Student inspired by Mr. Rogers, finds those who ‘Live Like Fred’


Photo by Screenshot of "Live Like Fred" YouTube Channel

A screeshot from DeBiase’s “Live Like Fred” YouTube channel of his latest video with David Newell, also known as Mr. McFeely.

Written By Dara Collins, Editor-in-Chief

Fred Rogers inspired a young Colton DeBiase from the television screen at his babysitter’s house.

Now, DeBiase finds the spirit of Mr. Rogers in those around him and shares them through his project, “Live Like Fred.”

“It’s a campaign where we express the philosophies of kindness and love as Mr. Rogers did everyday,” DeBiase said.

During a visit to Point Park in February 2018, DeBiase recalls a conversation with professor Robin Cecala that birthed the idea of “Live Like Fred.”

“Robin told me that you’re always welcome to use our equipment for any stuff that you would want to do outside the classroom,” DeBiase said. “My mom and I were brainstorming on the way home, and I was thinking I want to do something with Mr. Rogers. Then my mom thought of the name ‘Live Like Fred,’ and it just went from there.”

Caught up in the chaos of the end of senior year, DeBiase and his mother put the idea on hold and asked others for their input.

“We actually got in contact with Tonia Caruso,” DeBiase said. “She was a former anchor for WQED, and we told her about this thing that we had, we just didn’t know what to do with it. She was the one who suggested, ‘Why don’t you interview people who are living like Fred?’”

The first interview took place just five months later in July.

“It just grew from there,” DeBiase said.

The “Live Like Fred” YouTube channel now has 65 videos, as of Nov. 24, and 52 subscribers. The project also can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The interview subjects, dubbed Inspiring Neighbors, are picked primarily through word of mouth, according to DeBiase.

“We always ask them what they do and then we ask them some questions about Mr. Rogers,” DeBiase said. “The question that we always ask our Inspiring Neighbors is what makes a happy, feel-good day for them.”

For DeBiase, an episode of Mr. Rogers marks a good day.

“Mr. Rogers has just had a wonderful impact on my life,” DeBiase said. “When I was in high school, when I was going through a tough time, I would just watch an old episode, and I still do every now and then.”

DeBiase appreciates the opportunities he’s been given from ‘Live Like Fred’ and the Inspiring Neighbors, but he doesn’t want to take all the credit.

“‘Live Like Fred’ has just led me to endless possibilities,” DeBiase said. “It kind of bothers me saying that because I never want ‘Live Like Fred’ to necessarily be about me because it’s about all our Inspiring Neighbors and the work they do. I’m just the person that’s there to ask them the questions about it.”

DeBiase was even able to use “Live Like Fred” as a talking point when applying for an open casting call for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and he was called on the last day of filming in Pittsburgh.

“I actually interviewed one of the set designers on set of the [Mr. Rogers] movie when I met her that night…I was telling a few people about [Live Like Fred], and she loved what I did,” DeBiase said.

Aside from the networking, DeBiase remembers a memorable moment on set with actor Tom Hanks.

“This is one of my favorite memories of it: When we wrapped for the night, [Hanks] started singing “It’s Such a Good Feeling,” and I think about that a lot because that was just awesome,” DeBiase said. “It was really moving…and it made me realize how much ‘Live Like Fred’ could have an impact on people.” 

DeBiase hopes his viewers follow in the footsteps of Mr. Rogers after watching one of his videos.

“[I hope people] go out into the world and make it a better place,” DeBiase said. “Another thing is simply just be kind to somebody because I think that was the core message that Mr. Rogers was trying to send out over the 30 years that he did Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

“One of the quotes that I always like to say is that even if you’re kind to one person, you’re already making the world a better place,” he said.

When asked how long “Live Like Fred” will continue, DeBiase says it’s a mystery.

“I guess as long as it can go,” DeBiase said. “I love what we do right now, and I feel like Mr. Rogers’ philosophies are so important right now in today’s world, and I just think that ‘Live Like Fred’ can really be something that people can turn to for positivity on social media. That’s our goal, to spread positivity on social media, and knowing that if someone’s having a bad day or if anyone’s going through a tough time, just come to us, watch our videos and, hopefully, it can put a smile on your face.”