Led by Suzanne Deyoung of La Soupe and Julie Riney Richardson, Indian Hill High school students prepared over 5,000 quarts of soup made from rescued food.

A Soup Project For Indian Hill Students

Can a village feed a city? Absolutely! And the entire student body at Indian Hill High School has been working with Suzy DeYoung and La Soupe, and Sugarcreek (a co-packer) to prove it can happen. Led by Suzanne Deyoung of La Soupe and Julie Riney Richardson, Indian Hill High school ... Read More
Dan Marshall is a Cincinnati musician, speaker, and business consultant.

Dan Marshall Never Has Bad Days

Dan Marshall will tell you, he does not have bad days. He only has character building days. Seven years ago he stood before a packed auditorium for an Ignite Cincinnati Event, and reminded the young professionals that even when things are going bad, “you are going to learn something from ... Read More
Kathy Smith was executive director of Cincinnati nonprofit Kenzie's Closet, and shares how it helps prom dreams come true for local teens

Kenzie's Closet Is A Dream Maker

It is a dream of most girls, to step out in a gorgeous evening gown, a flower corsage on her wrist and a young man on her side as she enters the darkened space. Her peers crowd the floor, watching her enter in awe. Her smile illuminates the room. But, ... Read More
TT Stern-Enzi

Films Are His Textbook For Teaching

You may have seen TT Stern-Enzi’s film reviews on FOX 19 or in CityBeat. He also writes for the Dayton CityPaper. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him over coffee. He has such a kind soul about him and when he talks about his passions – films, ... Read More
RJ Mitte and Nic Novicki were among the celebrities who attended the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival

Cincinnati ReelAbilities About Appreciation

It has been about three weeks now since I left the Duke Energy Center, exhausted (and sick) from an incredible experience of being part of one of the hardest working teams you will ever meet, all working toward a goal of building something so powerful and important as to positively affect ... Read More

A Volunteer Helping Make Things Happen

One of the many benefits of working on the ReelAbilities Film Festival for me are the incredible people it has given me the opportunity to get to know. I will be sharing some of their stories in my blog. Caren Theuring is most definitely among them. Caren was a tireless ... Read More
Heather Seukamp is a teacher at St. Clement Elementary School in Cincinnati

Life Lessons Taught In Class

Kind, patient teachers who instinctively know how to bring out the best in children are such treasures. They are role models to young minds and their power has the capability of impacting entire journeys through life. Heather Seurkamp is among them. Her aunt, Terri Hogan, introduced us. Heather is a ... Read More
Susan Brownknight, executive director of Cincinnati nonprofit, LADD, talks about the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival

Cincinnati ReelAbilities Celebrates Difference

These past few weeks (and months) my blog has slowed as I’ve needed to focus much of my energy on promoting the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by LADD, Inc. (and a project for the Countryside YMCA and mixing in pet training). The Festival is now a week away, ... Read More
Amy Delgado is a Cincinnati mother to a daughter who has Spina Bifida, and writes a blog called Ability Hacker. She shares what she learned from parenting.

A Mother's Lessons

My work on the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by LADD, Inc. has connected me with some pretty incredible people in our region. Amy Delgado is one of them. ReelAbilities is about bringing people together to learn from and about each other and to celebrate our differences that together make ... Read More
Rosemary Oglesby-Henry, founder of Rosemary’s Babies, presented an award of appreciation to Dr. James Williams, president of Mt. St. Joseph University, for the school’s support.

Rosemary's Legacy

In all of my years of work for social service agencies, I have seen so many individuals and families affected by generational circumstances. There have been those who were born into environments surrounded by poverty, abuse or other hardships; and who have followed in the path of the generations before ... Read More
The greatest lesson in this world is how to give and receive love.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Melissa Milinovich is 2005 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio and volunteers for the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. In this interview, she shares some of her story.

