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!

  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
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

I can’t remember how Elizabeth Truitt and I first met, but I know this. She has an effervescent smile that lights up a room and having lunch with her can be a ton of fun. Her passion for her work and life is contagious. It is what I enjoy so ... Read More
#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

Tami and Mike Boehmer If you follow my blog, you may recall a few posts written by Tami Boehmer, known to many as a brave and inspirational cancer warrior who took on the disease not only through her own fight but the fight of so many others. She was an ... Read More
Karyl Cunningham is executive director of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati Black and Latino Achievers Program

Remember Karyl As A True Friend

It had been years since Karyl Cunningham and I had last seen each other. In fact, admittedly we had a hard time remembering where we met, but that didn’t seem to matter. Within in minutes I felt as I was sitting across the table from a very close friend. That ... Read More
Nick Jackson inspires students through his speeches

Nick Champions Lives

Today I wanted to introduce you to someone who has championed the lives of more than 265,000 high school and college students. Nick Jackson commands the stage. When he gets in front of audiences he lifts them to a higher place, gets them excited and inspired. It truly is a ... Read More

This Coach Loves His Work

Written by my Good Things Going Around intern, Isabella Noe, a senior at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati   I recently had the pleasure of meeting Coach Mike Holmes.  He first started playing basketball in 1996, and is now in his fourth year of coaching basketball both for Swish ... Read More
Margaret Kastner of Cincinnati learned a lesson of kindness at dinner

How A Dinner Changed Her Life

Margaret Kastner and I met at a meeting of the Cincinnati Blogger Network many months ago, and she has become one of my Good Things Going Around followers. We have kept in touch and talk when we see each other. She has always struck me as someone very easy to ... Read More
Quote: The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.

Everyone Likes To Be Appreciated

Just a little reminder, everyone appreciates being appreciated. 'Thank you', 'Great Job', and 'You are important to me' are sentences that can go a long way to brighten someone's day and life. Read More
Heidi Jark is managing director and vice president, The Foundation Office, Fifth Third Bank

Heidi Jark Shares Inspiration

Heidi Jark, senior vice president and managing director of The Foundation Office at Fifth Third Bank, has long been someone I have admired. A 2013 YWCA Career Women of Achievement Honoree, Heidi has learned some mammoth lessons about life and the strength of her will from her own personal experiences. ... Read More
Faith Maynard is program manager of LADD's Community Connections

She Helps Others Achieve Victories

I am so fortunate that my work gives me the opportunity to get know and be inspired by some truly incredible people. Faith Maynard is among them. Faith joined the team of Cincinnati nonprofit organization, LADD, Inc. (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled) 14 years ago as a direct support ... Read More
Keith Maginn is a Cincinnati author

Cincinnati Author Writes To Inspire

I just recently learned about one of Cincinnati’s hidden treasures…a very talented writer who brings others strength by sharing openly, vividly and passionately his own journey through deeply rooted personal challenges and experiences. Keith Maginn was born and raised here. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee just after college to work ... Read More

Karen Is A Happiness Officer

It is not often you meet someone with a job title of chief guest happiness officer, so, when you do, you absolutely have to pause and learn more. That someone is Karen Smith, who, after retiring from a successful career at Procter and Gamble, purchased with her husband a breathtaking ... Read More

This Cincinnati Pilot Transports Dogs

Derek Hassenpflug (left) and Jack Finke (right) Derek Hassenpflug, CFP®, ChFC® is a certified financial planner and branch manager for the Kenwood Ameriprise office, but on weekends, you may very likely see him if you look to the sky. Derek earned his private pilot certificate in May of this year ... Read More

Their Passion Is Helping Kids In Peru

Now I know where my intern, Walnut Hills High School student Isabella Noe gets her generosity and her drive. Her father, Bill Noe, is sharing his story below of a cause that is dear to his heart. In Bill's words... "The Paul Lammermeier Foundation helps children-in-need reach their full potential ... Read More
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

Many years back and very early in my career, my mentor, Bill Mefford, told me about an organization for whom one of his friends was looking for a public relations contractor. Long story short, that woman was Ruth Voss and the organization that became my first long term PR client ... Read More
quote about work performance and leadership by Lisa Desatnik

