yard, he completely cleaned it up and wouldn’t accept anything in return. And, he actually came back the next day after he cleaned it up, and you know, he said, you know, after we cleaned your home, I noticed that your landscaping is asymmetrical which was a really nice way of saying, it landscaping sucks. And, he said, you know, I’ve got some ideas to fix it up, and I stopped him again. I said, Mr. Kelly, I told you yesterday, I don’t have the money. And, he’s like, I don’t want your money. And I was like, it’s gotta be a catch, you know, somebody always wants something. And he didn’t. And he actually… he came back for the next week, and just completely redesigned my yard. I mean, just… it was like Extreme Makeover Home Edition. And like, I remember like three days into that, he stopped at my door again. He said, you know, what are you gonna with the pond? And, you know, I told him if I had to fill it in by hand, I would. Because, it wasn’t just when I say pond, everyone thinks this little puddle in the yard. It wasn’t… it was actually, it was like a little oasis in our backyard. It was one of the things that they sold us on the house, and it was also one of the things though that we knew was a danger, you know. I had… we had alarms put on our doors when we had kids. Because of that, we had a fence put around the yard with a self-locking gate. Because, I knew that that was an issue, you know. And then, I thought all right, everything’s taken care of, you know, we’re perfect parents, you know, we’re always keeping an eye on our kids, we’ve got alarms on our doors; Rees was signed up for swim lessons at 2 years old just like my daughters were. So, I, you know, figured everything was in place and, you know, I learned that that’s not the case. But then, you know, I had this man come and say, you know, I’m gonna fill in the pond, and I said, you know, you can’t. It’s too expensive, that’s too much, you know. You’ve done too much, and before I could say no, again you know, the backhoe was already pulling into my yard ready to just fill it in. And, you know, this day, he never took anything, you know, you wouldn’t let me advertise, he wouldn’t let me do anything. And, it stuck with me and everything that people did for us stuck with me. And, I said you know, we got to pay them back, and you know, I told my daughters and wife, we were sitting at the dinner table and I said we have to pay these people back, way to do something in return. And, I offered to do things, and everyone said no, it’s universal. No one have to pay them back, and so my older daughter says, daddy, you know, why don’t we just do random acts of kindness? And I said, you know, that’s great. Let’s just do that, and I said, how many should we do? My youngest daughter goes, five million. And, I’m like, I need a realistic number. We decided on 500, and I said you know, when we do it, we have to give people a reason. I want people to know why we’re doing it. I said, I think Rees’s name is perfect, you know, Rees Specht, isn’t that what everyone did for us? You know, treating others the way you’d want to be treated. And so, that’s where it came up, and Rees Specht Life. And we used the picture. Actually, you know, it’s not a coincidence; my last picture of him, that’s him dressed as Superman.
Eric: I saw that on the website,
Rich: Yeah, that was, you know, he… it was… the night before he died was my wife’s… they had a safe Halloween at her school. And so, they were gonna be like trick-or-treating and stuff. And so, he was dressed Superman; that’s my last picture of him. So, we took that, and we ran with it. We made this little card; so, there’s the card there, and for each one, we left one of the cards. So, for every act of kindness, we’d leave one of the cards. And, it turns out that when we started doing that, people we’re doing exactly what the back of the card said, which was you know, spread a little kindness, that’s all we asked, you know. You know, you the recipient of this act of kindness, please pass it on and do something super for someone else. And, they did, and it kept going. And then, people started asking us for the cards, and so…
Eric: So, what kind of acts of kindness were you doing for people?
Rich: Well just random ones. Like, the first one we did was actually probably my favorite one because of what started it all. We went to a Dunkin Donuts near my house and it was 7:30 in the morning on a Monday morning. It was over February break, like Presidents Day holiday, for my kids, and we pull up to a drive-through and, you know, my daughter’s in the backseat and I said like, I’m gonna pay for the car behind me, and my girls like yeah, that’s awesome dad, let’s do it. So, that’s what I did; I paid for the car behind me and I left the cart. And, I drove off and, you know, my girls were upset. They wanted me to like stop and interview the lady behind me that I just bought the coffee for. And I’m like no, no, no, I’m not doing that Nelly. But, we want to know her. And I was like, we’ll turn around what do you see? So, they turn around and they’re looking at the car behind me, and they start like… they start like, you know, narrating…oh, daddy, the lady waiting the Dunkin Donuts; is handing heard the card; daddy, the lady’s reading the card in the car daddy; she’s crying. You made the lady cry. I’m like, oh god, that’s not what I wanted. And then, she’s like now, the lady in the Dunkin Donuts is pointing at our car and I’m like, oh God. And then she’s like, oh the lady in the car, she’s smiling daddy. She’s waving at us; she’s smiling daddy. She’s getting out of her car, oh my god. And, I drove off right, because I wanted to be random, you know. And, I always wanted to be kind of like, almost like a clandestine active kindness, I didn’t want it to be overt, that’s why we did the cards. Um, so we would just do things like that. Like, you know, I would pay for someone’s dinner at a restaurant and stuff. And, you know, we ended up doing our 500 acts of kindness. It took us about… took us about probably about two years to do them all, but, along the way, all the cards we put out, people started ordering them from us. And, it just started growing and it grew up Long Island, it went into like Connecticut and it just kept growing out now, until basically, at you know, long story short, you know, here we are five years later. And, we’ve distributed five hundred thousand cards and to every continent on earth. So, that… they’ve gone everywhere, and it continues to grow. We get orders all the time; we get new stories of kindness all the time. And, you know, so when that happened, I said all right, we get this, we’re gonna make a foundation out of this, and so, that’s what we did, and we said we’re gonna be all about kindness, because we know it made the difference for us. And, I actually had people ask me, they said well, are you gonna do anything about water safety? And I said no, no, that’s like I failed at it, you know, drowning prevention, you know, I’m a failure, you know. What you know, why would I be the person who would advocate for water safety when I screwed up in the first place? And, they’re like yeah, but you know, you could share your story and make a difference. And, I was like you know, people are gonna know the story through what we do. So, I don’t think it’s necessary so I really, I avoided it big time. Both my wife and I, I think it just hits too close to home. And, we’re like, you know, let’s focus on what was positive for us, which was the kindness, you know.