Melissa Wants You To See Abilities

I have gotten to know Melissa these past few months through my work with the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. She is a volunteer whose leadership and passion is greatly furthering the cause of our Festival whose goals are for people to change the way they perceive difference, to break down ... Read More
Jennifer Grimmett is volunteer coordinator for My Furry Valentine, a Cincinnati pet adoption event

My Furry Valentine Led By Passionate Animal Lovers

To organize a MEGA animal adoption event that finds homes for some 800+ animals, it takes a MEGA crew of hard working volunteers to make it happen. That event is the My Furry Valentine, our region’s largest adoption event that finds homes for pets from about 35 different rescue groups. ... Read More
Actor John Lawson shares his story: disability does not define him.

Disability Does Not Define John

Through my work promoting the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival, I have gotten to know some pretty amazing people who have impacted me in very meaningful ways. Actor John Lawson is among them. I met and got to know John when I was promoting the 2015 Festival. He was a volunteer ... Read More
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In Life, Just Go For It!

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Kate Lopez is a volunteer with the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. She talks about what having a disability has taught her.

What Disability Taught Kate

I am so fortunate that my work allows me the opportunity to get to know some incredible people who are so passionate about their cause. Kate Lopez is definitely among them. She and I met when I coordinated the marketing/public relations for the 2015 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by ... Read More
Grace DeGregorio, editor of Cincinnati's Hyde Park Living, shares her story

Grace Shares Life Lessons

Today I have such great pleasure in sharing the story of a very dear person and friend. Grace DeGregorio has been editing Hyde Park Living for 20 years. And, for about 15 or 16 of those years I have been writing a pet behavior column for her. I love that ... Read More
King Records Cincinnati landmark

Saving King Records

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Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Today we celebrate a man of courage, wisdom and vision. In his lifetime, Martin Luther King Jr. devoted himself to bringing people together in harmony. He was about giving people wings to soar above inequality and find their inner strength and passion. He was about giving people eyes to see ... Read More
Amanda Broughton and Michele Hobbs founded Cincinnati pet food company, Pet Wants. They and their customers donated 4000 pounds of pet food to the Stray Animal Adoption Program.

Pet Wants Donates 4000 Pounds Of Food

“Giving is not just about donating. It is about making a difference.”  -  Kathy Calvin, CEO & President of United Nations Foundation That is so true. My friends at Pet Wants, all natural pet food company, truly believe in giving back. I have seen them at adoption events giving food ... Read More
Choose to be happy.

Choose To Be Happy

No special reason. Today, let's make a conscious decision to choose to be happy. Read More
Isabella Noe, a Cincinnati students, talks about kindness

Isabella's Lesson In Kindness

My intern, Isabella Noe, a senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati is a very special person. It gives her such satisfaction to reach out and help others. Below is her story, in her own words, of how a simple acts of kindness touched her; and how she thinks ... Read More
Elizabeth Truitt is director of public relations for Broadway Cincinnati

Elizabeth's Work Is Her Passion

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#kindflash Cincinnati is organizing a hat and coat drive for the homeless

Volunteers Needed For Clothes Drive

It is that time of year again. Liz Wu and others of #KindFlash, a group of Cincinnati area volunteers doing acts of kindness, are organizing their annual clothes drive and they need help. During last year's #Kindflash clothes drive, they collected 3,700+ warm clothing items and distributed them across 51 Greater Cincinnati ... Read More
Mike and Chrissy Boehmer

Thoughts For Living A Fulfilling Life

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Karyl Cunningham is executive director of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati Black and Latino Achievers Program

Remember Karyl As A True Friend

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Nick Jackson inspires students through his speeches

Nick Champions Lives

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This Coach Loves His Work

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Margaret Kastner of Cincinnati learned a lesson of kindness at dinner

How A Dinner Changed Her Life

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Everyone Likes To Be Appreciated

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Heidi Jark is managing director and vice president, The Foundation Office, Fifth Third Bank

Heidi Jark Shares Inspiration

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Faith Maynard is program manager of LADD's Community Connections

She Helps Others Achieve Victories

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Keith Maginn is a Cincinnati author

Cincinnati Author Writes To Inspire

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Karen Is A Happiness Officer

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This Cincinnati Pilot Transports Dogs

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Their Passion Is Helping Kids In Peru

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Traci Stewart and Rachel Lawson began a Disabilities Resource Care Group at Kroger in Cincinnati

