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Brian Frisch

Brian Frisch

Program: Design
Class of: 2008
Brian Frisch may not live in the Northeast anymore but, in a way, he’s never been closer or meant more to the area.

Frisch, a 2008 graduate of County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph, and his West Hollywood, CA, company Volcano are helping children in Newtown, CT, sleep at night after an experience he calls unprecedented.

“I can’t imagine being a parent and facing that,” says Frisch of the horrific shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14.

Children in Newtown are getting some extra comfort at night now thanks to Starshine Watchdogs, a special toy created by the company Frisch, formerly of Succasunna, runs with his partner Geoff Roesch, and Geoff’s daughter Montana. The adorable plush dogs help illuminate darkness and offer a sense of calm during bedtime, something the children and parents of Sandy Hook and nearby schools have come to appreciate.

The dogs, named Orion and Skye, were discovered by Wende Wenis, the mother of a Sandy Hook 5-year-old boy who was unable to sleep following the tragedy. Searching online for anything that would help her son when the sun went down, she came across Starshine Watchdogs.

The bedtime toys allow children to illuminate individual battery-powered Star Lights by pressing the dog’s right paw. This can help shine light on areas children typically are scared of, such as under the bed, a closet or a window. Children can also press the dog’s left paw to hear one of four reassuring phrases, such as “it’s OK to rest your head, a Watchdog is by your bed.”

The toy was designed after Geoff Roesch’s niece was unable to sleep at night. Frisch said the dogs put power in children’s hands to shed light on their problem.

Wende Wenis and her husband Christian ordered the toy for their son and were amazed to find that it did help him at bedtime.

“It was the first time he had slept well since December,” says Frisch. “To hear that really humbles you to think of what just one toy can do.”

Wende and Christian Wenis were able to get in contact with Geoff Roesch and tell him their story. Many parents in Newtown were experiencing a similar situation and didn’t know exactly what to do. They told Roesch how Starshine Watchdogs were able to make a difference.

When the trio at Volcano heard this, their first response was to think of what they could do to help more kids.

As a small company, it was difficult. Roesch’s mother, Helen Williams, who lives in New York City, actually made a donation to enable the shipment of the toys to Newtown. Roesch traveled from California to NYC so he could drive to Newtown with his mother and hand-deliver the shipment.

The Toy Tree, a local Newtown store owned by Tracy Schmid, also joined in the cause and is selling Starshine Watchdogs for children in the area.

Frisch is also planning to make the trip soon. He’s hoping to speak at Newtown’s schools about toy making and allow the children to participate in a mock toy creation. He also said Volcano is exploring the possibility of using the profits from Starshine Watchdogs to help create a day each year in the Newtown school community to promote courage and self-confidence. All of this inspiring work comes out of the family atmosphere at the company, Frisch says.

“Volcano itself is a family,” he says. “Everything we do is tight knit.”

That personal feeling was also something he says he experienced at CCM. Frisch, who graduated with his associate’s degree in design says CCM was instrumental to getting him to this stage, where he is working hard for his own company and helping others.

“I picked up so many skills in classes with James Howard (assistant professor of visual arts and design) and other professors,” says Frisch, whose parents still live in Morris County. “I use what they taught me every single day. It’s such a hands-on, one-on-one environment where the professors really get to know you and give personal attention you don’t get at a larger school. Every school says they do that, but CCM is truly that way, especially Professor Howard. He is someone I still talk to.”

Now Frisch and his company are giving attention to a group of youngsters who needed the calming influence of their toys.

Those wishing to help Volcano continue to donate Starshine Watchdogs to children impacted by the shooting can contact the company by emailing hello@volcano-us.com. They can also contact the Newtown Task force at 855-364-6600 or Volunteer@newtownvolunteers.org.

The Volcano website can be found at www.volcano-us.com and you can check out and like the Starshine Watchdogs Facebook page at www.fb.com/starshinewatchdogs. You can purchase one of the plush toys directly online at http://shop.pillowchums.com/STARSHINE-WATCHDOGS_c13.htm, and those in the Newtown area can also buy them at The Toy Tree, located at 115A Church Hill Road, Sandy Hook, CT 06482.