Lisa Desatnik gave a speech at her Cincinnati Toastmasters Club about why she does not like the phrase, 'Good Luck', and what she suggests to use instead.

Instead of Good Luck, Say This

NOTE:  This is a speech that I just gave at my Toast of the Town Toastmasters Club in Kenwood. We meet every Tuesday at Noon and would love to have you join us as a guest or member. Please contact me to learn more!!   Darrell Royal once said, “Luck ... Read More
Of this photo, WLWT News Anchor Megan Mitchell says, "beautiful scenes like this remind me how we are all connected to our planet and each other. "

Megan Raises Voices Of Unheard

I met Megan Mitchell for the first time one morning when I had stopped by their newsroom earlier this year to talk about the 2017 ReelAbilities Film Festival. I had asked for suggestions of news staff who may be interested in helping to emcee our screenings, and was pointed in ... Read More

These Adults Explore And Give

You may find them dancing, sightseeing, hiking, tending to vegetables in a garden, or volunteering their time. One day they may be exploring Fort Ancient, the next they may be touring one of the local waterways on a pontoon boat. One day they may be sorting items at Matthew 25: ... Read More
At 3, Eva Brandstetter is a little girl who learns an important lesson in kindness.

At 3, Eva Learns A Lesson In Kindness

There is something so uplifting about seeing the beautiful heart of a little child who already at a very young age knows and appreciates what it means to be kind to others. And behind that child is very likely adult role models from whom those values have been instilled. Eva ... Read More
Amy Tobin dwells in possibility

Amy Tobin Dwells In Possibility

I love this quote by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” It reminds me a lot of Amy Tobin. When I think about Amy, I smile. She ... Read More
a quote by Lisa Desatnik of appreciation

Today Is A Gift

Some morning reflection. It is so easy to get caught up in our day that we forget to notice and appreciate all the simple pleasures that surround us. Someone is in our thoughts but we don't reach out, or we are afraid of speaking our feelings. But the truth is, ... Read More
Fox 19 Morning News Anchor Charisse Gibson talks about her love for Cincinnati, her volunteer work, and her inspiration.

Charisse Shares Cincinnati Love

It was very hot and humid day in downtown Cincinnati. Traffic was heavy. Pedestrians hurriedly walked along the sidewalks. The sun’s reflection bounced from windows and caused deep shadows among those in its path. Hours later there would be loud music reverberating from the stage at Fountain Square. Families and ... Read More

A Mom's View On Beauty

You may not recognize the name Perry Elliott aka Scott Perry, but, I have no doubt you would recognize his deep, polished, dramatic at times and sometimes whispy voice that has promoted Steve Harvey, NBC's hit America's Got Talent, the Oscars, sports broadcasts, big screen movies, and other television shows. ... Read More
Cheryl Beardslee of Cincinnati says Courttney Cooper, an artist at Visionaries and Voices, taught her about making the most of the gifts you were born with.

An Army Officer's Lesson Passed On

Facebook has so dramatically altered the way we communicate, and sometimes meet.. It has introduced me to people I would never have come in contact with. It is a source of support, of sharing good news and bad, of laughing at each other’s stories, of connecting, really connecting. It was ... Read More
The Freestore Foodbank’s The Giving Fields is a community farm that provides produce for Northern Kentucky food pantries with the help of over 2,400 volunteers.

The Giving Fields Gives Produce

Just along the southern bank of the Ohio River sits the small rural town of Melbourne, Kentucky, spotted with rustic farms and quaint resting spots. The 2010 Census counted 401 people residing in its neighborhoods. It is also the home of the Freestore Foodbank’s The Giving Fields, an expansive 10 ... Read More
Carol Stevie, recently retired director of Cincinnati nonprofit Catholic Inner-City Schools Education (CISE), said the reason she was drawn to CISE is that we are all connected through our humanity.