Power Is A Beautiful Thing

I joined the Toast of the Town Toastmasters Club earlier this summer and have been loving the experience. It is such a positive, supportive group that I hate to miss our Tuesday meetings. This week I gave my first speech. I have so appreciated the positive support I received from ... Read More
Ric Urban is chief conversation officer for Newport Aquarium

Penguins Are His Passion

When Ric Urban walks into the area of Newport Aquarium where the African Penguins are housed, they all waddle over to him…especially one little girl, Paula. It is yet one more reason why this man who has been doing his work (Newport Aquarium is his fifth employer) for 35 years ... Read More
Billie Mendoza, owner of Cincinnati Paw Joggers, talks about her inspiration for creating the Paw Joggers Run

Running For Animal Causes

It was in November of 2008 when Billie Mendoza retired from a long career with Delta Air Lines, a move that propelled her into a new line of work. Billie’s Paw Joggers dog exercising and pet sitting business has grown into one of the region’s premiere services of its kind. ... Read More

A Night of CINspiration

Thank you so much to my speakers Kilee Brookbank and Vickie Mertz, and to everyone who attended my September A Night of CINspiration for making this another very special night. Below is a link to the photo album. Please click on the image to begin viewing the photos. Hope to ... Read More
quote by Morrie Schwartz

Do What Comes From Your Heart

    A reminder to do what comes from your heart in life. You will be overwhelmed by what comes back. Read More
Loveland twins, Hannah and Alex Laman, won a national award for creating their Cincinnati nonprofit, Adopt A Book

Loveland Twins Honored Nationally

Way to go Alex and Hannah Laman, now 13, who began (with their mom, Angela) their own Cincinnati area non-profit, Adopt A Book five years ago! They have collected and donated nearly 110,000 books for over 100 organizations that serve other kids in need throughout Ohio and Northern Kentucky. And ... Read More
Bobby Harrison inspires with words and actions

Bobby, You Just Made My Day!

On the other end of the phone, I hear “Lisa! You just made my day!” It is the kind of welcome that I have come to expect when I call my long time friend, Bobby Harrison; and pretty high up there on my list of reasons why I value our ... Read More
quote about life by Lisa Desatnik

Choose Thoughts That Will Uplift You

You always have the power to choose to focus on thoughts that will move you forward, uplift and inspire you. Read More
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

Written by Good Things intern, Isabella Noe, a Walnut Hills High School senior in Cincinnati. "Typically on Good Things Going Around, I have the pleasure of telling other people’s incredible stories.  Today, however, I get to tell my unbelievable story of how I met one of my dearest friends.  When ... Read More
Holly Young founded Cincinnati nonprofit, New Life Furniture, which provides furnishings for people transitioning out of homelessness

New Life Furniture Is Her Calling

Holly Young walks to a map of Greater Cincinnati hanging on the wall behind a front desk where there are many hundreds of blue and red dots, so densely populated as to obliterate entire blocks, even neighborhoods. The blue dots represent homes were lasting memories were created on or around ... Read More

Two Cincinnati Heroes Celebrated

Last week, I got to meet someone who in my book is a true hero. You may have heard about a horrific explosion this past June in an Oakley apartment building that killed a mother and her son. The reason the rest of the residents lived to talk about it ... Read More
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

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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kids at Kennedy Heights Montessori Center in Cincinnati made Valentine's Day cards for seniors

 

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 I brought to residents of a local nursing home. The children had so much fun making their gifts and how special those gifts were to the older adults who received them.

The greatest lesson in this world is how to give and receive love.

 

Melissa Wants You To See Abilities

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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 communication barriers, and to build a more welcoming, inclusive community.

I wanted to introduce Melissa to you and share some of her story.

Melissa Milinovich is 2005 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio and volunteers for the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival. In this interview, she shares some of her story of disability.Melissa graduated with honors from Wright State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business in 2000 and graduated in 2016 from the University of Phoenix with a Master of Information Systems.  From being a career woman with Hewlett Packard Enterprises as an asset manager in the USPS Division to a single mother of her daughter, Claudia, she strives to reach the high goals she has set for herself. She never allows anyone to tell her she “can’t” do something; she figures out how to achieve it.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which has caused her to use a wheelchair for mobility, has also been a driving force for much of her volunteer work.  In her free time, Melissa serves on the National Board of Directors for Cure SMA, assists her daughter’s school with administrative and fundraising tasks, assists her MDA office with Summer Camp, speaks at many events to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. She is also the chair of the Accommodations Committee for the 2017 Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival as well as a Film Reviewer.