Two Kroger Managers Begin Disability Support Group

Rachel Lawson, fresh meat and seafood planogram manager for Kroger, and Traci Stewart, deli category manager for Kroger, have more in common than simply their busy careers. They both happen to also be mothers to children who do things differently. I met them both the other day when I visited ... Read More
former Cincinnati Enquirer editor met with President Nixon

Ruth Voss Was A Voice For Youth

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Power Is A Beautiful Thing

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Penguins Are His Passion

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Billie Mendoza, owner of Cincinnati Paw Joggers, talks about her inspiration for creating the Paw Joggers Run

Running For Animal Causes

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A Night of CINspiration

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Do What Comes From Your Heart

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Loveland twins, Hannah and Alex Laman, won a national award for creating their Cincinnati nonprofit, Adopt A Book

Loveland Twins Honored Nationally

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Bobby Harrison inspires with words and actions

Bobby, You Just Made My Day!

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quote about life by Lisa Desatnik

Choose Thoughts That Will Uplift You

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Isabella Noe, a Cincinnati senior at Walnut Hills High School, shares her friendship gained through CISV and AFS international student exchange programs

An International Friendship Reunited

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Holly Young founded Cincinnati nonprofit, New Life Furniture, which provides furnishings for people transitioning out of homelessness

New Life Furniture Is Her Calling

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Two Cincinnati Heroes Celebrated

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Jennifer Crowe (third from left) was honored by Cincinnati nonprofit LADD

LADD Awards Honored People Who Take Flight

Through my public relations work, I love spending time with everyone who is involved with LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled) and its mission. If you are unfamiliar, LADD is a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that works side-by-side adults who have developmental disabilities to assist them in experiencing independence through a ... Read More

A Soup Project For Indian Hill Students

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Can a village feed a city? Absolutely! And the entire student body at Indian Hill High School has been working with Suzy DeYoung and La Soupe, and Sugarcreek (a co-packer) to prove it can happen.

Led by Suzanne Deyoung of La Soupe and Julie Riney Richardson, Indian Hill High school students  prepared over 5,000 quarts of soup made from rescued food.

Led by Suzanne Deyoung of La Soupe and Julie Riney Richardson, Indian Hill High school students prepared over 5,000 quarts of soup made from rescued food.

For two days, they have surrounded tables in their school cafeteria, slicing and dicing well over 5,000 quarts of vegetables that will go into at least 500 gallons of soup base made by Suzy’s team at La Soupe, put into containers with labels, and delivered to Master Provision food distributor for storage. Ultimately that soup will be given to local schools to feed hungry students.

“We did more today than we ever imagined we would. We thought 5,000 quarts was a pretty lofty goal before we began but we already surpassed it,” Cathy Levalley, director of Indian Hill High School’s PPO, told me when I stopped by Thursday morning. “Our kids are loving this and have asked if they can do more of these types of projects.”

As many in Cincinnati know, Suzy has a talent for creating savory recipes and a heart for helping others. Her La Soupe is a nonprofit organization that rescues otherwise wasted food and transforms it into delicious and nutritious soup for customers, and given away to charitable causes and those in need. Partners including Kroger, Jungle Jims, various local organic farms, and now Sugarcreek co-packer make it possible (as well as donations).

You could say that food has always been in her blood. Suzy’s father was head chef at the Maisonette, and her grandparents were chefs in New York. She and her sister ran La Petite Pierre in Madeira before she found her calling. “I didn’t understand how people can be hungry when all I saw was food. I came to realize that my most joyful time in that career was when I was looking for ways to give out the food that we would have waste.”

These days La Soupe gives out thousands of pounds of soup each year, and now that will be even more. Sugarcreek, Suzy told me, found a way to divert and average of about 20,000 edible products from their co-packers monthly. That will help to feed a lot of Tri-State families.

Suzy’s next project is raising money for a new annex and a second shift to up production. If you would like to help, please contact them at.

 

Dan Marshall Never Has Bad Days

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Dan Marshall will tell you, he does not have bad days. He only has character building days.

Seven years ago he stood before a packed auditorium for an Ignite Cincinnati Event, and reminded the young professionals that even when things are going bad, “you are going to learn something from them.”

