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, March 9 to 12, and I want to share information about it. I will be back after the Festival – I’ve already got some interviews lined up!
“The Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival is a spectacle of human relationship in its purest form, generating an awareness of issues relative to us all. Awareness creates understanding, which in turn gives rise to perspective—and it is through perspective that we are able to truly appreciate and relate to others in our lives.”
-Richard Bernstein, Michigan State Supreme Court Justice
I can’t think of any words that more beautifully, more accurately explain our purpose when it comes to building a Cincinnati ReelAbilities with celebrities, parties, workshops, networking opportunities, and over 60 life changing films that showcase the art, lives and stories of people who have disabilities. Our goal with the Film Festival is to create a Hollywood-style event where our guests will have fun, meet new and enjoy the company of old friends, be moved in some way; and leave having been uplifted with a new perception of difference, appreciation and welcoming of each other.
Susan Brownknight, executive director of Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD, Inc.) – the organizing agency, has said she gets asked all the time why her nonprofit is investing such a significant amount of time and resources into building a world class film festival.
“My answer lies in the very foundation of what we do and why we do it. At LADD, we are focused and passionate about creating equal opportunities and ensuring the dignity of adulthood for all people with disabilities in our region, a community that embraces, supports and values them,” she answered, “A film festival is a powerful way for us to facilitate that and to connect with others across differences that typically lead to isolation and a hardening across arbitrary lines of thinking. Our idea with ReelAbilities is that, at the end of the day, this Film Festival is about who and what we value, and why we value it.”
Thursday, March 9 at 10:00 am: Welcome to Cincinnati: Meet the Stars Q&A Event with RJ Mitte and others
Thursday, March 9 at noon: Premiere Luncheon with keynote speaker RJ Mitte.
Thursday, March 9 at 6:30 pm: Premiere Night film reception and film screening of The Astronaut’s Secret.
Friday, March 10 at 8:00 am: Interfaith Breakfast featuring keynote speaker Richard Bernstein, the nation’s first blind Supreme Court Justice.
Friday, March 10 at 5:30: Veterans Reception with keynote speaker Michael Schlitz, retired US Army platoon sergeant, Gary Sinise Foundation ambassador and Purple Heart recipient, followed with a film screening.
Saturday, March 11 at 9:30 am: Veterans Brunch with keynote speaker Bryan Anderson, a retired US Army sergeant and Gary Sinise Foundation ambassador and Purple Heart recipient.
Saturday, March 11 at 5:00 pm: Cocktails & Zombies Party with the stars and screenwriters of Spring Break Zombie Massacre, Sam and Mattie; plus other Hollywood VIPs, and Cincinnati’s own Drew Lachey and Q102’s Jenn Jordan.
Sunday, March 12 at 7:00 pm: Local Films/Closing Night Party featuring game-changing films made by and about local people.
Additionally, Festival guests can learn how to act, model, tell their story, see entertainment, and create films on their smart phone in workshops. Please click here for the full list. While all workshops are free, registration is required.
Celebrities Help Us Celebrate Difference
Best known for his role of Walter ‘Flynn’ White Jr. for five riveting seasons of AMC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning thriller, “Breaking Bad”, and the handsome face of GAP’s International 2014 “Lived In Summer” Campaign, RJ Mitte tops our list of Hollywood stars, dignitaries, and ReelAbilities film VIPs to join us at the Duke Energy Convention Center.
Please join us at 10:00 am on Thursday, March 9 to kick off Cincinnati ReelAbilities with a Welcome to Cincinnati: Meet the Stars Q&A Event with RJ and many of our other big name VIPs including Jamie Brewer, Lauren Potter, Kurt Yaeger, John Lawson, Nic Novicki, Bryan Anderson, Michael Schlitz, Boone Cutler, and Steve Wampler.
More VIPs will be joining us throughout the weekend’s events including Ali Stroker, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein (as the keynote speaker for our Interfaith Breakfast), Sam and Mattie, Drew Lachey, Nick Clooney, and more.
Below is a list our leading VIPs and their information.
Anderson is a retired US Army sargaent and Gary Sinise Foundation ambassador and purple heart recipient.
A Disability Rights Attorney, he made history when he was sworn into office, becoming the nation’s first state Supreme Court Justice for the state of Michigan.
