Written by Andrea Francisco
This weekend, please come and support Histio research for a local twelve year old boy named Joey Holt. Diagnosed a little over two years ago at age ten with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, Joey has already had to endure more than many people ever will in their lifetime. An overproduction of white blood cells, caused by LCH, had eaten away at Joey’s hip and forced him to spend months in a wheelchair, use a walker and crutches, undergo steroid treatment, and get a bone graft. Unfortunately, like cancer, there is no known cause or cure for Histio. Also, since the disease is so rare, there is no state or federal funding for research, and instead relies heavily on the families of those affected for funding.
The event, known as “Wash out Histio” will be held on Sunday, September 14th from 1 to 4 P.M. at Dirty Hairy’s Dog Spa on 18 North Fort Thomas Ave., Ft. Thomas, KY. In addition to washing your adorable, furry friends, there will be dog nail trimming, door prizes, raffles, hula hoop demos, and a bounce house provided by Maxwell Jump! Whether or not you have dogs, you can still help fund the much-needed research for this rare disorder by buying the delicious treats for sale. Please come out and support this cause; your time and donations will be much appreciated!
Andrea Francisco is my blog intern. She lives in Cincinnati and is a student at Indian Hill High School near me. Andrea is such a positive person and you will enjoy reading her posts. She wrote this about what life lessons she learned on a recent trip to Guatemala.
High up in the mountains, on a moist, darkly soiled hill, a few of my friends from church and I, fully clad in paint-stained scrubs, gaze with wonder at the bustling town of San Juan Ixcoy down below, as it pulses to the rhythm of current latin-pop music. Relaxedly sprawling on the grass side-by-side with our new Guatemalan friends, we gulp down orange flavored juices and reflect on the impressive progress made throughout a hard day’s work. Just a few hours ago, we were overwhelmed by the site of thousands of large rocks that needed to be moved all the way down a hill into a deep trench, which we also needed to dig.
“Impossible,” I secretly thought to myself.
Our ultimate goal for the day was to clear the territory around a stone, one-story building so that it could be turned into a church with a basketball court. A smiling Guatemalan teenage girl came straight to me, and not knowing each other’s language very well, we used gestures to communicate and help each other lift dozens of rocks, some of them weighing more than thirty pounds.
“Me llamo Guadalupe,” says the confident young girl, clearly a natural-born leader, as she was one of the first to make contact with us Americans. Over the next week, we would become great friends, inviting each other to play soccer games and exchanging hand-made gifts. Before we knew it, what was once a huge pile of rocks became a flat layer of soil, perfectly prepped for us to lay down a concrete foundation for a basketball court.
Before setting foot on this amazing journey down to Guatemala the summer before my junior year, I thought that the directions my life was heading were limited. However, after traveling around the world without my family and learning things I never could have imagined, I realize that my life can go any direction, if I so choose.
“When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific,” recalls the great comedian Lily Tomlin.
When I was little, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would say, “Maybe an artist or a farmer,” because I like to paint and play with farm animals. Now I don’t know what I want “to be”, because there are so many things I love to do, and I am content with that. All of us, from when we are very young, are spoon fed the notion that we must “choose”, as if we are ordering lunch from McDonald’s, what we are to become when we “grow up”. However, over many years, as I have garnered wisdom, strength, and a strange sense of humor from my friends, family, fellow classmates, teachers, colleagues, and coaches, I now realize that life is not about the destination, but rather the journey.
As I look back on my escapades to places like Guatemala, I recall the strange feeling that my happiest moments did not come once the building was complete, but instead as we belted out “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey while lifting heavy concrete-filled buckets towards the sky.
There is a unique new exhibit in Cincinnati where visitors are encouraged to appreciate art through their sense of touch.
The tactile ‘Hands on Art’ exhibit at the Willoughby Art Gallery at the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired features the wonderful work of Harriet Kaufman. Over the past 16 years Harriet has sculpted limestone, walnut, birch, steel, duct tape and fabric. Her work is featured in private collections throughout the United States and abroad…including at our Cincinnati Art Academy, Baker-Hunt, Harriett Beecher Stowe House, Kennedy Heights Arts Center, and the YWCA.
Ruth’s exhibit will run from September 5 to 26, 2014 with an opening reception this Friday from 6 to 9 pm. The Willoughby Art Gallery features art by people who are blind or visually impaired and art that is tactile. Gallery hours are 8 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday, or by appointment. It is located in the Proctor Center at 7000 Hamilton Ave, College Hill in Cincinnati.
I was reminded the other day of how great it has been knowing that my public relations career has been focused on bringing awareness and relationships to some truly impactful causes and organization.
And a client about which I was so passionate and miss the most was an organization called the Inclusion Network. For eight years I worked with them year round promoting the message that everyone has gifts and abilities, and that bringing those unique gifts together we strengthen each other. We strengthen our community.
I was one of the lead producers of the Inclusion Leadership Awards Event responsible for the strategic messaging including hiring and working with speakers to keep their speech on target, writing the script and the videos, working on all facets of the program portion, coordinating the media relations and more. And I saw that event grow to where it was hosting more than 900 people at the end.