It is on those character building days, he told them, that he reminds himself of these favorite mantras.
“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
“No matter how bad it seems, ‘it’s come to pass.’”
“Whether I think I can or I think I can’t, I am right.”
and “Do something.”

Dan Marshall is a Cincinnati musician, speaker, and business consultant.He and I go back many years. I actually don’t remember where we first met but our life paths continue to cross through our journey.

Dan is a man of character. He is someone whose hard knocks in life have taught him about resilience, action, self expression, love and a greater sense of humanity. As a father, it is important for him to be a role model to his young children – and to others – in living your best possible life, in giving selflessly, and in seeing the good that abounds. As an entrepreneur, a business consultant, a volunteer, and a speaker, he shares his knowledge to help others succeed.

And through his performances at local venues and events as LoopManDan, he opens up a whole new world of music.
More than just a typical solo acoustic act, LoopManDan conjures up the sound of an entire ensemble before audiences, creating rhythm, bass lines, harmonies and smooth leads using the effects of a loop pedal.

Lisa: Where do you think your positive outlook comes from?
Dan: That really stems from my childhood. I have had some of the most difficult of times, and I have come to know that that is when learning happens. I know that because I have been through worse things. When I was 9 my dad killed himself and that became part of my texture. I have looked my children in the eyes and told them, ‘I promise you I will not die like my dad did.’ I am very focused on seeing the positive in everything. Friends call me all the time and ask me to cheer them up.

Lisa:  What is an accomplishment something of which you are most proud?
Dan:  Definitely my three children and the beautiful people they are, and being part of their life. A couple stories come to mind.

My kids wanted to try out for the soccer team but were nervous. I told them that if they would try out, that I would audition for The Children’s Theatre production of Annie. I ended up being in 20 shows. That was a great lesson for us all. I was proud because I felt like I practiced what I preached, I took a chance, and because of that, I achieved. Even if I hadn’t gotten a role, I would have felt extremely accomplished for the example I set. I believe in stretching beyond your comfort zone and in teaching others to do the same, and that is what I did.

Another time we were all in a car at a drive through when I saw another car half way stuck in a parking space. I noticed an older woman having a hard time. I didn’t think twice about immediately pulling over and walking over to her. She was crying because she couldn’t get her car out of gear so I jumped in and moved her car for her. She gave me a big hug. When I got back into my car, one of my kids said to me, “Dad, you are a really good man,” and the other kids said, “yeah Dad, you stopped the car.”

That brings such pride to me. Some of my most proud accomplishments are when I have helped others.

Lisa:  Tell us about someone who has been a positive influence on you.
Dan: There have been so many people. Definitely my voice teacher and band director at Indian Hill High School. I was in our marching band, sung in the select show choir and performed in school musicals.  Musicians Stan Hertzman and Bobby Sharp are the closest to a local uncle and patriarch type figure I have. I was mentored by Jeffrey Moore, who started the marketing program for Hewlett Packard and authored a book called Crossing the Chasm.

I attended University of Cincinnati for a quarter and the left and got started in business very early and sold cars for eight years. That early exposure really helped to educate me. There have been some really great people who have included me with their businesses and kept sending me for management and sales training. Dean Butler, co-founder of LensCrafters, recruited me to be director of sales for PC Upgrades and was a big influence.


Lisa Desatnik Public Relations

So Much PETential Cincinnati dog training by Cincinnati certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBC

 

Kenzie’s Closet Is A Dream Maker

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It is a dream of most girls, to step out in a gorgeous evening gown, a flower corsage on her wrist and a young man on her side as she enters the darkened space. Her peers crowd the floor, watching her enter in awe. Her smile illuminates the room.

Kathy Smith was executive director of Cincinnati nonprofit Kenzie's Closet, and shares how it helps prom dreams come true for local teensBut, if not for a local nonprofit organization, Kenzie’s Closet, that dream would not come true for hundreds of teens every year. Kathy Smith knows. She has seen them transform from forlorn, hopeless girls into bundles of joy and laughter when they see themselves in a mirror, just as their dream had pictured them.

At no cost to them, Kenzie’s Closet provides prom attire to juniors and seniors at accredited Tri-State high schools who otherwise would not be able to afford dressing up for their important occasion. Even more than that, the organization provides a shopping experience for each young lady to shop in a boutique with a volunteer personal shopper there to help select the perfect dress.

