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.
I have come to learn, one of the really great gifts we can give each other is the gift of connection…and reconnection. There is so much that we can learn from and appreciate about one another. That process gives life greater value, greater joy, greater inspiration.
Life gave me another one of these gifts recently.
I can’t remember when or how Jami Edelheit and I first met, but I remember how her presence made me feel. She had (and still has) a way of energizing me. She made me laugh. She made me smile. She opened my eyes to different perspectives.
Jami has that effect on people. She is like a magnet, attracting others to dream, connect, and do. She is a leader and change maker who makes things happen in big ways.
TED, a global nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, is one of her passions. In case you are unfamiliar, TED began in 1984 as an annual conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design; and has since spread the power of messages and ideas to billions world wide.
Jami is the founder and director of TEDxCincinnati, bringing people together to share a TED-like experience. TEDxCincinnati includes its main stage event (that have been selling out) featuring TED talk videos, live speakers and performers to spark deep discussion and connection (details are below on its June 16, 2016 event); and a growing community. I served on the leadership team several years ago.
But her roots with TED go much deeper. They sprouted in 2011 when, as the public relations coordinator for a floating campus called Semesters at Sea, she developed a strategic partnership between the two organizations. When she got off the ship, the director of TEDx came to her with the idea of building a community in Cincinnati. That idea has touched thousands in our region alone.
Jami told me she is a TEDster, having gone to the annual global TED event, an event for which tickets are pretty difficult to come by. She also has the license for TEDx on Board, holding events on a yacht in San Francisco.
San Francisco, you ask? Well, when Jami is not conducting business, organizing events, selling real estate, or enjoying family here, she commutes to California – or other parts of the world, where she creates strategic partnerships to create life changing innovations. Chinese CEOs found Jami about three years ago and asked for her help in researching and finding them leading new technologies to invest in, license or bring back to their country. That work led to Google selecting her as one of 12 people chosen work with the social media giant in identifying and amplifying technologies that could impact a billion people – that Google project is currently on hold.
And, as if that is not enough, Jami also runs an international program at Stanford University called Future Xi (meaning Future Technologies) that identifies technologies and solutions.
Quietly, under the radar of many who know and admire her, Jami’s work is impacting the world in which we live.
I asked her a few more questions.
Lisa: Tell us about your very first job.
Jami: My first job was at my neighborhood Friendly’s Ice Cream. I started there as a dishwasher. Everyone began that way, and then when they found someone to replace you, you got to move up to being a cook, and then to an ice cream maker. I moved up to being a server from there.
Lisa: Where does your inspiration come from?
Jami: All of the people I am around inspire me. One is smarter than the next. I just look at the future and think, WOW! It is really all about the people you surround yourself with – whether they are friends, family, or people working on solutions for the world.
Lisa: How have your parents influenced you?
Jami: My dad is 93 years old now. He is a very kind, honest and loyal person who has never raised his voice. He is the most diplomatic, generous and empathic person and has been a stable voice in my life. My mom is 83, and has been singing and dancing and performing around the community for many years. I am so lucky to have grown up with their balance. From them I have learned about being empathetic, compassionate and seeing the bright side of everything.
Lisa: Are your children involved with TED?
Jami: Absolutely. Jordan founded TEDx at The Ohio State University in 2012 and founded the first TEDx in a prison. Now there are TEDx in prisons internationally and she helped mentor several of them. She has spoken at Harvard, Yale, Duke, and in Japan. My middle daughter, Carly, works with me on the TEDxCincinnati team. She is going to Ghanna for the entire summer to work on a public water project. And Michael was the director of TEDxCincinnati Youth for area high schools.
Lisa: You are such an incredible inspiration to all of us. What advice do you give others on experiencing it to the fullest?
Jami: Always be grateful and empathetic. Life is amazing and it is right there in front of you.
Before I wrote this, Jami emailed me this quote she found that she said spoke to her. “There is only one real choice in life, ‘be ordinary or extraordinary.’”
“I choose the later!!! I love to meet and learn from extraordinary people!,” Jami told me.
And speaking of learning from extraordinary people…after reading this, you just did.
TEDxCincinnati Main Stage Event ‘Leap’
Thursday, June 16 from 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Cincinnati Masonic Center (315 W 5th Street in downtown Cincinnati)
For tickets, please click here.
With the theme, ‘Leap’, this year’s event will feature speakers on health innovation, education, wellness, biotech, technology, performances and more. TEDxCincinnati main stage events inspire innovation, thought leadership and visionary insight with speakers and performers on the main stage.
Network with other TEDsters at Innovation Alley before the main stage event. New this year, TEDxCincinnati and GCVA will have awards to recognize the hottest businesses, technologies, entrepreneurs, and funders in Cincinnati’s technology community & of course there will be happy hour!
There are people in this world who live their life with purpose, who push beyond their comfort zone because the power of what they are fighting for is much stronger than any insecurity inside themselves. They are courageous and they are leaders, and they are making this world better in their own way.
Leila Kubesch is one of those people. She is the founder of a Cincinnati nonprofit organization called Parents 2 Partners that educates and empowers vulnerable families including those with limited English, aged out and homeless youth from foster care.
