Mountlake Terrace man named a ‘Superhero’ for work with Roots of Empathy program

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    Mountlake Terrace resident Gregory “Dru” Druzianich didn’t expect to end up as a superhero featured on the cover of a regional parenting magazine.

    But there he is, in the April 2017 issue of ParentMap, holding baby Audrey — all because of Druzianich’s work with an organization called Roots of Empathy.

    It all started when Druzianich, a late-night doorman for BayVista Residential Tower in Seattle’s Belltown, began observing the work of BayVista resident John Sabol, who provides training in the building for Roots of Empathy volunteers.

    The goal of Roots of Empathy is to teach empathy and curb bullying among kids in grades K-8. Druzianich, who works from 3-11 p.m. at BayVista, said he would come early to watch the training.

    Melissa Soltani, program manager for Roots of Empathy, invited Druzianich to go through the training and become a volunteer teacher. “I was hesitant at first,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m not a teacher. I can’t do this.'”

    But Soltani insisted that he was perfect for the work. In fact, she told ParentMap that Druzianich’s interactions with families at BayVista prove he “is a living, breathing example of what empathy is all about.”

    Founded in Canada, Roots of Empathy now operates internationally. It offers some programs in the Shoreline School District, where Druzianich teaches a class of second graders.

    The teaching involves an instructor accompanying a volunteer parent and infant into school classrooms. The students are allowed to touch, play with and sing to infants in an effort to build empathy and emotional literacy.

    While working at BayVista, Druzianich said, he got to know ParentMap publisher Alyane Sulkin, who was coming to the building for other events. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    The striking man with the long white hair and beard — who has lived in Mountlake Terrace since 2011 and also is a licensed real estate agent — ended up on ParentMap’s April cover, holding Audrey. She’s the infant that Druzianich is working with, along with her mom Anjelica, in the Roots of Empathy program at Richmond Beach’s Syre Elementary School.

    ParentMap annually recognizes a group of superheroes, and Druzianich is one of 10 community members named for 2017. Other honorees include a high school teacher, a juvenile justice advocate and the host of Animal Planet’s documentary series Finding Bigfoot.

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