Lisa:  You are Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2005 (MWO) and 3rd Runner Up Ms. Wheelchair America 2006. What has that experience meant to you and why is that Pageant important?
Melissa: Although I am no longer involved with the Ms. Wheelchair Ohio/America program, my time in the program was spent focused on helping other young girls and women with disabilities realize whatever dreams they have are in reach. I am a firm believer that the only limitations in life are the ones you place upon yourself. When I was MWO 2005 and ran the MWO program, I was an advocate of promoting the idea that these women were successfully living lives despite the need for a wheelchair for their day to day mobility. Society has a habit of seeing a person in a wheelchair as someone who cannot possibly be living a ‘normal’ life and that is something I wanted to change, even if just on a minor change, with the MWO program.

Lisa: You are so passionate about being involved with Cincinnati ReelAbilities. Why is the Festival important to you and why is it important that the community participate in and support it?
Melissa: When Susan Brownknight (executive director of LADD, Inc.) and Molly Lyons (LADD, Inc. director of development and external relations) first approached me about becoming involved in the ReelAbilities Festival, I was skeptical about becoming involved at first. Because I was so used to programs that were ‘feel good’ programs, I did not want to support another program that promoted the idea of able-bodied people doing ‘good’ for the disabled community and getting a pat on the back. To my surprise, they explained that ReelAbilities was actually the opposite of that so I was onboard.

The Festival itself and the message it promotes is important to me because mainstream media tends to promote the idea that people with disabilities need pity, are living lives not worth living, or are a drain on their families. For example, in the film/book ‘You Before Me’, the message was spread that death is better than living with a disability. The Cincinnati ReelAbilities Festival has films from all spectrums of disabilities and promotes people living their lives doing very ‘normal’ things despite having a disability. Now, don’t get me wrong, having a disability is challenging and even frustrating at times; however, I believe I can do anything I want to do, I just may need to do it differently.

Lisa: What is one of your greatest satisfactions of being a mother?
Melissa: My daughter is the sunshine of my life and I am thankful for her every day. Although I was unsure how a pregnancy would turn out, I knew I wanted to be a mother so I did everything possible to bring her into the world as healthy as possible. She ended up coming into the world 9 weeks early but you certainly couldn’t tell it today. She’s a happy, healthy, smart, sassy almost 10 year old and one of my greatest satisfactions is being able to watch her grow into a young lady while trying to teach her what she needs to know along the way. I love my career but my true, most rewarding job is raising my daughter and having her is the best decision I ever made.

Lisa: Who is someone who has great impacted your life and how?
Melissa: Being Catholic, my faith is extremely important to me and that faith was something instilled in me as a child from my Mother. She always taught me to have faith that God would see us through whatever challenge we were facing and, as an adult, I am very thankful to her for this. In fact, I am following her lead and raising my daughter with that same faith in God.

Lisa: What is an obstacle that you have overcome and how has that strengthened you? 
Melissa: It is hard to choose one obstacle in my life that I have had to overcome because my whole life has been full of them. From teachers in school thinking that my mind didn’t work because my legs didn’t work to co-workers thinking I was given my job to fulfill a percentage of hiring obligation, my life has been a constant circle of proving myself to others. Although it can be exhausting at times, it has also taught me to just be who I am and do what I need to do regardless of what others may think of me. It has also given me patience to raise a very spirited, wonderful child.

 

 

My Furry Valentine Led By Passionate Animal Lovers

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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. And two names I want to recognize with that event are Carolyn Evans of PhoDOGrapher and Jennifer Grimmett.

Carolyn, and her pet photography business, is host and founder of My Furry Valentine. She is also someone with a HUGE heart for animals…and people. She has captured the spirits of furry friends for more than a decade; and her photographs have helped many animals find forever homes. Caroline is an ardent supporter of the No-Kill movement, the Board Secretary of HeARTs Speak, a united group of artists united to break down the myth that animals from rescues and shelters are inferior, and the Board President of My Furry Valentine.