Eric: And that makes perfect sense, you know, I think that’s a very natural reaction that I think a lot of people have.
Rich: Yeah, I mean, you know. I really felt hypocritical, you know, you want me to talk about water safety like you know… like I said, I failed at it, so I just wasn’t ready to do it. So, the foundation kind of took on this goal of doing kindness and spreading it. And, you know, the educator in me, I was a science teacher for 16 years, okay. The educator in me, you know, decided that I really want kids to get into this. So, I ended up writing a children’s book to reinforce that idea without telling you know… I wanted kids understand this power of kindness, but I didn’t want them to be burdened with our story. And, I want them to know that, you know, my son had died, and this is why I wanted that, you know. I wanted to kind of distill that the essence of what our foundation was about down to its basic roots. And, I said you know, in that way what we’re doing is really planting little seeds, and you know, those seeds don’t grow unless you do the things to cultivate them. And, Rees’s favorite thing in the world was tractors, so you know, just this idea of making the story about him being a farmer, riding around on his favorite tractor named tractor and spreading those seeds of kindness and getting other people to help those seeds to grow, was kind of a natural thing. So, you know, I wrote the book and then things really took off from there. And, I had places asking me to come and speak about our experience and it was… it would vary, like, you know, kid there’s kindergarten groups wanted me to come and read the book. But, I had like high schools and colleges wanting me to share our story about what we did and how we kind of turned this around, and it kind of took on a life of its own, and that became another aspect of what the foundation did. And, I actually ended up leaving teaching and now, you know, I’ve gone around the country telling our story and trying to inspire kids to, you know, choose kindness, you know. Because, it is a difference maker, obviously, it made all the difference for us.
Eric: And so, how long have you doing it full-time?
Rich: I just finished my third year of doing it, so…
Eric: Wow, that’s awesome
Rich: Yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, it certainly put me in a different life trajectory than I thought I’d be for sure. I’m still teaching, it’s just my classroom changes every day. But yeah, the water safety thing came separately- completely separately. I kind of fell into that too.
Eric: So, I mean, you did decide to get into it eventually, so you had a few iterations first, you know, Rees Specht Life right, was that first?
Rich: Yeah, the Foundation’s name is the Rees Specht Life Foundation
Eric: And then Rees Specht Kindness which is the book I’m guessing, right?
Rich: Yeah, it was actually A Little Respect Cultivates Kindness…
Eric: So, that’s awesome, and who illustrated the book.
Rich: Um, actually a friend of mine since kindergarten, my friend Adam Smith, we know… when we developed the cards, when are we gonna do the cards, I immediately reached out to Adam and I said, you know, you’re an amazing artist and, you know, I’ve known you my whole life
Eric: He’s amazing.
Rich: Yeah, he’s always been like… I was in kindergarten… so, I have… I tell the story like, I remember in kindergarten when I’m still trying to color within the lines, you know, and I couldn’t and then here he is like drawing his own characters and coloring in the line. I’m like wow, I didn’t know you could do that. So, he’s always been an amazing artist and, you know, he got better as we got older. So, after Rees had pass and we decided we were doing this, you know, it was a no-brainer for me and I reached out to Adam and asked, would you mind doing like a little logo, you know. I want something that stands out, but I want it to be positive I wanted everything to be positive I didn’t want this to be a tragedy, I wanted to be kind of like that triumph over, you know, the worst thing, you know. I wanted people to be inspired by it, I wanted people to realize that there is coming back from awful things that’s, you know, it’s a choice and I wanted something that embodied all that. I told him all this, and like the next day, he develops that, you know, he develops the logo for the card which is, you know, right there. So, that’s a little character of Rees, and I was like, perfect that’s what I wanted. I wanted something that solicited happiness. And so, when I came over the idea for the book, there was no one else I was reaching out to and, you know, we really put it together superfast. It literally took only a couple months and, you know, had it out and self-published and it was a huge success. And, you know, we have actually two more books coming out now, one is a water safety book actually, and another one is for… ** but yeah so that was all a part of what we did. Like I said, it was that natural growth of the kindness aspect of the foundation.
Eric: So, why did you decide to start talking about water safety?
Rich: I don’t know if I so much decided on it as much as I was eventually convinced. I was at a… we were at a fundraiser for another local foundation here on the island that had awarded us a Community Service Award for what we were doing. And, I knew the founder that the founder was a parent in the school district I taught at and with someone she invited us. She… actually, I didn’t know we have won this awards; when we get to the fundraiser we find out we win the award, it was like oh wow, overwhelming. But then, she had another plan. She knew of a water safety advocate here on Long Island, his name is Bobby Hazen.