Kathy was executive director of Kenzie’s Closet for four years, retiring just before our ReelAbilities Film Festival, for which she served as our volunteer chair.

Lisa: Why is this a cause for which you are so passionate?
Kathy: When I was interviewed for my position, I remember being asked a very similar question. They wanted to know why I wanted the job. My answer was that, if Kenzie’s Closet had existed in 1968, I would have been a Kenzie’s Girl. The only reason I was able to go to my prom was because a neighbor bough me my dress. All of Kenzie’s Girls are at or below the poverty level. They don’t have the resources available to buy or rent fancy dresses. Prom should be the highlight of their life. It was important to me to make sure that each girl have the opportunity to get the dress of their dreams. They get brand new shoes, a purse, a wrap, two pieces of jewelry and free alterations; and they keep everything, although we have had many donate back their dresses so that another girl can have the same experience. We are planting the seeds of philanthropy early.

Journey is Cincinnati nonprofit organization, Kenzie's Closet's 4000th teenage girl to have her prom dream come true thanks to the organization.

Journey is the 4,000th Kenzie’s girl who recently experienced her dream come true (pictured with Board member Amanda Bentley Fessler).

Lisa: Can you share any moments that really touched you?
Kathy: There are so many of them. I felt like we were in many ways like being Fairy Godmothers. Coming to Kenzie’s Closet for these teenagers is their time to shine. Often, they arrive expecting to find a sort of thrift shop but they quickly realize it is very different. They may be scared when they walk through the door and by the time they are finished, they are hugging their personal shopper.

I remember one young woman who came in with a group. She was very tall and large. She kept giving me this look out of the corner of her eyes. She told me with a hardness in her voice that she didn’t think we would have anything for her. I looked at her and said, “Guess what? You are totally wrong.”

After going through her shopping, I went up to her and asked what happened that day. She asked if I wanted the truth. Tears began streaming down her face. She told me that her entire life she had been given torn or tattered clothing and been expected to give thanks. I asked her again what had happened. This time she put her chin out and told me, “Not only did you have a dress to fit me, I got to pick my own prom dress. And there is nothing smack about it.”

Lisa:  What are some of your take-aways from your time leading Kenzie’s Closet?
Kathy: I knew all along that we were making dreams come true for over 400 young ladies each year. But I also had my dream come true working there.  Our founder was my boss and she was so supportive and believed in me – not everyone has that.  I worked with two incredible women that made going to work a pleasure  – again not everyone has that.  We had about 120 volunteers each year; they were always so joyful and happy to be there — again this helped me have an incredible career.  My time at Kenzie’s Closet was a dream come true for me!

Lisa Desatnik Public Relations

So Much PETential Cincinnati dog training by Cincinnati certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBC

Films Are His Textbook For Teaching

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You may have seen TT Stern-Enzi’s film reviews on FOX 19 or in CityBeat. He also writes for the Dayton CityPaper. Several months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him over coffee. He has such a kind soul about him and when he talks about his passions – films, kids, and family – he is an open book.

It is no wonder that in addition to writing about films, he has recently established a nonprofit organization called WatchWriteNow that combines it all. Through WatchWriteNow, TT uses film as a means for developing critical thinking and analysis skills in students, exposing them to creativity as well. He develops programs where participants have weekly exposure to him, then go home to watch and talk about movies and shows with their parents, siblings, and friends. Students also write commentary for TT’s WatchWriteNow blog.

Let’s learn more about TT.

TT Stern-EnziLisa:  Tell us about your love for film, including where it began and how it has evolved. 
TT: My earliest memories of movies go back to my mother, before I even started going to see them. My mom loved music and would buy soundtracks (Shaft, Trouble Man, etc.) and I remember spending hours staring at the album covers. I wasn’t old enough to see the movies, but I probably made up my own movies based on those LP sleeves. Then, when I started school and proved to be a dedicated student, my mom would take me to the movies after school, as a treat for a good report card. She took me to whatever I wanted to see (that was appropriate, of course), which meant a lot of fantasy stuff (swords and sorcery). I was into Dungeons & Dragons and I read stuff like Michael Moorcock, Fritz Lieber, and later Stephen Donaldson and Frank Herbert. Really, I would read anything, but sci-fi and fantasy opened the door for me and probably influenced my movie choices for a time, even though I quickly developed a rather eclectic range. I like to say now that I love good movies and good books, and that means there are no genre limitations. Great films can be found in any genre, you just have to be open to them. Sci-fi, drama, romance, foreign language, indie. The categories are meaningless. The same notion applies to music, books, theater, art, everything. You don’t have to like everything, but when it comes to film, I want to try to see as much of it as I can while I’m able.