Jennifer Grimmett is volunteer coordinator for My Furry Valentine, a Cincinnati pet adoption eventJennifer Grimmett is an assistant principal for an online high school; and serves as My Furry Valentine’s volunteer coordinator. It is Jennifer’s role to recruit, coordinate and manage about 265 volunteers for the two day event. It is a non-paid position that has required dozens of hours, and has even gotten her family including her children involved.

Spending that kind of time on anything generally takes someone driven by passion…something both Caroline and Jennifer have. You can read more about Carolyn in my past interview here.

Jennifer told me she has always loved animals. It is something shared by her entire family including her husband, Mike, and two daughters, Michael and Audrey. All three of their cats and their Pug, Finn, are all rescues. Finn came into their lives via a Columbus prison rehabilitation program for dogs, and is every bit a ‘mama’s dog,’ going most places Jennifer goes.

While she has spent so many hours communicating with people online or over the telephone, Thursday will be a big night as all volunteers will congregate for a big orientation meeting prior to the event. “I really can’t wait until our big volunteer meeting this Thursday before the event. It will be my first time meeting everyone in person. It will be the only time when everyone is in one room together. I think it will be amazing to share that positive energy with everyone,” Jennifer told me.

NOTE:  If you are planning on attending to find your new friend, please read my adoptions considerations in my pet behavior blog at www.SoMuchPETential.com.

My Furry ValentineAbout My Furry Valentine

This year’s Main Event will again be held at the Sharonville Convention Center (11355 Chester Road; 45246) and will feature hundreds of adoptable pets (dogs, cats, puppies, kittens and other small critters) from dozens of different rescue and shelter groups from around the Greater Cincinnati area. Every pet adopted from our Main Event will go home with swag and adopters can enter to win one an adopter raffle basket.

As a courtesy to the adoptable animals already on site as well as for the safety and well-being of guests, owned pets are not allowed at the event. If you’d like to schedule a meet-and-greet between your current pet and a potential adoptee, My Furry Valentine suggests you contact that rescue or shelter directly.

If you are unable to attend the MFV Main Event, be sure to check out the many participating locations throughout the city. Satellite events are hosted throughout Greater Cincinnati by My Furry Valentine participating rescues and shelters. You can find a list on the My Furry Valentine website.

 

 

 

Early Bird Entry, Saturday: 10am – 12pm

Saturday, February 11th, 12pm – 6pm

Sunday, February 12th, 10am – 5pm

General Admission: $5 per person, ages 5 and up

Early Bird Admission: $25 for 1, $40 for a pair, children 17 and under free when accompanying an adult.

 

In my So Much PETential pet behavior blog, I wrote about some considerations to keep in mind BEFORE you go. Please click here to read them.

Disability Does Not Define John

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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 and a spokesperson with whom I spent a lot of time. Now living in the Los Angeles area for his acting, John is coming back to Cincinnati to join us next month as one of our 2017 Festival VIPs.

Actor John Lawson shares his story: disability does not define him.What I remember so much about my time with him two years ago was how John could make me laugh, but also, John is an incredible listener, an encourager and a leader. He went out of his way to let me know my work and contributions were valued, and he did that with everyone I saw him come in contact with. At our Film Festival, he spoke with eloquence and humor in spreading our message. He included people. He inspired not because he is someone who has a disability but because of who he is as a human being.

Below are two different posts John had written on his Facebook page awhile back (I am reprinting with his permission) about his story. Since they had some duplication, I cut out part of the second post. I hope that you will take a few minutes to read his words. They just may change the way you see and think about difference.

John Lawson’s Story (in his own words)

Feb 4, 2015

Wow, 28 years ago today February 4, 1987 is the day that I truly will never forget. I guess the cynical smart-ass side of me wants to write that I’ll never be able to forget for there is always someone coming up wanting to know how I lost my arms or who are very quick to remind me how “lucky” I am to be alive. I don’t know that I agree with their assessment of a measure of luck apportioned to me. I started playing the piano at age three, then began lessons at age four and studied classical piano for 17 straight years. At age 30, I had spent over half my life learning to play piano and now would spend the rest of my life without hands. That doesn’t sound very lucky.