Business and community leaders, professionals, housewives, students, volunteers, people who walk and people who use wheelchairs, people who benefit from large print programs and open captioned video screens, sign language interpreters or cups with handles instead of glassware all came together for a two and a half hour event that was designed to somehow change the world as they knew it. They heard about stories of organizations that instinctively know how to uncover talent, and of people, whose abilities are no longer obscurities. Acceptance was no longer an abstract. Inclusion, they learned, was not about THEM, but about ME.
Actor Danny Woodburn continues to stand out to me as the speaker whose message I will always remember. Danny shared his story of an actor, comedian and activist whose talents were born in the hardships of a world unaccepting of a medical condition known as dwarfism. All too well, he knows the sting of rejection and ridicule because he has lived it his entire life. But Danny told our vast audience that through his work, he has had the ability to influence attitudes. Offensive words, he has found, are generally rooted in misunderstanding and he openly corrects producers, directors and other actors.
At the end of Danny’s speech I remember he told us, “Even though every script is a battle to see how much I will comprise, it is worth it as long as there is dialogue.” Then he looked into the audience and added, “It is inspiring to me as I look out at all of your faces and see that there are comrades in this battlefield.”
To this day, Danny’s words and character continue to impact me. Sure, I love the fact that every time we talk he can always make me laugh but what I love even more is Danny’s true depth of humanity. He is truly one of those unique gifts and someone who I feel so blessed to be able to call a friend.
And the reason I am bringing this all up is because it is all leading up to a new client that is allowing me to continue this path of bringing communities together through the differences that make people uniquely great.
Organized by Cincinnati nonprofit LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled), the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival is our region’s largest film festival that explores the world as experienced by people with disabilities. It will include a a star studded awards premiere luncheon, gala, and 30 film and speaking events throughout Greater Cincinnati. All of the film screenings benefit local nonprofit organizations that enhance the lives of people with disabilities.
The Festival will be February 27 to March 7, 2015 and next week I invite you to join us at our big red carpet unveiling party at the eloquent Obscura cocktail lounge in downtown Cincinnati from 7 to 9 pm. The films and venues will be announced before hundreds of guests by actor John Lawson and Q102’s Jenn Jordan.
Here is a link to register for the free event.
The ReelAbilities Film Festival was founded in 2007 in New York City by the Manhattan JCC and has grown to become the largest film festival in the country dedicated to sharing the stories, lives and art of people who experience disability. It is now headquartered in Cincinnati and is a division of LADD. It includes a total of 13 Festivals across the country. Cincinnati holds the second largest one.
Danny, who most recently plays the voice of Splinter in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, was recently interviewed in Soapbox Media about ReelAbilities.
“Actors with disabilities are 90 percent less likely to be seen, and many characters with disabilities aren’t actually played by actors with disabilities,” he said. “It’s important for work like this to be done, and if I have the chance to speak out and be heard because I’m recognizable from being in the public eye, then I feel it’s my responsibility to do so.”
“But this isn’t just about actors getting work,” Woodburn continues. “Two-thirds of people with disabilities are unemployed; we need to raise awareness of that fact. If we want that to change, we as a society have to create an environment for change.”
I remember several years ago visiting the Reds Rookie Success League when I was working with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Reds Community Fund organizes these free coed camps each summer to teach the fundamentals of the sport through a character based curriculum – and campers even get to meet a few local professional players. What a wonderful opportunity for so many children who otherwise would not be able to afford such a fun camp.
Since its inception in 2001, the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund has been dedicated to improving the lives of youth through its baseball-themed outreach efforts. The Reds Rookie Success League is just one example.
Last week, local youth were given a whole new opportunity to build success when the Major League Baseball, Cincinnati Reds, and Procter & Gamble unveiled the new Urban Youth Academy, a four field facility where Cincinnati children and youth can play baseball and softball, while receiving guidance to gain tools that will help them succeed not just on the playing field, but in the classroom…and in life.
The $7 million Cincinnati Academy is the fourth in the MLB and it is the first one in the Midwest. It has four fields, one of which even has a press box. Additionally it has a field house complete with a turf field and indoor batting cages and pitching tunnels. There are also classrooms where students can receive free tutoring while they wait to play.
Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson, stars of Cincinnati’s past, were among those on hand for the unveiling.
“It came out better than anyone could’ve expected,” said Frank, whose current role is as MLB’s executive vice president of baseball development. “You have your vision of what you’d like to see and what it will look like when it’s finished. But I didn’t have this vision. And I don’t think anyone else did. This is a great facility, and we’re just glad to be a part of it. We will continue to work with the Reds to keep it up and support the kids. They are the future.”
Also on hand was a family very special to me. I grew up next door to Gerry and Marion Gendell and their seven kids (Carin, Danna, Adrian, Jeff, David, Marc and Brad) and have so many wonderful memories of those years. They are such a kind and generous family. One of the ballfields at the Academy is a gift from the Gendell Family Foundation and was dedicated to Gerry and Marion – loving parents who gave so much to our great city.
Gerry was commissioned as a First Lieutenant by the US Army in 1952 after graduating NY University. Following 3 years of military service during the Korean War, he joined P&G where he spent 37 years in management positions. In the last 10 years he served as the company’s chief public affairs officer and also served as president and trustee of the P&G Fund. Among other achievements, he launched Pringles brand and expanded P&G’s charitable activities. He was vice chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, member of the Board of Overseers at HUC, a board member and supporter of several other organizations. Marion earned her bachelor’s degree at age 50. She served in volunteer roles for various organizations.