Philanthropy – volunteers and nonprofits
Celebrating World Kindness Day all week this week, I am asking people the question, “What does kindness mean to you?”
This is what it means to Kristin Harmeyer, health & wellness coordinator for LADD, Inc. (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled),: “Being kind is about treating everyone with respect regardless of their ability, what they look like or what they have done. It is about being considerate and thoughtful. To me I think of it as just a really natural thing. Kindness is something I think about every day, and I am grateful to have a job that reminds of this.I have been told by some people that I am actually aggressively kind because if someone tells me they have something going on, I fill follow up with them. I just think that if someone tells you he/she is having a bad day, that it is important to ask about it and show you care. I feel like we should all leave our day or wherever we have been better than when we got there.”
I am very grateful too for the opportunity my work with LADD has given me to get to know incredible people like Kristin who inspire kindness in everything they do. Kristin is someone who makes me smile every time I talk to her. There have been times where her work has so moved her that I have heard a tear in her voice.
I first met Earl Edmonds at the Healthy Kids Triathlon Race of the Countryside YMCA (a public relations client of mine) and there was something about him that just stood out to me. I could tell he really enjoyed being among the young athletes. Later I got to talking with him and realized there was a lot more to discover in his life’s work.
Earl’s long career included being a teacher and high school basketball coach at his alma mater, Green Hills High School (his first head coaching job), at Tallawanda High School, and at Forest Park High School before becoming a principal first at Princeton High School followed Milford Main Middle School. He went on to be an administrator at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy before retiring in 2004 (although he still teaches Sunday school at his church). It has been a distinguished path that has earned him and his teams’ numerous accolades.
I wanted to know, where his inspiration came from. Let’s get to know more about Earl, one of Greater Cincinnati’s Hall of Fame basketball coaches.
Lisa: Who was someone who influenced the direction in your life?
Earl: “I was raised by my grandmother and grandfather who are both angels. We didn’t have a lot but what an education I got. I look back and give my grandmother so much credit for pointing me in the right direction. She taught me so much about how to treat people. I had a wonderful father who lived with us too, he just couldn’t take care of us on his own.
Lisa: Why did you become a teacher and a coach?
Earl: “The people I admired most in life were my coaches and so I always wanted to be a coach. I had a terrific English teacher who inspired me so I became a teacher. The people you admire in your life impact you. I also was always an athlete. I played football, baseball and basketball but loved basketball most. I loved teaching novels and grammar, but I also just love being around kids.
Lisa: What do you think it takes to be a good teacher and coach?
Earl: “I see coaching as teaching and teaching as coaching. To be a good coach, you need to break down the sport and teach the skills. You need to understand how to teach young people to achieve. In a classroom, I always felt like I had to coach and encourage kids.
As a coach and teacher, it is important to be positive, be truthful and honest with kids, get along with them but also you have to be in a position to make some tough decisions. You need to be able to relate to everyone, and create a genuine family feeling which involves loving one another like a family. It is the same with being the principal. Both students and staff have to feel that. Sometimes that human connection gets lost with all the paperwork but the most successful people make that a priority. You need to Instill respect for each other – similar on the basketball court and in a classroom. I am a believer in Johnny Wooden, who went on to win 10 championships at UCLA. I have read every one of his books.
Lisa: Of what are you most proud when looking back at your career?
Earl: “I had an opportunity to coach and teach both of my sons, which is a unique experience for a father to have and it was very rewarding personally. I loved being in that role as I got to know them in a way that I think many fathers don’t get to know their sons. I treasure that. My oldest boy is now the head basketball coach at Wyoming High School, and my younger boy just completed his 10th Louisville Ironman. I saw that toughness in him from being his coach.
When I was principal at Milford Main Middle School, the school was named to the Ohio Hall of Fame and that for me was like winning a state championship in basketball. I was there for five years.
Last April, I was named to the Greater Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame which was a huge honor. I got there from coaching some really great players and having a 70% winning career.
Lisa: Was there any advice you have received that you pass along to others?
Earl: “I remember hearing Lou Holtz speak once and he mentioned three rules to follow in life: Do the right thing. Do your best. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Those three rules made a big impression on me and I try to bring that into my Sunday school class where I still teach, and in life.”