Lisa: What is one of your favorite films and why?
TT: Blue Velvet is my all-time favorite film. I saw it at least four times during its opening weekend in 1986 and then went to my AP English class that Monday morning and asked my teacher if we could talk about it. I needed to crack it open and that felt like the right place to do it, and fortunately my teacher – who is still at the school – let us. We spent about 30 minutes on it and I then went back to see it multiple times the next couple of weekends. I’ve seen it over 30 times on the big screen over the years and it still reveals little secrets to me each time. Last year, I was able to take my oldest daughter to see a special 30th anniversary print of it in NYC. She was the same age I was when I saw it back in 1986, and it was one of those memories I will cherish forever. We walked the streets afterward, talking about the film and David Lynch, Twin Peaks and everything.

I realize that having a teacher indulge my curiosity and passion like that, was probably what set me on this path, and I hope that through my non-profit, I might be able to do the same for a few of the kids I see in WatchWriteNow programs.

The funny thing about Blue Velvet though is that it is not, technically speaking, the best film I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what that is or how I could ever determine something like that. I just know that Blue Velvet continues to be my favorite, likely because of that story behind my lifelong experience with it.

Lisa: What is one of your most memorable interviews and why?
TT: Thanks to CityBeat, I’ve had the opportunity to conduct a few hundred interviews over the years and there are lots of fun stories in those exchanges. A favorite though is my chat with Martin Landau. He was helping to promote his appearance in City of Ember (2008) and the promotional reps set up a day and time for us to catch up. There was a mixup and I had to leave the house before I received his call. I got back home and there was a direct message on my office voicemail from Mr. Landau. As a film geek, I was already nervous about interviewing him –  I mean, he’s had such a career. The man worked with Alfred Hitchcock, and he’s leaving a casual message on my voicemail. When we finally spoke to one another, I stumbled through my questions, trying not to geek out on him, and towards the end, I asked him about his process for finding his characters beyond what’s on the page. In reply, he did this little exercise where he walked me through the five boroughs of New York, creating a set of characters and voices right then and there. It was so much more than an auditory experience. I felt like I was in the same room with him, watching him transform into these people. When he finished, I tried to compliment him (and really thank him for sharing that with me) and he just chuckled and said that’s what he gets paid to do. It was brilliant, and I’ve got it save now in my iTunes library.

Lisa: When you look back at your life, what is one of your proudest accomplishments?
TT: It sounds weird to say this, but I think the life I’m still trying to live is the accomplishment that matters most. I haven’t come close to any kind of perfect example of the things I’ve talked about here, but I’m always trying, striving to live it. I said at the start that I’m still that geeky kid. If I can keep that up and let others (especially the kids I work with) see the effort, then I would be proud and satisfied with that.

So Much PETential Cincinnati dog training by Cincinnati certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBC

Lisa Desatnik Public Relations

 

 

 

Cincinnati ReelAbilities About Appreciation

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It has been about three weeks now since I left the Duke Energy Center, exhausted (and sick) from an incredible experience of being part of one of the hardest working teams you will ever meet, all working toward a goal of building something so powerful and important as to positively affect an entire region, and the way in which its people see, appreciate and welcome one another.

RJ Mitte and Nic Novicki were among the celebrities who attended the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film FestivalThe Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by LADD is a leading example. It was the culmination of work by dozens of volunteers, a small core staff team who spent many long hours, sponsors, the media, and the community that ultimately made Cincinnati ReelAbilities a success.  This was my second year serving as director of public relations for the event that has grown into one of the country’s largest film festivals centered around bringing people together to celebrate our uniqueness in our appearance, our cultures, and our ethnicities; and the way we participate in, see and interpret our world. Its films all shared a common theme of telling the stories of those who experience disabilities.