Carol's Work Inspired By Humanity

I have often said I am so fortunate that my work has introduced me to some pretty incredible people. Carol Stevie is among them. We came to know each other through my work on the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council’s Voices of Giving Awards. A committee member, Carol had been ... Read More

Foster Parents To Adoptee Parents

It was over six years ago when Don and Cindy Reilly’s lives changed forever. Tears swelled in their eyes as the credits rolled to the movie, the Blind Side. And, the next thing they knew, they signed up for CPR and first aid classes and began talking about fostering. Their ... Read More
Last summer, Kathleen Cail and Nestor Melnyk were awarded a grant by People’s Liberty from the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile Foundation to create Access Cincinnati, an online resource providing accessibility information on restaurants and bars to families with strollers, veterans, seniors and other individuals with mobility issues.

Access Cincinnati Launches

Last summer, Kathleen Cail and Nestor Melnyk were awarded a grant by People’s Liberty from the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile Foundation to create Access Cincinnati, an online resource providing accessibility information on restaurants and bars to families with strollers, veterans, seniors and other individuals with mobility issues. After ... Read More
At 90 years old, Dr. Aurora Lira, is still winning medals in dance competitions. She and her partner just won a gold medal at the Millennium Dancesport Championships in Orlando, Florida.

90 Year Old Dancer Inspires

A note from my friend, Magno Relojo… A 90 yr old lady who happens to love dancing and dressing up, inspires us with her enthusiasm for learning and memorizing her dance routines. At this age these can be difficult tasks to do but it is so amazing to see her ... Read More
Danielle and Chris Jones of Cincinnati wrote a book about their journey through tragedy and finding joy.

How Their Loss Is Helping Them Do Good

Danielle Jones was working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center when we first met.  I remember us walking through the hallways, into the waiting rooms, and even further into the patient rooms where young, innocent girls and boys were resting nervously with their families before or after procedures. One thing ... Read More
Be proud of what makes you uniquely different, beautiful and YOU!

Be Proud Of You

Just a reminder... Be proud of what makes you uniquely different, beautiful, and YOU! ~ Lisa Desatnik Read More
Jennifer Okoniewski, a Cincinnati nurse, reflects on the meaning of her job.

A Nurse's Reflection

"Thoughts from my quiet time before work.... Although I don't deal with physical life-threatening issues, I work with mentally life-threatening issues. Being a Psych nurse... Patients here are suicidal, homicidal, schizophrenic, psychotic, bipolar, and so many other illnesses. Just because someone is not physically ill does not mean they are ... Read More
Jenny and Bill McCloy of Cincinnati are philanthropists who give of their time to Melodic Connections, Ken Anderson Alliance, and the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, among other causes. They hope their example inspires others to give back too.

They Hope To Inspire Others To Give

Today I want to introduce you to a couple I got to know through my work on the ReelAbilities Film Festival. Jenny McCloy co-chaired the 2017 ReelAbilities, and the more I get to know about her and her husband, Bill, the more impressed I become. Jenny and Bill were recently ... Read More

Cincinnati World Affairs Council

When I first heard about the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, it brought me back to my earliest experience of learning about people whose cultures are different from my own. (You can read about it here.) What an important cause, now more than ever. As an adult, if you are ... Read More
How cultural diversity and international exchange programs make us better people and a better world.

Cultural Diversity Helps Us Grow

In life, we learn so much from our experiences. They shape and teach us, how to see our world and those who share it with us. When we get to know one other, we break down stereotypes, open communication, bridge understanding and come to appreciate the unique gift each person ... Read More
United Pet Fund, which supports Cincinnati dog rescue organizations and shelters that do dog adoptions, is holding a fundraiser.

United Pet Fund Garage Sale

I remember so well that day when United Pet Fund held its grand opening of its then new 8,500 sq ft Blue Ash Resource Center. In a warehouse building that would come to be stocked with pet food and supplies, dozens of people who shared a common interest in the ... Read More
Tish Hevel founded the Brain Donor Project in memory of her father, Gene Armentrout. The Cincinnati nonprofit organization has registered almost 500 brains for donation from 46 states.

Brain Donor Project Is A Father's Legacy

Gene Armentrout and his daughter, Tish Hevel Gene Armentrout was surrounded by family when his heart beat its last pulse March 10, 2015. He was an avid tennis player, an amateur bridge partner, sometimes golfer and passionate runner for 25+ years. He was the guy running in Eden Park or ... Read More

DJ Brings Out The Happy In People

It is funny that Dona Jean Gatwood, director of community inclusion programs at Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD, Inc.) told me one of the perks of her job is that it gives her the opportunity to laugh a lot, as, it is because of people like her that ... Read More
How a vacation to Destin, Florida rejuvenated Lisa Desatnik.