Today I’d like to introduce you to a friend who holds a very special place in my heart. Kathleen Sheil is an incredible example for all the qualities that I look up to another person. She is confident, yet humble. She is open and honest and genuine, and most definitely unafraid to stand up for herself and for others. She has this incredible way of making everyone feel welcome when in her presence. She gives of her time generously as a board member of Cincinnati nonprofit LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled), where she lives independently, and numerous other disability related organizations. And she also seeks opportunities to encourage and inspire others to be all they can be.
I see Kathleen as a leader, not only among her peers, but in the community as well. I consider myself so fortunate to be among her friends. Kathleen inspires me to be a better person.
Over dinner the other night, we got to talking about life. Kathleen’s motto, “Go out with the negative and in with the positive,” was inspired early on by her parents who encouraged her to always be confident in herself.
“My mom has always told me to put my best foot forward and that I need to be learning the whole aspect of being on my own completely. My parents never treated me differently from my siblings. They want me to be independent and a person of energy, a leader. They want me to also do my best with everything I do, if they are with me or not with me,” she told me. “I need to live the moment and to think about what that one thing is that makes me happy. That one thing for me is not just talking, not just my friends or my family, and not just LADD, but just being myself.”
“And who IS Kathleen?,” I asked.
“I am someone who is beautiful, honest, respectful, very positive, outgoing, and a leader who encourages others to be very special. I like to make conversations with different people and get to know who they are. I am a person with dreams and goals. I like to sing, do art, and plan events. I have always wanted to find that one person. I am very fortunate to have a family and friends who love me for who I am.
“I am someone who wants to be treated with respect,” she said.
A few weeks back, we heard about a CBS News report of how Iceland is eradicating Down syndrome with genetic testing and abortion. Kathleen was moved to action. She shared her thoughts in a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer that was published. Among her words…”I want you to know that I have Down syndrome and I am important to this world. Yes, I may be different from you because of who I am, but we are all different from each other….Above all else, I am a person, like you, who deserves to be loved and respected. I have a lot of friends who are like me and who deserve to be loved and respected too. If I had not been born, the world would have missed out on getting to know Kathleen Sheil!”
THAT would have been a huge loss to this world because Kathleen, you make this world a better place.
It has been nearly four decades since Judy (and her husband, Dave) Albert first became one of the Spina Bifida Coalition of Cincinnati’s earliest volunteers. Back in the 1980s, when the Coalition was still very much a ‘grass roots’ organization, its address was her home and the phone rang in her house.
“She personally answered every request for help and deeply connected with those she assisted and worked with,” Diane Burns, SBCC program manager told me. “She led our strategic growth to a small, but effective, professionally staffed non-profit situated in an accessible office building, with an active social media and internet presence, successful partnerships with many other local disability groups, and perhaps most importantly, a close relationship with the interdisciplinary Center for Spina Bifida Care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Judy is one very significant reason that local support exists for more than 300 babies, children, teenagers, and adults in our community who live with spina bifida.”
Whether she is serving in a Board or committee capacity, volunteering at SBCC activities, recruiting other volunteers, offering ideas for strategic initiatives, or even serving as Mrs. Claus at the annual family holiday party, Judy’s ongoing support is felt in just about every aspect of the organization’s work. Judy even initiated SBCC’s key sustaining fundraiser – the Walk & Roll, an event that was quickly duplicated by the national Spina Bifida Association, and one that has raised around $800,000 since its inception.
Behind the passion of many driven volunteers is a deeply rooted relationship with the cause, one stemming from a very personal journey in life. And Judy is among them.
The year was 1979 when Tim came into this world, the second of three Albert sons. Judy shared her story, “My obstetrician told us he would never break a record in the 100-yard dash but he would walk. He further added that Tim would never have to go to war which I thought at the time was a strange thing to say to us. Later while he was in the hospital a doctor told us he might not walk which contradicted what we had previously been told but he proved them wrong.”
The Alberts were given a book about Spina Bifida describing it as a ‘very serious birth defect’, scary words for any parent. “A parent from the organization told us that Tim probably wouldn’t be affected by everything in the book but to just enjoy him like any other baby. This was the best advice we could have received. As an infant we treated him like our other son, he just had many more doctor appointments,” Judy told me.
Growing up, Tim attended St. James Grade School and LaSalle High School. He played soccer in grade school and was on the swim team at LaSalle. He has worked at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center since 2001, currently in the Pathology Department as a histology technician. Tim purchased his own condo in 2005 and has lived on his own since that time.
