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.
The world lost one of its truly gifted minds when it lost Robin Williams. He had this way of touching us with humor and emotion unlike any one else. And in his passing we are reminded of the importance of our connection with one another. In our lives, our journey, each of us has our own struggles. At any moment as we go through our day, we need to realize that beyond a person’s exterior is someone with a real human need for love, understanding, encouragement and acceptance. In this world of interconnectedness, we need to never forget that the greatest gift we can offer to each other is ourselves.
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati annual Believe 2 Achieve event once again sold out with 400 members and guests raising money for three local nonprofit organizations. The event was emceed by Dave Lapham, former Cincinnati Bengals player and radio analyst with Cincinnati Reds bat boy Teddy Kremer serving as assistant. The $101,000 raised was distributed to Stepping Stones for Camp Allyn, The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, and The Autism Society of Greater Cincinnati.
To learn more about the Rotary Club of Cincinnati, please visit their website, www.cincinnatirotary.org.
Do you have an idea worth spreading? I encourage you to audition for the TEDxCincinnati main stage event that will be October 16. It is the first time ever that TEDxCincinnati is holding auditions. If you are selected, you no doubt will be speaking before a packed sell-out audience October 16 at Memorial Hall.
It is such an awesome event and organization. If you are unfamiliar with TEDxCincinnati, it is a local program offering events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. TEDTalks videos, live speakers, and sometimes entertainment combine to spark discussion about a broad range of topics. TED is a nonprofit that supports world-changing ideas. At TED, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less. Talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“What is truly magical about TEDx events is the enthusiasm that they spark for issues. We are all about energizing people, opening dialogue, and moving people to action,” said Jami Edelheit, TEDxCincinnati curator and organizer.
Want to audition?
Auditions will be held at the upcoming TEDxCincinnati happy hour – August 12 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Next Chapter in Mt. Adams. (Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through the website.) HOWEVER, you must reserve your audition spot by emailing TEDxAuditions@gmail.com. Each speaker will have up to 2.5 minutes to share their idea.