The Greatest Rejuvenator Of All Time

When was the last time you were under great pressure to complete deadlines and assignments? How often do you have nights where you lay in bed awake thinking about what is on your plate? When was the last time you took a vacation and really checked out from emails and ... Read More
Mary Ronan, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, and John and Eileen Barrett and Chris Bochenek, were recently honored by the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati at its annual awards presentation for their commitments to giving back.

Honorees For Giving Back

Mary Ronan, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools, and John and Eileen Barrett and Chris Bochenek, were recently honored by the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati at its annual awards presentation for their commitments to giving back. Mary Ronan Mary was recognized with a National Operation School Bell Award. Operation School ... Read More
Operation Give Back is a Sycamore Township nonprofit organization that supports students living in poverty

Operation Give Back

Children living in poverty, or in need of tutoring or mentoring, are not relegated to certain neighborhoods. They are all around us. They could be our neighbors or someone living down the street. They could be a classmate to your child. Let’s face it, on any given day, any one ... Read More
Varen Noell Rogers was chosen as the cover girl for Cincinnati Family Magazine

Meet A Cincinnati Cover Girl!

Super cool for 5 year old Varen Noell Rogers! Months back I remember her mother, Stacy Sill, telling us her daughter was in the running for the cover model of Cincinnati Family Magazine…and now Varen’s beautiful face is gracing thousands of issues around the region. I asked Stacy to share ... Read More
Northern Kentucky University student Jayren Andrews is a leader and role model.

NKU Student Is A Change Agent

A freshman at Northern Kentucky University, Jayren Andrews has already long established himself as a change agent. Wise beyond his years, he is a young man driven to be a voice, a leader, and a role model for his peers, his neighborhood, his network, and even his world. While attending ... Read More
Lori and Bill Beer have established an endowment fund for the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business.

The Beers Give $500,000 To Support UC Students

It’s great to see people in our community, leaders and innovators in their fields, to step up and pave the way for future generations to carry on that legacy. Lori and Bill Beer Lori and Bill Beer are doing just that with the establishment of a $500,000 Beer Family Endowed ... Read More
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, Julie Richardson, and Sugarcreek (a co-packer) to prove it can happen. Led by Suzanne Deyoung of La Soupe and Julie Riney Richardson, Indian Hill ... 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!

  I don't know who gets more out of my visits to the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center, me or the kids. Usually I read to the 3 to 6 year olds, but last week we did something different. They each made a personal, hand made Valentine's Day car that ... Read More
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
Quote about life by Nora Roberts

In Life, Just Go For It!

A reminder...let's focus on going for what we want in life.   Read More
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

I can’t think of a more relevant day to be thinking about a Cincinnati landmark and treasure where some of the greatest music originated, and where civil rights and inclusion was modeled at its best. I hate to admit, when I was first hired to work on the Hidden Treasures ... Read More
quote by Martin Luther King Jr

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

Life Lessons


From the words of a dying man, Kyle Nienaber learned about never giving up. From the undaunting spirit of a people crowded into one room shanties – makeshift homes without running water, sanitation or electricity – the 18 year old learned about hope and appreciation.

These are the lessons that can’t be taught in any textbook or school classroom. They are the life affirming consequences that occur when people reach out to one another with their hearts, their hands and their souls.

It’s a beautiful thing to see such education at an early age. Kids and teenagers are not just performing acts of kindness, but really understanding the bigger meaning. They’re learning about caring and respect and responsibility. They’re becoming a generation of people with compassion and deep rooted interest in making their world a better place.

Hospice of Cincinnati strikes me as a difficult place for a young person to choose to volunteer. But it’s become a sort of family tradition for the Nienaber’s, first with Kyle’s mom and sister and then Kyle filling his sister’s role after she graduated.

“It’s something that you can look back on and say you helped someone in their last moments on earth and it puts perspective on life,” he told me.

Especially when that perspective comes from someone with a finite time to experience life’s pleasures.