His seizure disorder and other issues relating to his spina bifida have meant needing occasional assistance from his parents; however, Tim purchased his own condo in 2005 and has lived on his own since that time. He likes to work out and plays wheelchair football. He walks with braces and has a wheelchair when he needs to walk long distances.
“He never wanted to be treated differently always determined to make it on his own,” said Judy. “Tim has a great sense of humor always making jokes. We are very fortunate to have Tim as our son and admire him for all of the challenges he has overcome.”
From Personal Success To Giving Back
“Raising a child with spina bifida involves commitment, patience, and perseverance, as well as a thorough knowledge of orthopedics, neurosurgery, urology, and a full breadth of therapies, a hefty dose of psychology and an understanding of developmental milestones, Judy not only nurtured her son Tim, but also her two other sons, while working full-time as a CPA and actively participating at her church, St. James White Oak and children’s schools. Judy quickly turned her focus to those in our community who needed to understand what she had learned – how to help children born with spina bifida and their families to thrive,” Diane shared.
“My mother is the kindest woman I know, and is willing to selflessly help anyone in need. She has shown me through example that kindness truly goes a long way,” said Dennis Albert.
I met Lori Gerring several years back through her work on the Paw Joggers Rescue Run. Billie Mendoza, founder and owner of Paw Joggers, whom I have known for many years had expanded her capacity to help pets by forming a nonprofit organization to organize an annual race that would benefit local rescues. And Lori has been Billie’s ‘right hand woman’ since.
The Paw Joggers Rescue Run is this coming Sunday, October 15th, from 8:30am-12:00pm with the race beginning at 10:00am. At Sharon Woods Park (11450 Lebanon Rd; 45241) Competitive Runners, Recreational Runners, Walkers and Runners/Walkers with (well-behaved) dogs invited to participate!
The Race includes a choice of challenging 5k (chip timed event) and a relatively flat 2k course. Proceeds will go to dozens of Cincinnati area dog and cat rescue organizations.
Paw Joggers Rescue Run now includes a Saturday Expo from Noon to 4 pm with a variety of vendors. It will be held at the MARCH FIRST BREWING (7885 Kemper Rd; 45249).
The Paw Joggers Animal Community Fund (Paw Joggers ACF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the local animal welfare community through events, awareness, and monetary donations. The Paw Joggers ACF and its events are powered solely by Paw Joggers Run volunteers.
Lori shared this story of why this Race is her passion.
“Several years ago, my New Year’s resolution was to “do something outside of my comfort zone” each month. I haven’t always kept the resolution after that year, but helping with the PJRR was most definitely outside of my comfort zone: I hate asking for donations and cold-calling and I had no idea what goes into a 5K. The first year was, to put it mildly, a learning experience.
I am involved with the PJRR because I was there when Billie Mendoza decided to form a nonprofit and organize the 5K, based on the Rusty Ball model of beneficiary participation. A dedicated race participant; Billie took care of the race details. I was the “Communications Coordinator”, contacting vendors, sponsors, volunteers, and promoting the new 5K/2K, last year I added the EXPO to my duties.
The animal welfare community is important to me. My first dog, Rocket the Black Lab, was from a backyard breeder. I didn’t know any better. Several rescues wouldn’t let us adopt because we hadn’t raised a dog and didn’t have an established relationship with a veterinarian. We took Rocket to rescue group fundraisers because it was fun to be out with him, where we learned about the work these groups do. Several years later we adopted another Black Lab, Turbo, from a rescue. After Rocket passed, we adopted Flash (From Elvis Presley TCB in a Flash), also from a rescue.
My first rescue ‘job’ was with Kyle New Hope Animal Rescue. Dr. Kyle was such an incredible help with Rocket that it seemed like a good way to thank her. Other volunteer work has been as a Therapy Dog Team with Turbo (and Rocket) for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs; projects, including grant reviews, for the Grey Muzzle Organization; and minor help with the United Pet Fund.
But the PJRR has a special place in my life. I’m a huge believer in the importance of walking with your dog (for all sorts of reasons) and the PJRR promotes just that. It’s also a way to help a variety of rescues. I’ve met so many people dedicated to helping pets. I’ve learned that pets help people in return so it’s a worth-while cause. And selfishly it makes me a better person because I push myself to get things done.”