Eric: I know Bobby
Rich: Yeah, of course, and he’s one of the co-owners of Safety Swim, swim schools know Long Island, it’s the biggest Swim School in Long Island. And, I mean… and he’s the founder of End Drowning Now, which was originally the Long Island drowning prevention task force. And so, he was there that night as well. And so, her second goal was to get us together. So, after we had received the reward, so had Bobby, they had gotten a separate award, and she’s like, you need to meet, you need to talk and she’s** that happened. I’m like, this is what I want to do, and I was like, all right. So, Bobby sits down with me, he’s like, you know, I’d love to talk to you about, you know, maybe doing some stuff together. And, I stopped them right there and I said, I don’t mean to be rude; I said that, you know, but I want nothing to do with water safety. I was like, you know, I think what you’re doing is great and people like you need to keep doing what you’re doing. And, I really stopped there and he handed me his card and he said, you know, like I’d really like to sit down and talk to you maybe when you feel up doing. It’s like please, please come in and just talk with me, just once. And so, I took the card and kind of half-heartedly like yeah, I’ll do it and then I don’t think I reached back out to him. And he reached out to me, kept reaching out to me; he’s like, please, you know, please come and sit with me. And so, eventually, I relented and I went to his office and I sat down in his office. And, I remember I had the same feeling like I don’t want to be here, ii don’t want to talk about this, it’s not something I want. And, I remember him sitting across from me and he was talking. I couldn’t even tell you what he was saying because I think I was just tuning it out, and then I remember looking right behind him and the motto for Safety Swim is “Where children learn to love and respect the water”. And so, right behind his head it says, “…respect the water…” right. And, I stopped right there. I didn’t… like I said, I didn’t remember what he was saying. I looked at him I’m like, oh my god, your motto. He’s like, what… he turns around, he looks at it, and he said, yes, respect the water. I’m like, all right, I’m in…and he’s like, what? I was like, yes, Rees Specht the water; I make this would be perfect and then, you know, my gears started spinning. And, I was like, I think that there’s something we can do here. And, you know, it’s like the problem solver and me found my problem. And now, I knew what I wanted to do and, you know, and the rest is history. And then, we got together and the first thing I told him, he needed to do is like, I said the name of the organization was the Long Island Drowning Prevention task force and I was like Bobby, that name is awful. I was like, it’s too long I was like, we need to get to the point. It’s got to be something that tells everyone why it meets, you know, why this is a problem, how we’re gonna solve it. It needs to be short and so, we brainstorming. I’m like, you know, how about like project and drowning? And, he’s like no, no, no and he’s like, what about like… and drowning. And, drowning now, yes that’s it. And drowning now. And so, we ended up changing the name of the organization. It’s funny because, well Long Island Drowning prevention task force was kind of a name but it didn’t have an actual organization behind it. It wasn’t a non-profit, and he’s like oh I’ve been trying to get the nonprofit status but we haven’t been able to do it. And I was like, you know, why don’t you guys just become a part of what we do? And so, we kind of absorbed End Drowning Now. And, I said, let’s make it, you know, official. So, I said, you know, let’s make the program that you guys are doing and we’ll call it Rees Specht the Water. Because they had started doing these school shows where they were speaking to the kids about water safety, which I’m like, this is perfect because I do school shows talking to kids about kindness.
Eric: They’re connected to Safer Three right.
Rich: Yeah. They’ve been working with Safer three and Stop Drowning Now.
Eric: Okay, I was getting…
Rich: Yeah well Safe Three is a part of Stop Drowning Now. So yeah. So, when they do the school shows they use the Safer Three characters, ** starfish and all that. So yeah, so it’s, you know, it all became… it all came together and we were started working on these shows, and then using, you know, well I had spoken to so many schools in Long Island that, you know, I’ve seen just about… there’s over three hundred elementary schools on Long Island, I’ve spoken it like two hundred seventy of them. Well so, I’ve been all over, and I was like, you know, that’s the age group we want to hit. So, in safety swim recognized this too and I’m like, this is a great opportunity to get, you know, word out about drowning prevention, you know. It’s like, you know, I know you talk about the kindness, but can we incorporate it. So, I struggled with that because I was like, you know, I don’t …kindness is one thing, water safety is another thing. Like, I don’t know how you do both. So, we had been struggling how to do it. I said well, I think Rees, you know, the character Rees is the perfect conduit to do that. So, we kind of hatch this idea to develop a book that is a water safety book that uses Rees as the character in it. So, that’s what we we’ve been working on, that actually… it’s still in development but that’s what we are doing.
Eric: Sela McCarrier who’s an ISR instructor, she just wrote and said that your books are great. She gave one all of her swim meets for the first two sessions here in Ohio.
Rich: That’s awesome.
Eric: Yes, all of her students are getting your books which is really cool.
Rich: Well, we have the… actually, I’m gonna move the camera, hopefully**. We have the… there it is… so that’s the cover for the water safety book that’s coming out.
Eric: It’s awesome.
Rich: So, we’re working on that right now,
Eric: I’m going to not nitpick your pool fence, I’m just gonna stop myself from doing that.
Rich: I’m not the artist. So, I had told Adam, I said you know, usually picks things out of my brain. So, I think we need to **, we need these safety devices if you can put them in there. And so, that’s what he did.
Eric: Perfect. It looks great. Yeah absolutely, so um, and I asked this question a lot cuz, you know, unfortunately better or worse, you know, I end up talking to a lot of parents who have lost someone. And, there’s always someone who is responsible for supervision. Are you still friends with your friend?