A huge sports fan, John was given six month to live when he moved into Hospice. It was Kyle’s job to bring him breakfast on weekends, which usually meant having to save the food and bring it back later – when John would finally wake up. The reason? Well, if the game happened to go long John would stay up until the last out was made or the last second ticked from the clock.

“He was always very happy and thankful to have had another night to enjoy his life and the sports he loved to watch,” Kyle said. “He very much enjoyed talking with someone about the games and I was lucky enough to be that someone on many mornings.”

But John shared so much more. His thoughts taught Kyle not just about sports but about living.

From his friend, Kyle wrote in an essay, “I learned that a person’s attitude about life can help extend it. John believed that staying with something until the very end was the best way to appreciate it. Sometimes things don’t end the way you expect. ‘That’s why they play the game,’ he used to say. Most important he used to tell me to never give up.”

Another lesson

In 2008, through Hospice Kyle traveled to South Africa where he helped its sister organization, built shanties and delivered supplies to AIDS patients. “I was one of those unappreciative Americans until I stood in that shanty town village and realized how lucky I am,” Kyle wrote about that journey.

And there, in the impoverished town in Mamelodi where hundreds of children and adults live on each acre, Kyle observed an incredible kindness and thankfulness. “The unbelievable spirit of these people makes me believe that hope is in their future and they can make progress on the very difficult issues they face as a nation.
“They taught me that compassion and caring for others knows no bounds in terms of nations, cultures and socioeconomic status.”

At home Kyle takes what he’s learned to heart, volunteering around Cincinnati. He was secretary of Beechwood High School’s Honor Society where he maintained a 4.27 GPA. And he was honored three times – with the Hospice of Cincinnati Terrific Teen Service Award, as a finalist for the Simon Lazarus Jr. Human Relations Award by American Jewish Committee, and as a YMCA Character Award recipient. He will be attending Notre Dame University this coming school year and chose it because of its focus on service.

And, as for those lessons?

“I’ve used John’s advice on many occasions since he died last year. I always try to keep a positive attitude about everything. Most recently I was inspired during a tennis match. After losing the first set, I remembered John’s words and stayed focused until the end and was able to win the match in three sets…I wish I could have told John all about it.”

People Who Inspire Me Profile: Jade West


There are people in this world who brighten a day just by being in it. Jade West is one of those people. She’s heard around the Tri-State on 101.1 FM The Wiz and where ever I’ve seen her, young people gather round.

Jade is just that way. She has a magnetism about her that evokes a smile from everyone with whom she comes into contact. Her caring about others is truly genuine, as is her love for life.
Last month I was organizing a ‘Downtown Hoedown’ clogging competition on Ft. Square and the lack of parking got in her way of making it on time to compete (something to take into consideration next year because she’s definitely going to be asked again!), but she arrived in her usual happy spirit.

“You know, I would have won this if I had gotten there on time,” she said to me after our hug. She stayed around until almost everyone was gone…except the students by her side. I just love her positive attitude.

Through my work with the YMCA, Jade has been a part of a number of events that reach out to teens. She’s of course top on my list to get involved because I know the positive impact she has on others – including myself – and, as long as she’s available, she has a heart that always wants her to participate.

So it didn’t surprise me one bit when Jade told me a few weeks back that she’d been training to walk more than 100 miles to support her friend, Senator Eric Kearney, in raising awareness about childhood obesity issues.

“I’ve done plenty of walks for other causes but nothing like this,” she told me before their journey. “When I got hip to what it was all about and that Eric was behind it, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I love kids and was all for it.”

I think that conversation was the only time I’ve heard her doubt herself when she was wondering if she’d make it. I had no doubt at all. And, you know what, they made their distance ahead of schedule…in typical Jade style.

If you call Jade at The Wiz and get her voice mail, you’ll hear at the end her parting words of wisdom…”A simple act of kindness can change the course of a lifetime.”

Yes Jade, they absolutely can! Thanks for being you.

(Photo is Jade West and Cincinnati Bengals’ mascot Who Dey at the Downtown Hoedown)

Deer Park High School Students Celebrate Haiti


There is something so beautiful to me about seeing a room of young people exuding positive energy, students who are doing so much more than working toward a goal. They’re working because they want to make a positive difference. They really get it.