Known for her role of Adelaide ‘Addie” Lagdon in American Horror Story, she is also the first model with Down syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Cutler is an author, columnist, music video director and Warfighter Rights leader that has become the first nationally recognized radio talkshow personality who is also a combat veteran from the current war. In 2012, Boone was diagnosed with Early-Onset Parkinson’s Disease secondary to a blast-injury in Iraq and is the national spokesperson for the Warfighter Rights’ Movement.
Lawson is a television, film and commercial PWD actor with past roles in the long running television crime dramas, “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: SVU and FX AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW.
Known for his role in AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’, he was also the face of the GAP’s International 2014 “Lived in Summer” Campaign.
Nic has toured around the country as a standup comedian. Included in his acting credits are tv shows: The Sopranos, Private Practice, and Austin and Ally. He is also a producer and founder/director of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.
As an actress, Lauren is best known for her popular role as Becky Jackson in the popular television show, Glee. However, she also devotes much time to advocating and raising awareness for disability related causes..and against bullying.
Schlitz is a retired US Army platoon seargeant, Gary Sinise Foundation ambassador and purple Heart recipient.
An actress known for her role in Glee, in 2015 Stroker made history by becoming the first Broadway actress in a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage
Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt
These two best friends from Rhode Island met in Special Olympics and are filmmakers of the wildly popular, kick ass movie, Spring Break Zombie Massacre.
A former BMX rider turned actor, Yaeger is a below the knee amputee. His most recent TV credit s include the fan favorite character on FX’s hit show Sons Of Anarchy, the new Cinemax show Quarry and a new major recurring role on CBS’ hit NCIS: Los Angeles.
As the world and his family watched, Steve Wampler who was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy, pulled himself with one hand 20,000 times in six days to conquer the world’s biggest rock, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The documentary of his journey was one of the 2015 Cincinnati ReelAbilities films.
I’d like to introduce you to Jeff Stone, a direct care professional for Stepping Stones, a Cincinnati nonprofit whose mission is mission is to increase independence, improve lives and promote inclusion for children and adults with disabilities. Jeff began working at Stepping Stones as a summer camp counselor in 2012, and quickly added more responsibilities before joining their team as a full-time direct care professional at in 2014.
These are some of things his co-workers had to say about him.
“One only has to work with him for one day and you’ll see the care he puts into his second family at Stepping Stones.”
“This job is so much more than a job to him. His passion is inspiring and I love working with him.”
“He is one of the most selfless, compassionate and dedicated staff I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.”
Let’s get to know more about him.
Lisa: Please tell us about your job, what you do as a direct care professional, how long you have been at Stepping Stones, and what you enjoy most about your job?
Jeff: I have been with Stepping Stones for about four years. I started as a unit counselor at Camp Given in 2012 and have worked several Saturday Kids Clubs and Young Adult Clubs throughout the Fall and Winter. This is my third year at our UCP Campus as a direct care professional. One of the best things about being a DCP is understanding how rewarding it is to be in this field. At Stepping Stones we help individuals find pathways to independence. We offer several activities here for the participants such as, Art, Recreation, Continuing Knowledge, Technology (Computer Lab), Sensory, Life Skills, and Employment Exploration for those who are interested in finding a job some day. I also offer assistance with personal care (feeding, toileting).
I love my job because every day is different and I learn something new. There are many amazing people here, staff and participants and I have made some great friends. I love seeing the participants every day and having fun. I love making them laugh and making their day better. And I especially love making a difference in people’s lives.
Lisa: Tell us about Fred (pictured with you) and your relationship with him.
Jeff: I would have to say that Fred is one of my best friends. He is such a funny person and is loved by so many. We always have a great time together every day because we make each other laugh. Fred is extremely smart and always cares about the other participants. He is always wanting to help me throughout the day and even letting me know if I miss something. He is very observant. Another thing I admire about Fred is his patience. Even when I am having a rough day, he understands and is always trying to make me feel better. If I need him to wait for a little bit, he will and not complain about it. Being with Fred for quite some time, I’ve noticed that he loves art. He will sit and paint if I give him a canvas using several different colors. Fred also loves nature, especially birds. I can relate that to him because my mom was a birdwatcher and has shared with me her experiences and knowledge of birding. I can show him a picture of a Cardinal and he will know what that is. Fred even just finished painting his very own birdhouse not too long ago. I know for a fact though that one of Fred’s favorite things to do is laugh because you can always hear it no matter where you are in the building.
Lisa: How have you grown as a person as a result of the people whom you work with?