Rich: No, but it’s not for the reason you would think. I mean, it’s related to it but, you know, after… I did not blame my friend after Rees had past, you know, I remember that night vividly, you know. He’s like, oh my god you know, it’s my fault. And, you know, I made it a point that night, I said no, it’s not, you know, it was an accident, you know. You thought he was with me, I thought he was with you, you know, the end, you know. I said you know if it were anything else then the police would be charging one of us was something I was like, that’s so, it was an accident. And, I stood by that and I never pointed a finger of blame, I never felt, you know, that you know, that’s something I’ve always felt deeply, you know. We always… society I think looks at things black and white. When, I think the reality is more gray, and you know kind of our sense of justice falls into this, like someone has to be at fault. And, I was like, you know, the fault here is miscommunication, you know. My friend thought he was with me, I thought it was with him that’s the end, you know. I, you know, what more can you say. And so, I stood by that so for, you know, my friend and I stayed friends for the next couple of months. Unfortunately, Child Protective Services was involved, and they wanted to point the finger of blame at somebody; there had to be someone who had to be at fault. And, they contacted me and said, you know, we think that you’re …you were negligent as a parent, and they tried telling me that, you know, I was a child abuser, that they… so they… New York State Child Protective Services was going to label me a child abuser for what had happened to my son, and I said how is that abuse? I said, you know, I did everything I could, you know, what more could I’ve done? I said, I know I asked a friend to watch him, there was a miscommunication between us. I’m like, you know, I can understand if I had, you know, thrown my son into the pond, sure, lock me up. I said, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish here, and I had asked the agents that, I said, you know, what are you actually trying to accomplish? How does this serve the greater good? Because, if it does… if you can give me a reason, then I’m all for it, you know. If… what if what you’re gonna do to me is gonna help other families and prevent this, then fine. But well, how is this serving the greater good? They never had an answer, you know, it was always well, this is what we have to do. And I said, there’s a problem with that, you know. And yeah, so I called my friend I said listen, I need you to help me here. I need you to tell them that you… to back up that I asked you to watch Rees, and he… I’ll never forget it… he said to me, he’s like, I can’t do that. And I said, what do you mean? I was like, you know, that’s what happened. He goes, yeah but, you know, I want to have kids one day and they’d been talking to me, and yeah, I’ve been advised not to tell you that no, I can’t help you. So, I found out he’d already gotten a lawyer, they had actually gotten a lawyer; his parents had actually gotten him a lawyer pretty much right away. Well, they were afraid I was gonna to sue them for wrongful death, which again it’s something I would never do. And, it’s, you know, so it was this whole legal situation that ended up driving u a part. And, you know, and that kind of in our friendship. But you know what’s interesting is that, I’ve actually reached out with him over the years, said come on sit down with me …. let’s go grab a coffee, let’s talk. And if… he actually still will not sit and talk with me. So, you know, I tried. But, you know, I can’t control how he acts and how he responded to this, but you know, I eventually was vindicated with CPS. So, though it took me a year to fight them off and to fight for myself and pay for my own lawyer, but it would’ve been a lot easier, had my friend just joined me and said no, look this is what happened. Instead, you know, he kind of let me be and I’ll don’t forget that the day of the hearing with CPS, you know. I kind of… my romantic view of the world had him coming into the meeting and saying, no, no this is what happened, and I remember I kept waiting for him to show up but he never did because I had invited him. I said, you know, please come me this is your chance to help me, he never did. But, you know, we took care of it ourselves. But, yeah unfortunately, that’s how it went down. But, you know, I don’t blame him.
Eric: And, the crappy part about those CPS investigations is, they’re happening at the literally the absolute worst possible time, you know, at the time when you probably feel like you don’t want to deal with fighting it. And, you know, it’s kind of a double whammy, you know.
Rich: Absolutely, and you know, I, you know, I had asked – I said oh, you know, what does this serve, what is the good of this? And they never had an answer for me, and that bothered me. And, I said, you know, I was a teacher and I had students that needed intervention and we’re called you guys you did nothing. Yeah, I said, but here you are trying to prosecute me when, you know, all I did was let you in my house, you know. And, everyone else said, you know, just tell them, you know, no and, you know, that’s a whole other story but it’s a fight I want nothing of anymore, you know. We, you know, I had to go through it; we got through it and, you know, I just I hope it doesn’t happen in of his families that’s, you know, because they should be there for a positive outcome as opposed to what they did to us.
Eric: Absolutely, so how long ago did you link up with Bobby?
Rich: Ah, it was about four years ago now that Bobby and I got together.
Eric: So… and you’ve been doing water safety ever since?
Rich: Yeah, we’ve been. I mean, you know, the way I look at it, it’s like… it’s kind of like a two-headed monster. Bobby really focuses on the water safety aspect of things, and I kind of defer to him, you know, when it comes to water safety ideas. And I still do the kindness stuff… well I should say I still did the kindness as of this year. Next year I’ll… but I’ll be doing both, so next year I’m gonna be doing the water safety shows and the kind of shows, you know, safety swim basically, said we want Bobby back and we came up with a solution that would enable me to do the water safety shows, and him to still be a part of what we do kind of behind the scenes approach. So, in a way, our roles are reversing again because whereas I was more behind the scenes and he was upfront, now it will become me being upfront and him kind of behind the scenes helping guiding what we’re doing.
Eric: So, what is a typical show look like?
Rich: Which one? Water safety show are the kindness show?
Eric: Pick one, whether the water safety show or the kindness.
Rich: Um, it… well it depends. My kindness shows that we do, I do different versions electric can’t you – it’s all based on my book. I actually have an animated version of my book that I do with the kids and it’s interactive where I, you know, I have some seeds and I asked them how they grow. And, you know, I sing with them and, you know, we get them, we try to inspire them to go out and spread their own little seeds of kindness. And actually… and all the kids, I’m getting a little card that says you’ve been given the seed of kindness with the help of little Rees Specht. So, it’s a play on our cards except it doesn’t actually have our story. Again, I don’t want them to know so, you know, which is great to these kindergarten through second grade kids. To them, Little Rees Specht is a character who’s all about kindness, and that’s all they know. For the older kids, for like three through five, I do tell them our story, I don’t tell them that we passed though; I tell them if there was an accident and I leave it at that. So, I don’t get into any of the, you know, the parts of the story. So, there’s no normal mention of water safety or anything in there because they don’t know that he drowned. But I do tell them that he had an accident and I kind of wrap it around what Mr. Kelley did for us and these people. And then, I talk about how we went out and spread those, you know, seeds of kindness, how we came up with the cards and everything. So… and again, I try to inspire them to go out and do it themselves which is the goal. So, they all get the seed of kindness card too. So, it’s so I related to these seeds again, but I, you know, it’s a little bit more real to them. And then, when I speak to high schools and like junior High’s and colleges, I tell them the whole thing, you know, they know. And I, you know, I talk about choice and I talk about perspective, and you know, really trying to get them to think a little bit differently about how they see the world. And, I add a lot of science to it. I was a science teacher, so I actually do a couple of experiments that kind of reinforce what I’m talking about. So, I try to make it as interactive and it’s engaging as possible, because that’s who I was as a teacher to, you know, I was that crazy science teacher, you know. Like, when you think of a prototypical crazy science teacher who likes things on fire or blow things up, runs into walls that was me. So… and so, it’s kind of… me and my presentations too. And the water safety shows, you know, along that same vein we have it broken down into a younger group for a K through 2. And then, the older group they’re like the 3 to 5. K through 2 has a lot of singing and dancing and, you know, the characters from the safer three. And, you know, telling them all the important parts of water safety, you know, never swim alone, you know – no horseplay around the pool. What to do when someone is struggling, you know. So, all of that stuff is incorporated into it, but it’s, you know, trying to get them to engage in it. So, teaching them the water safety rules and, you know, what they…all the aspects of water safety and to meet it, you know. I think the thing that’s left out – the most important part I think, of those safety shows is the adults who are there watching. Because, you know, that to me is what’s missing; is the adult ignorance of water safety, you know. So, my hope is that as these adults are watching the water safety shows too, they go like, you know, maybe I can do a little bit better with that or, you know… I mean, all things… I never looked at, you know, I look at pictures of my friends on Facebook. And, when I see their pools and there’s no offense around it, I freak out, you know. My first instinct is like one attention, you know, message. I’m like, why don’t you have a fence around your pool? You know, all these things that I never thought of, either you know, before this had happened before, my perspective the change. So, that’s all things that we try to teach the kids and those in the shows.