Teens with a higher purpose. That’s what I saw a week ago when I walked into Tim Hubbard’s sophomore English classroom at Deer Park High School. It was going on several hours since the last bell rang but no one was even thinking about leaving. They were sprawled out on the floor and sitting at desks grouped together, each student with a specific project.

They really didn’t have a whole lot of time to waste. In less than a week they will be opening their gym up to the public, hoping everyone they know will invite nine people – or at least one, to raise awareness and funds for a culture that has won hearts worldwide after a devastating earthquake rocked what was already a country in need.

But if you come, know this; ‘Soiree Pour Haiti’ is not about focusing on poverty and disaster. It is about celebrating the richness of the Haitian culture. This is the first year in history that that country has had to cancel its Kanaval – an annual ushering of spring – because of the earthquake. So this year, teens, many of whom had never even heard of Haiti before January are committed to ensuring their community is connected. All their funds raised will go toward the relief efforts of the American Red Cross and the Restevek Foundation.

The Soiree will have a Haitian marketplace that will also include authentic food and a Kanaval parade in which kids will be able to participate. Deer Park students have been researching and making traditional Haitian foods, and learning folkloric songs and the Haitian national anthem. Groups from sophomore English classes have been working on posters to educate guests about different parts of the Haitian culture. People who come will also have an opportunity to vote on the best shanty made by the teens (for a small fee).

“Ever since I saw the news about the earthquake, I wanted to do something but I didn’t think I could on my own,” Kalina Procas told me. She was making tissue paper flowers that would be for sale at the event. “One day I want to make a different in the world like the man from Restavec (Restavek Foundation’s Jean Cadet spoke to the students).”

Actually, Kalina already is making a difference in this world. And so are her classmates.

Gini Verbesselt Niekamp, PR coordinator for Deer Park School District, and Tim Hubbard, sophomore English teacher and high school service-learning coordinator, have been overseeing the project.

Soiree Pour Haiti

where: Deer Park High School (8351 Plainfield Rd; 45236)
when: Thursday, March 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
cost: $2 for adults; kids 12 and under are $1

(Pictures – upper left, Sarah Keefe making bracelets that will be
for sale; bottom right, Kalina Procas with tissue flowers she made)

Gifts Of Kindness


I have been so blessed to have been given opportunities to be inspired by some incredible young people – teens who have come to realize they have the power to affect change, volunteering at homeless shelters, organizing efforts for international epidemics, and helping neighbors in need; students whose resilience to their personal circumstance has given them strength of character and motivated them to succeed; and sons and daughters whose compassion for others grew as an extension from lessons taught by their parents.

Adam Hoover, a 15 year old student at Harrison High School, is one of my inspirations. His story is an example of how it’s not so much our life circumstance that brings out the best in us, it’s our choices about what we do in life – and not despite our circumstance, but because of it.

It was a little over a year ago when his teacher, his role model, his mom – Anna Abdim – lost her job and the income that was supporting them (including three other siblings). But Harrison is a close-knit community where neighbors take care of each other and people gave what they could to help. “It really makes you feel like there’s hope in our society,” Adam told me.

Paying it forward

One day Adam was looking around Craig’s List. He was searching for anything with the word ‘free’ on its price tag but what he was drawn to instead were the stories he found. Stories like that of a woman in Indiana who had used her last check to buy things for her children only to have their entire life collection destroyed in one horrendous night when their home succumbed to ravaging flames.

“It just clicked. There are too many people asking for help and not enough help to give,” Adam said. And so, he and his mom got to thinking. They could make a difference. They could help others just as others helped them.

Their program is called Gifts of Kindness. They collect gently used household items, clothes, toys, and just about anything that would be of value to a family who is in need. They can’t afford to rent a storage facility so their home has become a warehouse, stacks of donations everywhere. To date Adam and Anna have helped about 100 families but that number keeps growing.

Now Adam would like to hold a fund raiser. He has an Elvis impersonator group willing to donate their time but needs to find a facility willing to donate their space. If you a place, he’d love to know.

You can learn more about Gifts of Kindness at their web site

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