Cincinnati nonprofit organization
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.”
Jing was 16 months old, just weeks ahead of playing make believe, running, jumping, and exploring. Only those developmental milestones she was on target for reaching, had to be delayed. The course of her life was about to make a detour that would alter her journey for a very long time.
Jing was born to parents who lived in a rural village of southwest China where central electricity and modern plumbing were unavailable. Meals were cooked over an open fire, that one fateful day burned much of the newly mobile infant’s body. By the time Jing celebrated her second birthday, she had already undergone three surgeries.
Her story traveled to the United States via the media and internet, and eventually led her to Cincinnati, one week past her second birthday in 2012, where she has been living with a host family and receiving treatment from Shriner’s Hospital for Children – Cincinnati.
Her injuries caused airway obstruction which made it difficult to stay asleep for longer than 90 minutes at a time. She had lost vision in one eye, and the Chinese hospital had fused the lid. Jing’s mouth was so contracted from scar tissue that she could only consume bottles of formula. Over the next year, Kevin Yakuboff M.D., FACS, FAAPS, surgically released Jing’s mouth and neck, which allowed her to enjoy solid food for the first time. (Meatballs were a favorite!) He corrected her eyelid for a more symmetric and balanced appearance. By her third birthday, Christopher Gordon M.D., FACS, FAAP surgically altered her jaw, a major advancement which opened her airways and allowed her to sleep through the night for the first time.
An ocean separating them, when it had become clear that it was in Jing’s best interest to stay in Cincinnati near to her medical team, her parents wanted that for their daughter, and Jing’s host family became her adopted family.
Enter Portrait of a Soul
It is children like Jing who give Cincinnati philanthropists Lee and Sue Schaefer purpose. Four years ago they founded Portrait of a Soul, a nonprofit organization which partners with elite artists to create beautiful, fine art portraits of children with craniofacial conditions or other differences.
“For a child, having a portrait of him or herself, tells them ‘you matter, you are important’,” Lee told me. “We had a little girl who looked at her portrait and said she couldn’t believe an artist touched that portrait 100,000 times just for her. Most of the kids want their scar showing but don’t always have to. We just want it to be a positive, uplifting experience for them. The fact that someone cares about them is what they walk away with.”
The first step is meeting with the artist to make sure he/she has a “heart for the project and the child”, something top on the Schaefer’s priority list. Once artists have been paired with a child, they meet and typically the artist will take a lot of photos before going into the studio to illustrate their interpretation of their subject’s soul. Children do not see the finished result until an unveiling event – usually some 4 to 6 months later. It is a process that forms special bonds. Lee and Sue, who have no children of their own, have been to numerous high school graduations, birth parties, plays and other celebrations.
Holly Schapker painted two portraits, one of which was just unveiled at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati. “It is interesting that for so many years, I have been building my skillset and it feels like all my skills have been for this purpose. I don’t see a higher purpose as an artist,” she told me.
Jing loves art and reading, and panda bears. And, now, after the unveiling of her portrait by Tracey Ellis-Haynes at Shriner’s Hospital, the world will know that too (as a high quality reproduction will hang at Shriner’s Hospital and Jing has the original). “I love it because it has my stuffed panda, Xi Xi, in it. Then everybody can see her. I am proud because my artist did a great job,” she told me.
I asked Lee how their nonprofit has impacted him and his wife. “We are very humbled by it,” he said. We don’t want the project to be about Sue and me. This is our way of giving back. We have gotten more out of it than we ever thought. It is the neatest thing that we have ever done.”
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 honored by the Community Foundation West Chester/Liberty with its Patricia F. Alderson Philanthropist of the Year Award. It is a befitting award for two people whose passion is making a difference for so many.
Quietly, without need or want of recognition they give generously with their time and their resources to causes close to their hearts. Jenny is president of the board of Melodic Connections, a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that brings out creative expression in people with disabilities. It is a place where their 22 year old son, Sam, who has Down syndrome and is mostly nonverbal has found a voice. Bill has been very involved with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, having served on its Board and as chairman of its golf outing for many years, a role he continues. He is also vice president of the Board of the Ken Anderson Alliance, a nonprofit organization committed to building live, work, and play options for adults with disabilities.
The McCloys have four children. Sam is their second. “One of the things Sam does for us is that he brings to the forefront the importance of supporting those in need. We both have come from very humble beginnings and lived paycheck to paycheck until 1998. We have been very fortunate to be able to do all that we do for others,” Bill told me.
When it comes to giving, Bill was very clear, they do what they do not for any kind of recognition, in fact, they would prefer to keep everything they do between themselves and the organizations and lives they touch. While they are very appreciative, accepting this award was not something that came easy for them or something they took lightly but they realized that their example may impact the decisions of others.