Eric: So, what are some of the experiments that you do in the kindness show?
Rich: One of them that I do. My favorite one is, it’s called an iodine clock reaction. Um, you may have seen this like Mr. Wizard did this. You ever watched Mr. Wizard when you’re a kid?
Eric: I may have there was a long time ago.
Rich: Okay, so I still love that show but it’s a really cool reaction to it. Basically, the reaction starts, you have these two clear beakers so that you have these two beakers that are… have a clear fluid in them and as far as the kids know it’s just water. So, what I do is, actually I call a student up to be my friend because I talk to them about how bullying starts, because everyone has this, you know. What am I, my biggest pet peeves is when people say they’re anti-bullying. I hate that mostly because it’s like double negative; like you know, your anti- something that’s already negative right. So, I’m going to tell them, you know, well I’m Pro kind, you know, not anti-something. But… and I always… one of my reasons for that is because people really don’t know what a bully really is, you know, and kids use it wrong all the time. Like, my daughter’s ones picking on the other one to say oh, they’re bullying me, I’m like that’s not bullying. And so, I use the experiment to try to show them what bullying truly is and that a bully can be anybody and it could be a best friend; it can be a family member and, you know, the bully doesn’t see that often. So, I pull someone from the audience and so, you guys you’re gonna represent my best friend. And, I hand him one of these clear beakers and I have my clear beaker, and you know, the liquid in there, like I said, it’s clear, and I say, you know, we’re best friends so, you know, these beakers kind of represent our feelings with each other. And, you know, we’re nice and clear, and I said… and then, I’ll ask the student, I said, are our friends always nice to one another? And, it’s funny because the second I asked that question, their first reaction is to go like, well yeah, but then the realization hits in and they go ‘no’, right. Cause, like right, I was like so, if I did something to hurt you, right, as your best friend what can I do to make up for it, you know. Because obviously, if we’re best friends, if I do something to hurt you, I can fix it somehow. How do I do that? And then, universally, we’ll say you’re sorry, okay. So, I can say I’m sorry, that makes it all better, right. I say well yeah, that’s right. Well, let’s see. And so, I take my beakers and I hold them up and I say okay, so this is, you know, my friends feelings, these are my feelings. I say I do something to hurt you, it’s kind of me hurting you with my words, my feelings. So, I mix the two beakers together and I say see, in our minds, we think everything’s perfectly clear, we’re perfectly fine. So, I hold the beakers back up and then about 15 seconds later, both beakers will turn instantaneously, turn pitch-black. And I said but, this is what’s happening on the inside. When you say hurtful things, you do hurtful things to someone, it changes them, it hurts them on the inside. I said, but you know, you can’t see someone’s feelings. So, you know, I think it’s funny when we… if we hurt someone physically, we can see the blood, we can see the bruise and we think of things we can do to actually treat what we did, you know, no one would think that if I cut someone, just saying ‘I’m sorry’ stop the bleeding, right. So… but when we hurt someone’s feelings, we think saying I’m sorry is the beginning and the end and, it’s not and so now, I have… now, we have these two beakers and I point out to the kids, I said notice it wasn’t just their beaker that changed, it was also money because actions have reactions. So, you know, I brought us both down by hurting each other. I said, but here’s the most important part, I have them hold up their beaker and I go up to the beach. when I go, “I’m sorry,”… nothing happens. And then I said, “I’m really sorry,”… nothing happens and so I leave it at that. And I say, you know, but that’s not bullying. I said, this is the mistake that people make. They thought that that was being the bully, that’s not. So, then I take that student beaker and I say, you know, what makes someone the bully is when you start from here. We start from these feelings, this darkness, and then I have on the stage, I have other beakers that are filled with just water and they’re clear. I said, actually what makes you the bully is that when you feel like this… when you have this negativity that you decide you’re gonna make others feel that way, that you’re gonna bring them down to your level. So, I take that dark beaker and I pour a little bit out into each of those other beakers. They all turn dark and I said that’s the bully because it’s a choice they’re choosing to take how they feel and make others feel that way too. And that’s exerting a power over someone, trying to prove that, you know, your way is the right way. And that, you know, my feelings. If I feel this way, you’re gonna feel this way too. I said, so being a bully is a choice, and they can see it. And, as you know, there’s this powerful reinforcement that, you know, when they walked in, they saw these beakers on the stage and they were all clear. And now, they’ve all been turned pitch-black and I actually leave the beakers there. And then I tell our story about, you know, kindness, and I tell them Mr. Kelley did for me and I actually pull up one of the beakers and I say, you know guys, this beaker just, you know, the darkness… I said, that’s… that happened to me when Rees died, that’s how, you know, when Rees was ** now don’t tell me died if it’s the other kids. Um, so… but, you know, where these feelings come from doesn’t matter, and I had this, you know, this darkness, these sadness, this anger, and said, so this is how I felt on the inside. And then, I pull out another beaker and I say, but here’s what Mr. Kelly did, and so, I have another fluid in that, this is third that represents Mr. Kelly and I pour his in that represents his kindness, and it turns my fever from pitch black into crystal clear again. So now, it’s clear. And I say, well that’s what kindness does and then the best part is, is then I talk about how our foundation, what we did with the cards and stuff and how they spread out. And, what I do is, I actually take my beaker now that has Mr. Kelly’s kindness, and I pour a little bit of my beaker into that next speaker that’s dark and it clears that one up and then I take that beaker and pour its contents into the next speaker and it clears that one up, and I take that beaker and successively pouring each one in clears each other one up until eventually, now all the beakers on the stage are turned back to crystal clear. You know, to kind of give them this idea that, you know, that’s a little bit of kindness goes a long way. So, it’s just this visual reinforcement of what we do. So, that’s my favorite experiment, that’s the one that I really gets done. And I do that experiment, actually, with almost all the me presentations I do, because it’s such a powerful reminder, it’s this, you know, it’s this, you know, this visual that you normally can’t see, you know. This is how we feel, this is how, you know, actions have reactions, you know. It was right.