Susan Brownknight, executive director of LADD, has said time and again that ReelAbilities really speaks to who we are and what we value individually and collectively. What she referred to in her words is our sense of humanity, and the way in which we include and welcome each other in every facet of our community.

For four days, national celebrities were among us as we spent time meeting new friends, laughing, and opening dialogue to lead to new perspectives. Through the passionate messages of speakers at each of the parties, the discussions following films, and the casual networking in the hallways, communication flowed freely. Questions of curiosity and interest, that, under other circumstances may never be asked, were given open, honest and genuine answers. People diverse by age, race, religion, culture, appearance, and mode of pursuing life were valued. They were included.

Actor John Lawson told our audience at our Meet the Stars Opening Event, “One of the things I like about Cincinnati ReelAbilities is the hashtag #DifferentLikeYou. In those three little words, it says so much because we are all different like you but it is how we come together and use them that is our inspiration and our strength.”

RJ Mitte, our Premier Luncheon keynote speaker, so beautifully shared, “What you may perceive is abnormal is our normality. We live this. We know no different. I have never experienced a lot of these things these gentlemen and women have experienced in their life, and vice versa. The same can be said about you. There is a lot that you experience in your everyday life that we don’t know. The normality is that we all have our own normal and we need to remember that because we are all brought on this planet to evolve and to learn. And each of these challenges people perceive as disabilities are challenges that no one else except that individual will ever understand. Yes it is harder in certain areas. No one wants to have these types of physicalities, these types of mental weights but at the end of the day we all have them. Ours may be something you may consider severe but they are no different than everyday life. And we evolve, we grow and we try every day to live our normality. We wake up the same way. We do the same work. We live our lives and have families. And there really is no difference. And that is what we are trying to bring awareness to with this Festival. That is what is really crucial with these films. It brings a new normality to disability.  You (the audience) can be that catalyst to represent that.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein told our Interfaith Breakfast guests, “What this Film Festival is about, what the work that is being done is Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein spoke about appreciation at the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festivalabout, is about the idea of expressing the understanding and appreciating of the little things in life. It is the little things that we crave, that we want when we come in contact with a family of a disability. They want their child to be able to go outside, to the park, to go to school. They want to live a life of normalcy. They crave what makes life worth living.

The more that you crave those little things, the more that you want them. Those are things that go into life, the blessings. That is the core of creation. Celebrate the little things. The more you want a job, to go to school, to have a house, to have a family. That is the blessing.

When we spend time with people who have disabilities, we are not doing a charity. We are ultimately given the chance to connect with God. We are ultimately given the chance to appreciate life, to understand life. We are ultimately given the chance to come to appreciate everything in life that should be appreciated.”

Wow, such powerful, resonating words.

Following the Festival, a small group of us got together to celebrate. There we reminisced about some of the impact we saw. We remembered our VIP Bryan Anderson, a retired US Army sergeant, Purple Heart recipient, and Gary Sinise Foundation ambassador, showing a group of children how his prosthetic arm could rotate 360 degrees. We remembered when our VIPs stood before a full theatre of children to answer questions – one of them being, “How did you get your disability?” It was an opportunity for VIP and actress Jamie Brewer to explain down syndrome…and for VIP and actor/comedian Nic Novicki (who happens to have dwarfism) to tell them he didn’t eat his vegetables. And, after our Closing Night Event, one mother came up to someone on our team and shared that that night was the very first time her son had a reason to be proud of his disability.

Yes, Justice Bernstein, spending time at the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival absolutely gave us the chance to appreciate and understand life, and everything in life that should be appreciated. That includes appreciating each other.

Thank you Cincinnati, for helping us celebrate our differences, for having open and receptive minds to learning, for helping to be part of strengthening our region by welcoming and including everyone.

My 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Photo Album
(note: after a few seconds, when you move your mouse over it, you can tap on one of the arrows to move forward or backward in the photo album)

2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival

 

So Much PETential Cincinnati dog training by Cincinnati certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBC

Lisa Desatnik Public Relations

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