Jeff: The people I work with bring a whole new view on those with disabilities. A long time ago where I didn’t understand someone having a disability, I would try and avoid them because I had no idea how to approach them. My parents had to tell me that they were “special” because they also did not know how else to explain it to me when I was that young. Today, I can tell anybody that individuals with disabilities are people just like us. Maybe some of them might need our assistance in doing some things but they have rights too and should never be denied doing something they enjoy. I honestly feel like a whole new person due to my job and also feel like a better person too. I have a lot more patience, I understand situations and views better, and respect those other people who work with individuals with disabilities.
Lisa: What is a piece of advice or words of wisdom that you have received that has stuck with you?
Jeff: One of the most important things that has stuck with me is “CCF” or Campers Come First. In this case now it is “PCF” or Participants Come First. We should always try to help them first and not think about ourselves, even when we are doing something we don’t want to do. If we are watching a movie, a staff member should not pick something that they want to see only because they like it. The staff and participants should communicate and agree on what movie to watch. If a staff member has a rough day and they just do not feel like being there one day, they can do several things to calm them down (take deep breaths, take a 5 minute break, exercise after work). Staff should always remember that they should make sure the participants have a good day because it’s for them. We assist them, make friends, and should work to know them better every day.
Lisa: Who is someone who has been an influence in your life and how?
Jeff: I have met so many people and have made so many friends here at Stepping Stones. There have been several people who been an influence in my life but someone who has always stood by me no matter what is Amanda Kay. She was my boss back when I was a part of summer camp and is my boss now here at Stepping Stones/UCP. Amanda has a love for the people she works with and has helped me get to where I am today. She messaged me out of the blue asking if I wanted to interview for a job at the adult program in Norwood because I was recommended by several people. I’m really glad I did and got a job here. I can definitely call her a fantastic boss, a role model for others, and a friend.
Lisa: Outside of work, what are some of your simple pleasures?
Jeff: I love the city of Cincinnati even though my heart will always be in Cleveland (GO CAVS!!). I love going out with friends downtown and Newport, going to concerts, bowling, going Reds, Bengals, Cavs, Indians, and Browns games, kayaking, hiking seeing movies, checking out new breweries, playing basketball and football, and just being with my family. I just enjoy living life and having fun with those who I am close to.
Way to go Hannah Laman! The Loveland 12 year old was selected from more than 32,000 nominees across the country as one of 10 national Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program winners! For the award, Hannah receives a $10,000 scholarship for higher education; and Kohl’s is donating $1,000 to the nonprofit of her choice. (I bet that nonprofit is Adopt A Book!)
Hannah and her twin brother, Alex, (with help from their parents) founded Adopt a Book that collects and distributes new and gently used children’s book to those who can’t afford them. To date, Adopt a Book has donated 60,000 books to more than 50 organizations, schools and hospitals that serve children in need.
“The most rewarding part of sharing books with others is that other kids have the opportunity to read and own a book of their own,” Hannah told Amazing Kids! Magazine.
Link to a past post about Adopt A Book. #CINspiration
There is a unique new exhibit in Cincinnati where visitors are encouraged to appreciate art through their sense of touch.
The tactile ‘Hands on Art’ exhibit at the Willoughby Art Gallery at the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired features the wonderful work of Harriet Kaufman. Over the past 16 years Harriet has sculpted limestone, walnut, birch, steel, duct tape and fabric. Her work is featured in private collections throughout the United States and abroad…including at our Cincinnati Art Academy, Baker-Hunt, Harriett Beecher Stowe House, Kennedy Heights Arts Center, and the YWCA.
Ruth’s exhibit will run from September 5 to 26, 2014 with an opening reception this Friday from 6 to 9 pm. The Willoughby Art Gallery features art by people who are blind or visually impaired and art that is tactile. Gallery hours are 8 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday, or by appointment. It is located in the Proctor Center at 7000 Hamilton Ave, College Hill in Cincinnati.
I first heard about Richard Renaldi’s photography project several years ago when I saw it featured on CBS News, and thought it was such a brilliant, fun idea to capture the human connection. Since 2007, with his large format 8-by-10-inch view camera in tow, Richard has been going up to complete strangers and asking them to get closer than comfort. For a few short moments those people who had never seen eachother before interact as two strangers typically do not do. Their expressions are priceless.
And now through June 27, ArtWorks Cincinnati has brought Richard here to do a Cincinnati version of Touching Strangers. So, if you get approached by a man and a camera, you just may be about to get to know someone new on a whole new level.
I can’t wait to see what Richard finds here!