“We have never used the word philanthropist (to define themselves) but we knew we had a responsibility to give back and to influence our children and others. If our giving encourages one other person to give then it is worth putting our name out there,” Bill said.
Bill’s advice to others? “Give in any way, shape and form you can and it will come back many fold.”
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 looking for an opportunity to get to know and understand people from other countries, getting involved with the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is a great way to start. The nonprofit organization builds global understanding and promotes international awareness through education, information and exchange of people and ideas.
Awarded the 2012 Best of the City Award from Cincinnati Magazine, its more than 1,600 supporters include individuals, corporate, civic and academic members, and community volunteers who host visitors in their homes. It has welcomed visitors to our Greater Cincinnati region from over 100 countries; about 300 visitors annually. And about 9000 students have increased their global skills through its programs. It is affiliated with the National Council for International Visitors.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please click here.
“Just” Dinner with international guests through the US Department of State premier exchange program, The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) with Greater Cincinnati volunteer host family. It is a wonderful two-way exchange of politics, similarities and differences, culture, family, professions, & more! Hosting is one of the most beneficial ways for Americans and visitors to put a true face to countries.
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 on bridges across the Ohio River at lunchtime – in a Santa suit during December. Gene was also a respected businessman and philanthropist. A graduate of the first class of Leadership Cincinnati, his last position before retiring in 2012 was as president of Gradison Financial Services (later acquired by McDonald & Co. Securities, then Key Bank; currently owned by UBS). He was president of the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, and served on the Boards of the Urban League of Cincinnati, the Northern Kentucky University Foundation, the Business Advisory Council at Xavier University, and many other arts, humanitarian and educational organizations.
But more than that, Gene was a family man. He met Rita, the woman of his dreams, in first grade, and 58 of his 78 years were spent married to her. Together they enjoyed five children and eight grandchildren, and many lifelong friends.
It took just a few short months for Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) to rob friends, family, and a community of a man whose brain helped him achieve great accomplishments, who lived with passion and heart, who loved and gave love generously.
Gene’s daughter, Tish Hevel, had been living in Columbus for 20 years when her father became ill and she became a caregiver. It was during her search for more information that she learned of the critical need for brain donations to study the growing and vast number of neurological diseases and disorders. The decision was made to give that piece of her dad to benefit others.
Only it was a decision that came with far too many complications. In his final four hours, a time when Tish would have liked to have spent holding his hand, she researching how to ensure her dad’s final gift would be carried out.
More than 50 million Americans are estimated to have some form of neurological disorder, among them Parkinson’s, autism, dementia, schizophrenia, and CPE from concussions. In other words, about one in six of us will experience or know someone who is experiencing one of these disorders in our lifetime. Research has come a long way but human tissue is necessary in the quest for answers, and there simply is not enough of it being donated. Part of that reason is due to the complication of the donation process, part of the reason is a lack of knowledge and misunderstandings.
A New Chapter
Less than a year later, the Brain Donor Project, was an official 501C3 with a mission of raising awareness of the need while simplifying the process for human brain donation for research. Tish is its founder and president.
In just about seven months, already the Brain Donor Project has had almost 500 brains committed from 46 states and the District of Columbia, representing some 45 categories of brain disorders.
Brain Donations Simplified: How the Brain Donor Project Works
Arranging to donate your brain for research may be the most valuable legacy you can leave to improve the health and wellbeing of future generations. The first step is visiting http://www.braindonorproject.org to have your questions answered. In one stop you can register to donate your brain when you die, receive authorization and consent forms, and tell your friends
The Truths About Brain Donation
Registering as an organ donor IS NOT the same thing, and just because you have registered to donate your organs to science does mean you have also registered to give your brain. There is a different consent process for donating a brain.
You DO NOT need to have a brain disease in order to donate your brain. In fact, ‘control’ brains are in just as much demand and are just as valuable for research.
There is no additional cost to your family for donating your brain.
Bodies are not disfigured when brains are donated. Families can still plan for open casket funerals.
Hear Tish’s Story at TEDxCincinnati
And on June 17, she will be sharing her story at TEDxCincinnati.
This year, for the first time ever, TEDxCincinnati will be on a Saturday with new times and more ways to connect and learn. The Main Stage Event will be Saturday, June 17 at Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St. Cincinnati, OH 45202 and will feature the same show at two convenient times:
Pre-Dinner Show at 5:00 pm (registration opens at 4:00 pm)
Post-Dinner Show at 8:30 pm (registration opens at 7:15 pm)
All guests are encouraged to attend the networking cocktail hour from 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm. Food trucks and entertainment will be on site while guests network with the evening’s speakers and performers.