I have been lucky to raise three wonderful, smart and somewhat “well adjusted” kids (hey I was their Dad) and had the very lucky chance to marry the love-of-my-life. Unluckily, the cancer won and I lost her too.

I spent five months of my life at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill North Carolina. My left hand and most of my arm below my elbow was amputated that day. My right hand was amputated above the wrist approximately one month later. As the burned skin debridement surgeries stopped and drugs wore off, I assumed a new role I never wanted to audition for as an upper extremity double amputee; a man with no hands left only to watch others play music.

While at the Burn Center, I received the best-specialized medical burn care from some of the world’s leading doctors and nurses. It was there that I decided to do my best to recover all aspects of my life. It was explained that losing limbs is similar to losing a loved one and you should experience the same emotions. While at the hospital, I never felt that I went through all the steps normally associated with a life changing experience such as my accident. If I did, I did them in my sleep, because from early on I realized I had to unconditionally accept my new role. I did find out, that since I never displayed the emotions expected, the psychiatrists that visited my room over the months noted in my chart that I was a “classic case of denial, and would suffer a catastrophic mental breakdown with in five years.”

Again, wow; twenty-eight years gone by and I’m still waiting for that mental breakdown. I think I would enjoy the time off.

Probably the most helpful wisdom I received after my amputations was by an unknown author, but passed on by my mother, “No one ever finds life worth living—you have to make it worth living.”

I am not special in the things I have done, with the conditions I have to deal with to do them. I could not control the circumstances that burned my body and resulted in the amputation of both my hands, but I can control what happens after the flesh has healed. I can control my attitude.

Early in my acting career, someone gave me a coffee mug with a saying printed on the outside, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Those six words carry a powerful meaning. We only get to do this once and no matter what or where our stage, this is our one and only performance. I do not know what roles in life I will have to play in the years ahead, but I do know I will always chug along with the same attitude as the little blue engine pulling the long heavy train in the book read by my mother to me so many times as a child, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

Jan 10, 2017

I need to say I am not here to inspire you. I have lost count of strangers that approach me in public while grocery shopping or pumping gas to tell me that I am an inspiration. I guess they mean well, but to me they are just congratulating me for remembering to put on my pants before I left the house. There is nothing inspirational about pumping gas or grabbing a can of green beans off the shelf. You have been lied to about life with a disability.

Most people believe that because you have a disability that your life is worse; that being a person with a disability is a bad thing and that if you live with the disability, it makes you exceptional. Living with a disability is not a bad thing and it certainly doesn’t make you exceptional or inspirational.

Life as a person with disabilities can be difficult and we do have to overcome some things. But it’s not the things that you may think. It’s not the things to do with our bodies that we have to overcome. I believe that disability is caused by the way society is structured, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. If society looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for people with disabilities, then disabled people can be independent and equal in society, with choice and control over their own lives. Of course I’m in a profession where the industry creates barriers that 95% of the work for characters with a disability are given to an able body actor. It’s these societal barriers of the industry that restrict the choices and control of my career.

So February 4, 2017 I will start using prosthetics for longer than I had my hands. Half of my life wearing hooks. Do they replace my hands? No, but they are a tool I’m forced to use for maintaining my independence in a society designed for able body people; a tool for me to pump gas or load my grocery cart. I’ve learned to use my prosthetics to best of my ability, so I know when people tell me “I’m an inspiration,” that they mean it as a compliment. I do understand that, but the reason it happens is because of this lie that’s been sold to the public that disability makes you exceptional and makes you inspirational. I’m sorry; but honestly, it doesn’t. I really believe that this propaganda that we’ve been sold is the greatest injustice and makes life hard for us.

Oh, and that quote about “the only disability in life is a bad attitude,” is total bullshit. It’s just not true. No amount of me smiling at a piano keyboard with a positive attitude will allow me to play as I used to touch the ivories with ten fingers.

I hope in my lifetime to live in a society where someone with a disability is not the exception, but just accepted as a norm. I hope to live in a society where a man stuffing a grocery cart is not an inspiration just because he is using prosthetics. I want to live in a society where we don’t have such low expectations of people with disabilities that we hire able body people to do jobs they are capable of performing. I hope in my lifetime to live in a society where we place value on genuine achievement by people with disabilities.

 

 

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