Walnut Hills Kids Growing Vegetables This Summer


This summer, children in Walnut Hills are learning to appreciate and enjoy vegetables at Camp Walnut Hills at the Melrose YMCA.

In the center of a grassy lot across the street from the branch, youth have been working side-by-side with YMCA staff building and nurturing a vegetable garden…even making colorful signage. It is important work – planting, weeding, and making sure the plants are watered so that in the fall they will have lots of colorful nourishment to try for themselves and share with older adults in their neighborhood.

It is all part of the Let’s Move It! program partnership between the YMCA and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital aimed at encouraging youth throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky students to lead healthier lifestyles.  The Programs goals are to encourage kids to strive daily to eat FIVE servings of fruits and vegetables; aim for less than TWO hours of screen time; engage in ONE hour of physical activity; and have ZERO sugary drinks.  In addition, the program focuses on water consumption and making physical activity fun.

“Exposing children to healthy eating and social responsibility is an important focus for us at the YMCA,” said Sara Lewis, Director of Out-of-School Time Programs. “Through creating the garden and participating in its cultivation at every step of the way, youth learned the importance of giving back to their communities and gained a true appreciation of vegetables and the farm to table journey.”

In the fall the students will be sampling their produce, sharing it with community members, and preparing healthy meals for their families.


Popular YMCA Camp Ernst Undergoing Major Renovations


Since 1928, thousands of youth from throughout the region and around the world come to the beautiful, sprawling, park-like setting of YMCA Camp Ernst where they strengthen their skills and make diverse friendships in an environment that stresses positive character values.  This summer, on their way to check-in, campers will see an all new Welcome and Health Center under construction. Funded with a lead gift from the Schiff Foundation, the new Center is part of the first phase of what is the camp’s first major multi-million dollar renovation since the 1970s.

Camp Renovation

Also included in the first phase of the expansion and renovation are two new bath houses. Other future projects to be completed as funding is secured, include: dining hall and kitchen upgrades; and a new Valley swimming pool, E-Team longhouse for teens, camper cabin, horse barn, and an arts center that will have an art studio, dance room and performance area.

The ‘For the Love of Camp Ernst’ capital campaign is three-quarters of the way to its final goal of raising $4M for all of the renovations. That is thanks to co-chairs Frank Henson and Jennifer Shockey, other volunteers, alumni, parents and board members.

“This broad base of support has demonstrated just how important Camp Ernst is to this community and how much everyone is committed to seeing it continue for generations to come,” said Sandy Berlin Walker, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati.

It was a beautiful spring day recently that Elizabeth Cochran, YMCA Camp Ernst director, and I sat down with Mark Hansel of the Kentucky Enquirer to talk about the improvements.

“It’s very rewarding to see the growth of all the kids who come here and find their voice,” said Eli told him. “I love the connection with the young people over the course of the summer.”

 About YMCA Camp Ernst

Accredited by the American Camping Association, YMCA Camp Ernst welcomes more than 850 teens and 2,200 children including 20 international counselors. (Thanks to caring donors over 300 kids attend on scholarship annually.) Featured camp activities include: horseback riding, five high ropes course elements, 100 ft. waterslide, banana boat rides, swimming, hiking, archery, biking, campfires and capture-the-flag. Unique to Camp Ernst is the fine arts program that features music, drama, dance and visual arts. An important component of all camp activities and programs is leadership development which is delivered as an age-appropriate, phased program that helps pre-teens and teens hone skills that will serve them well as they enter adulthood and seek to establish careers. The Leader-In-Training program focuses on grooming campers to become counselors. In fact, 75% of the current counselors were once campers and 87% of the summer staff was part of camp the previous year.

Boone Co Recorder – Camp Ernst undergoing renovations

Northern Kentucky Enquirer – Summer oasis gets makeover


In Hanna’s Memory, The Butterfly Walk Is Fighting Cancer In Kids


I can’t think of anything more tragic for parents than losing their beautiful, precious child far too soon to the senseless and vicious enemy known as cancer.

Hanna was a happy, healthy 2 ½ year old girl who loved to smile and laugh and spread sunshine where ever she went. It was just two days after she told her mom and dad her back hurt, that she was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops in the nervous system in embryo. Suddenly a family who was counting their blessings was entrenched in a war against an enemy that had no sympathy.

After only seven short months, many surgeries, and 6 rounds of chemotherapy, Hanna lost her battle with this disease on Father’s Day 2006.

Her gift to this world continues.