Eric: Yeah, absolutely. That’s super cool, have you heard of it? I’ve heard of any kids doing any acts of kindness or any of the people you’ve given cards to?
Rich: Oh yeah, thousands. We have a section on our site where people can share their stories, and we constantly get stories shared or on our Facebook page. A lot of teachers will actually send me letters. I have literally binders full of letters from kids; binders, and I keep them all. So, you know, I tell the kids that if you like share stories, I keep them all. So, whether digitally or, you know, written on paper, I have you know, literally thousands of stories of acts of kindness, you know, big and small all you know sometimes. It’s just a kid, you said, you know. I got my neighbor’s cat out of a tree, you know, I had another one where someone left a $3,000 tip on a waitress’s bill because he had heard that she was having a tough time. So, you know, it ranges from all different, you know, values. And, I always, you know, it’s funny because that $3,000 tip story that actually went viral when that… when I’d been given a copy of that receipt. I shared it on our Facebook page and said Wow, I mean, wow. What an act of kindness, you know, someone left a three thousand dollar tip. And actually, didn’t even have one of our cards which I think is cool. So, on the back of the receipt, the person who left this wrote our story and wrote about why he was doing it, how we had inspired this and, you know, asking the waitress and then pay forward to when she’s able to. So, when I had shared that picture, it went viral I had like different news people reaching out to me like Today Show, and I had actually reported and reach out Germany and, you know, it’s funny they all universally asked me the same question: is this the biggest act of kindness your foundations ever seen. And, my answer to them universally was no. and, they’d be like, oh my god, what was? And, I would always answer ‘no’. We always throw them off. I’d be like, I don’t know, the last one. Yeah, what was that, I was like I don’t know. And, they’re like, I don’t get it. I said well, that’s the problem. You’re putting a value on kindness where it’s just the act that matters. It doesn’t matter how big it was, how small it was. I said, so no, this isn’t the biggest act because they’re all big acts. And, it’s funny none of them got it though. So, okay you that’s not what they want to be hearing or they wanted to hear, ‘yes, is the biggest one’. Like, oh my god, you know. I want it to be about the kindness and not about, you know, a dollar value or anything like that, which is again, I think a societal thing, where we trying to, you know, put a value on everything; everything has to, you know, be more- better, you know. No, you do something nice, it’s nice, the end. You know, just keep doing it.
Eric: Right, and it’s hard, you know, because I was even hesitant to ask you if you had a highlight or a favorite because I had the same thought, you know. I really did, I got… even before you said it. Because, you know, they’re all, you know, awesome in their own way, you know.
Rich: I do have a favorite, I’m gonna be honest, I do have a favorite. And, I actually share in the shows. There was a little boy who his mom had received the card in a drive thru, and they got it at the drive-thru. And then they went to a petting zoo that’s here on the island, and the little boy saw that you had to feed in order to feed the animal, you had to pay. So, he asked his mom, he said well, mom what about the boys or girls who don’t have money to pay to feed the animals? And she said, well they can’t feed the animals. So, he’s like, mom I know what you’re gonna do with that card. So… and he took out his allowance money and said, I want to pay for it; can we? Can I pay for any…and, the mom had written to me and shared me the picture and said, he came up with this on his own. That’s it, this was all his own thinking. I was like, all right, this is awesome, this was like seven-year-old boy who had just experienced the kindness himself, seeing what he had done to his mother and then decided to use it. So, that’s my favorite story because I think that just… that’s just everything I had ever hoped for from what we did.
Eric: I’m sure your own kids have to be, you know, I mean the example that they’ve, you know, seen through this, has had to have shapes them, you know. I mean, I mentioned they must be kinder people. It would be hard not to be.
Rich: I would hope so. I’m, you know, I don’t… I almost feel it’s like self-serving if I say yeah, they’re the best kid that ever. I mean, obviously every kid has their issues, but you know, they are there. I think they’ve been shown a way that, you know, a coping mechanism and an understanding of how important kindness is. They do exhibit it, you know. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, but both my daughter’s won their character Awards in their fifth grade year from their school. There’s actually two award given out by the New York State Attorney General called the triple C award. It’s for courage, conviction and compassion and both my daughter’s want it and as you know, there’s only one or two recipients from each school that gets it. And, it’s selected by the Attorney General and they both got it. So, you know, I think they’re both kind of dedicated to this and carrying on their brother’s name and being kind, you know, we have shirts that say cultivate kindness, my middle daughter wears one almost all the time. So, you know, I think in her school she’s known as the kindness girl. So, you know, I love that because you know it is the difference maker. So…and they know it makes a difference.
Eric: For sure, does your wife work?
Rich: Yeah, she’s uh… she’s still teaching, she’s a high school German teacher actually, so she teaches in the same district that I used to teach. And, I actually… I literally just resigned from my district, so I took a three-year leave of absence and wanted to see if this whole speaking thing would, you know, work out. It had, so… but she’s still teaching so… and she helps run the foundation too, so she kind of puts on two hats. She actually crosses every order that comes in so all the cards, basically all the five hundred thousand cards that have gone out, have pretty much pass through her hands well, and every book, everything, it all comes out, she processes, all of them.
Eric: What grade do you teach?
Rich: I taught middle school, so I… mostly for sixteen years. I basically taught seventh and eighth grade.
Eric: And, did you always know you wanted to be an educator?
Rich: No, when I was in college, I was pre-med, I did all the pre-med programs like, I said I’m gonna be a doctor. I am the not becoming a doctor and I didn’t wash out the typical way, I actually, the people who’d made it through the pre-med program were taken to a local hospital to kind of meet up with residents and people had just finished med school to kind of get an idea of what your path was going to be. And, when we were on this little tour in the hospital, one of the residents had taken us to a room. It was this woman who was a burn victim and she had like third-degree burns over 75% of her body. And, we weren’t allowed to go in the room over outside the room, and he was sharing a story and I could hear her moaning and I got sick. And, I walked out, and I was like that this isn’t for me. And, one of the doctors came up and spoke to me, he’s like, don’t worry, it’s natural. I said, no, no, you don’t understand, I was like I know. Like, this isn’t what I want, I wouldn’t be able to handle this. I would be, you know, empathetic and like, I can’t deal with people suffering and I want to fix it and if I felt that I couldn’t, I’d feel like a failure. I knew I was… like that was the moment where I realized, and I’d always had that in the back of my head, oh I’ll be able to get over it, and that was a moment I really… I couldn’t. and, I remember I went home that night I said to my mom, ‘mom, I can’t… this isn’t what I’m gonna do.’ And, I thought she was gonna kill me, she just paid for four years of college. Like, it already… I had actually already put in my application for the MCATs and she said… she’s like, no whatever you decide to do, you can do. I was like, I don’t know what’s gonna be and I started… I decide I was gonna start doing research. So, I actually got involved in a research track was actually doing research on HIV, didn’t like that. I was like, alright, I’m not a scientist either because I can’t sit in the lab all day, that’s just who I am, I need to interact with people and lab science is actually like 95 percent of it is incredibly, incredibly isolating. But, one of the things we had to do in our research was do a seminar that presented our research to the undergrads, and so my seminar class talking about our research was a hit and because I brought in all these visuals and I was doing all this stuff that, you know, wasn’t just me just droning on about what we were doing, and I had people come up afterwards and they said, you know, Jimmy thing about becoming a teacher. And, I remember my answer was, no, why would I only want to be a teacher. I’m like, you know, like it was beneath me. Like, you know, and that was again a societal thing; like you know teachers, you know those who can do, those who can’t teach. And, I was like, now I never really thought of it and the more I thought about the feedback I got, and the more I thought about how much I enjoy it, I start to think, this is something to pursue. So, after I had left on school, I actually came back home, and I entered into a teaching program and never looked back and loved every minute of it. So, you know, I kind of again, I fell into it but thank God, because I mean it’s just… it was what I was meant to do.
Eric: Yeah, absolutely. And, it seems to be a good fit for you and, you know, I loved the article you wrote on your website about why.
Rich: Oh yeah, yeah, that was just…
Eric: It’s great,
Rich: You know. When I wrote that, that was… actually, I wrote that the night our power came back on, well with Sandy… so I had been itching to write. That’s the other thing I like to do; I write a lot. I had been itching to write something, but I can’t do it unless I’m typing. I can’t write it on paper and we had no power, so the night my power came back on, I had written that because, you know, it’s …and yeah, like when I wrote that it was about making these connections because my… I guess that’s that kind of like the scientific brain I have to… there has to be an answer to my questions, you know. And, if there’s not an answer, I need to find it, you know. So, yeah… so that’s where that came from.
Eric: And, I’m glad you guys have started doing the water safety for a whole bunch of reasons. But, one of it being, you know, there’s no question that you and your wife… you’re both teachers, you’ve got this drive to spread kindness and you’re obviously like awesome, amazing people, you know. No one can look at you guys and say well, there’s an example of, you know, of bad parents right, and you know, a lot of times you hear like, you know, I’m a good mom so my kids not going to drown. And, the reality is, I think with very few exceptions, you know, every set of parents I’ve talked to, you are all good parents and the more we can do to shatter that, you know, that error, that misrepresentation and the more examples we have, unfortunately, you know, I think the better it does for drowning prevention and water safety to know that; know what happens to really, really good parents and I think those examples are important. So, I’m glad that you’re out there, you know, showing how awesome you are because it’s important for us, you know.