But while the little girl with a smile that spread as quickly as her disease was no longer on this earth, cancer could not remove her spirit. What a true sense of bravery and love her parents have shown in allowing their daughter’s gift to touch so many other families and children.

In Hanna’s memory, Amy and Mike Paribello began the Butterfly Walk to benefit CancerFree Kids. “We can only hope that with further research funding, children like Hanna will have a better chance for a cure in the future. Hanna showed us all how to fight a battle, how to be courageous, and how to dream,” Amy said.

 The Butterfly Walk is May 12.

The Butterfly Walk and Fun Festival brings together people and businesses who share in the celebration of love and support for children. The name was inspired by the magical metamorphosis of a caterpillar into an enchanting symbol of peace and harmony. That transformation into maturity is something not all children with cancer have an opportunity to experience.

“But,” said Amy, “together we can make a difference and help further the research towards treating and curing this disease, forever.”

If you visit the Butterfly Walk website you will read the stories of so many other children who are the reason the Paribello’s and all of the other volunteers work so hard.

I asked Amy how it feels to know they are making such an impact. “I am fueled by the constant need to continue our fight.  Over the past 6 years, we have lost 3 of our “heros”, who have lost their battle with cancer.  It is heartbreaking to know that one year they are up on stage receiving a medal for their courage, and then the next year they are an angel in heaven.  We are truly committed to giving these children a voice, and fighting for their survival by advancing the progress of pediatric cancer research.  Our mission is for one day for all kids to be CancerFree.”

Butterfly Walk & 5K
Registration will begin at 8 a.m.
Cottell Park in Deerfield Township

Cincinnati nonprofit CancerFree Kids was founded by Ellen and Sam Flannery after their baby daughter was diagnosed with cancer at 5 months of age. Today, due to advances in cancer research and the grace of God, that baby is a healthy 8th grader. But there is much work to do. The organization raises funds to support research in pediatric cancer.



Loveland Twins Collecting Books For Charity


It’s no wonder Loveland Elementary School 3rd graders Alex and Hannah Laman love to read…and want others to experience that same joy. Brent and Angela Laman have always read to their children, in fact, ever since Alex and Hannah were babies.

So, when news came out that a lack of funding was going to cause some local school kids to not have access to books, the twins wanted to do something. With support from their parents, they had a nonprofit called ‘Adopt a Book’ up and running in no time.

What a great way to instill a love for giving…by encouraging children to find a way of passing along to others something that gives them so much joy.

Alex and Hannah (and Brent and Angela) have been busy reaching out to their classmates and other community groups. Their house has become a warehouse of sorts with stacks of stories – from Harry Potter to Dr. Seuss. Over 2,800 books have been donated to Adopt a Book so far; and Adopt a Book has in turn distributed 1,300 books to children through area organizations.

If you have children’s books that you would like to donate, please contact them at: You can also drop books off at Beech Acres Parenting Center in Anderson (where Brent facilitates some groups) – 6881 Beechmont Ave; 45230.

Summit Elementary Students Are Caring Philanthropists


What a pleasure it was to accompany Patrick Nugent, vice president of development for Beech Acres Parenting Center, when Anderson Township students at Summit Elementary School presented him with a check. Such eager fundraisers! I couldn’t help but capture them on video too. Below is the write-up I did for Beech Acres and below that is a video that you’ve got to watch.

Pictured: Tori Madden, Jessie Headley, Payton Egan, Patrick Nugent and Lauren Arnold


Five young enterprising philanthropists at Summit Elementary School decided one day they wanted to pool their talents to help a worthy cause. Together, fourth graders Payton Egan, Ali Madden, Lauren Arnold, Tori Madden and Jessie Headley approached their school counselor and crafted a written proposal. Their counselor connected them with school librarian Tonya Swisshelm, who had already decided to participate in the One for Books program in order to raise money for a chosen cause. This program allows schools to accept donations and use them to their choosing while Scholastic matches the amount collected and purchases books for needy children. It was a great fit to have the girls promote this program among students.

In that moment, Payton, Ali, Lauren, Tori and Jessie became organizers and promoters. Their cause was Beech Acres Parenting Center, an Anderson-based nonprofit that helps to strengthen families for children. The girls made signs that they posted around school and gave daily morning announcements to all of their peers. During the book fair, they were responsible for counting the money and posting the names of all of their donors on a hallway bulletin board.

It was a big job with a big lesson in giving back. On December 1, the Summit Elementary philanthropists handed a check to Beech Acres Vice President of Development, Patrick Nugent, for $115.50. The girls kept thanking Patrick for accepting the gift, proving the key lesson that it feels great to give!

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