Rich: I agree with you. When I speak to parents, you know, I asked them, how many of you have ever had this moment where you say, oh my god, where’s my… where are they, and they always ahead. And I said… and how many of you it ended positively that you found them, and you go, well thank God say you all raise your hands, I said, notice who’s not and it was me. And I said… and there’s this statistic right there, said, you know, what we’re all perfect parents until we’re not. And, you know, and we’ve all had that moment where I said oh, I thought Johnny was with you, I thought they were with you, and then you know, we find them and their safe, you know. I had those moments before Rees died. I’ve had those moments after Rees died. So, even with what I know, I know I’m not the perfect parent, and I think that’s the misconception that we have here, especially is that, you know, all know if I’m the perfect parent then nothing’s gonna happen to my child, and that’s not the case, you know. Accidents happen and there are levels of protection that you need to have and, you know, god I wish I had known that I could have started Rees on swim lessons earlier than two, because he would have been in, you know. My youngest daughter Melina has been in swim lessons since she’s three months old, and you know the thing is that pond that Rees drown in was 18 inches deep. He could have stood up and he died. He panicked in the water and he drowned, and he had no familiarity with the water and he had no respect for the water. And, had he had that, my son would be here today. And so, regardless of that break down between my friend and I, had that other level protection been there, I wholeheartedly believe he’d be here. But you know what, he didn’t, and he didn’t because of my ignorance and my ignorance is something that could have been corrected had, you know, there have been more widely available information about all the levels of protection. Which is why as an educator, I realized that education is the key to stopping this, you know. When I see kids out riding with bike helmets every day and I think back to my childhood where no one wore it, because the day you wear it, you were loser. And now it’s ubiquitous. And, I think well the reason that happened is education; people were educated about the need for this, and that’s what’s missing in water safety is this widespread education that needs to happen which is why that’s what we’re trying to do. Because, you know, the educator in me realizes that’s where it’s got to start because you can’t solve a problem until people realize the problem exists, and you can’t… if you don’t know a problem exists, it means you’re not… you’re ignorant and the cure for ignorance is education. So therefore, that’s the solution as far as I’m concerned.
Eric: And…I know you’re 100 percent right. And, you know, there’s a lot of people doing stuff in water safety, and I think that you guys are on a particularly effective track. And, I like it a lot, I really do. I think you guys are doing awesome fantastic work.
Rich: Thank you.
Eric: And, I hope you guys keep going with it for a long, long time.
Rich: I plan on being in this for the long haul.
Eric: So, before we wrap up, so I got to know why Superman?
Eric: Why is he my favorite hero?
Eric: Okay, um…
Rich: Choice. Yes, that, you know, I think everyone hasn’t wrong about Superman that his greatest power is like, you know, his strength or his flight and everything like that. Um, you know, actually, and I’m sure you know this… his true power is his ability to choose to do good with the power he has, because he is literally the unstoppable force, with that… That means that nothing you know, he there’s literally, no restraint. See, we need to have like, if he wanted money, he can just go take it out of the bank right.
Rich: But… so his true superpower is his character, is his choice. So, in a very real way, that comes back to everything that we’re about because it’s a choice. So, that’s why Superman stands out to me because you know, he’s got that great power and… I know I’m ripping off spider-man, but he’s chosen responsibility for that power as opposed to and command and dedicating that power to the betterment of everyone else, not just himself. right to me that is the embodiment of everything that I believe in which is why you know I’m a Superman guy. That’s funny, my roommate in college is a Batman guy and I was like you know, that is the opposite of Superman, you know. Come on, you know, he’s all about himself, about making himself feel better and, you know, I realized he’s fighting crime but, you know, to me Superman it’s… it’s his choice and that’s his superpower. So, that’s why it’s always been…
Eric: Well, everyone is a Batman fan, it’s rare to find it other Superman fans. So, I’m glad to know you… there’s not that many of us, you know.
Rich: Yeah, yeah, well certainly not as many as Batman…
Eric: Yeah, and I’m sad about the recent movies but that’s a whole …another discussion, you know.
Rich: Yeah, we actually… we’ve done a fundraiser for Man of Steel when it came out and I remember afterwards I was like, ah man, sorry, that’s like… that’s not my Superman,
Eric: But yeah, I thought Men of Steel was okay, you know. But it wasn’t great. I have a problem with the Kevin Costner scene where he’s like, you know, should I let him die…
Eric: Maybe… like that’s not… that’s not Pocket, you know, Pocket doesn’t say should we let him die, you know.
Rich: That’s no, no, Pocket wasn’t the gray area.
Eric: No, yeah no. so, but uh, but that sums it up. What are you guys up to, you know, next that you want to let people know about? You have any events coming up, anything you want to play, essentially.
Rich: Yeah, well yeah, we have a water safety, we’re calling it a gala at the Long Island aquarium on October 26th, general raise funds for water safety initiatives. We actually… we have an animated television series in the works. So, I have… the fiinal episodes actually being produced right now for a Little Respect Cultivates Kindness, but along with that piggybacking on that, we’re actually doing a water safety PSA that is using the same characters to teach children water safety, and our plan is to release that, you know, for free, you know, everywhere just a little five-minute short to teach kids the basics of water safety and hopefully their parents do. So, we’re hoping that gets like, you know, why traction and you know, is another way to kind of clandestinely teach people water safety and those important aspects. So yeah, so those… there are two big things that are coming up and you know, it’s exciting… it’s exciting to have this.
Eric: Have you ever met Steve Burger?
Eric: He’s our lifesaver in Long Island and, you know, he’s in the middle of his season right now but, you know, he’s, you know, our dealer for there. He installs pool fences, he’s… it’s been there for 15 years and he works with a lot of the, you know, water safety organizations that are local there, he goes on the news a lot when there’s a drowning or something. But, um, I’ll have to make sure, you know, you guys have each other’s information because he…
Rich: That would be great…
Eric: Yeah, he’d appreciate knowing you.
Rich: Yeah, I’d love to know him.
Eric: Awesome, so where can people find you?
Rich: www.reespechtlife.com, or actually it’s even easier if we go to cultivatekindness.org; that’s really for the school shows but it links back to the foundation as well. Yeah, that one’s easy to remember and easier to spell too, and we’re obviously on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, you know, we’re all …we have pretty big following on Facebook actually, so it’s nice to have.
Eric: Any last thing you want people to know before we wrap up?
Rich: Yeah, you know, do something, do something for someone else because you can… I think that’s the message. And, whatever that is, you know, whatever it is that you do, do it for someone else and you know that’s how I think we make the world a better place.
Eric: Well, thanks Rich, I really, really appreciate it.
Rich: Thank you. It was uh…great
Eric: Awesome, it was good meeting you finally and getting a bit any better night.
Rich: Likewise. All right be well, alright.
Eric: Thanks Rach.
Rich: All right, bye, bye.