Her website describes what she does this way, ”We use the language they understand and go at pace they can handle. First, we move them from a victim to victor mind-set and let them soar. We train parents, youth, and educators because maximum impact does not occur in isolation. Our aspiration is to promote cohesive informed families that support each other for the success of all.”
She and I walked through Sharon Woods one day when she shared some of her story. It began in Africa where she grew up never having owned or played with a toy. She didn’t know she was poor. “Even without a book to call mine,” she told me, “I loved possibilities. My grandmother sat me down and taught me to dream big. I believed in her words, kept the faith and am achieving my dreams.”
A year ago Leila volunteered as a court appointed youth advocate, a role that changed her path. She discovered the difficult fork in the road for foster care youth, who, at 18, find themselves alone.
“Somehow we think they can make it on their own. One child died in my own community for not getting his medication,” Leila said. “When I asked some of these children what they wanted more than anything, they said simply…a mentor.”
Think about that for a minute. These young adults trying to find their way in this complicated world just trying to get their most basic needs like food, clothing and housing met, are telling Leila what they want more than anything is an adult role model who cares.
It is their stories, their hearts and their potential that has given this soft spoken woman a strong voice. Leila has driven to Washington to meet with a Senator. She developed a web app so that foster care children can be found according to school district. She has applied for program grants and gotten them. She has educated and empowered parents, families and young people through camps, workshops, a Parent Academy.
On March 5, she told her story to a small crowd and was selected to speak at a sell out TEDxCincinnati event this year.
“A year ago, I could not speak in front of people but when I stood there looking into the crowd, I was fearless like I have never known myself to be,” she told me. “It was because I was not speaking with my mind. I was speaking with my heart and I knew I had a purpose. I knew at that moment I did not want to fail.”
Please watch Leila’s TEDxCincinnati talk below.
What is Leila’s advice to other’s? “My advice to anyone who wants to start something is not feel trapped or bound by what you are good at. Follow where your heart is and amazing things will happen.”
Learn more about Parents 2 Partners here.
Do you have an idea worth spreading? I encourage you to audition for the TEDxCincinnati main stage event that will be October 16. It is the first time ever that TEDxCincinnati is holding auditions. If you are selected, you no doubt will be speaking before a packed sell-out audience October 16 at Memorial Hall.
It is such an awesome event and organization. If you are unfamiliar with TEDxCincinnati, it is a local program offering events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. TEDTalks videos, live speakers, and sometimes entertainment combine to spark discussion about a broad range of topics. TED is a nonprofit that supports world-changing ideas. At TED, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less. Talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“What is truly magical about TEDx events is the enthusiasm that they spark for issues. We are all about energizing people, opening dialogue, and moving people to action,” said Jami Edelheit, TEDxCincinnati curator and organizer.
Want to audition?
Auditions will be held at the upcoming TEDxCincinnati happy hour – August 12 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Next Chapter in Mt. Adams. (Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through the website.) HOWEVER, you must reserve your audition spot by emailing TEDxAuditions@gmail.com. Each speaker will have up to 2.5 minutes to share their idea.
What does the producer of a new romantic comedy film, ‘A Strange Brand of Happy’, have to do with Patti Ann Collins – wife of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bootsy Collins, Libby Hunt – the executive director of nonprofit WordPlay, Dr. Jason Singh – executive director of the international OneSight Foundation, and Ricky Nye – a driving force behind the annual Blues & Boogie Piano Summit have in common? They ALL have impactful messages of inspiration AND they will ALL be among the powerful lineup of presenters at the TEDxCincinnati’s Main Stage event on Thursday, October 3 at Memorial Hall in Over the Rhine (1225 Elm St).
With the last two events having sold out, TEDxCincinnati is an independently organized program licensed by TED that brings thought provoking ideas to life with engaging speakers and performers. Themed ‘Sound Ideas’, the October 3 event will feature a diverse collage of unique performers and speakers. Networking and time to meet the speakers/performers will run from 5:30 to 7:00 pm. The speakers and performers will begin promptly at 7:15pm.
Please click here to register.
“Many Tri-State residents already watch TED Talks online to discover new ways of thinking about technology, entertainment, design, business, science, and global issues. But if you aren’t yet familiar with TED Talks, we encourage you to come to our “Sound Ideas” program,” says TEDxCincinnati Organizer Jami Edelheit. “Although TEDxCincinnati operates independently of TED.com, we try to give Cincinnati area residents the same type of unforgettable experience they would enjoy at a live TED Conference. In addition to seeing riveting talks and performances by remarkable people, you can get connecTED with people of all ages and backgrounds who are open to new ideas.”
The “Sound Ideas” program by TEDxCincinnati will be the Thursday-night keynote event for Cincinnati Design Week, September 30 through October 5. Cincinnati Design Week is presented by CODE and AIGA Cincinnati.
Tickets for TEDxCincinnati “Sound Ideas” are $25.00. A limited number of tickets for students are available for $20.00. Tickets must be purchased in advance on Eventbrite, http://www.TEDxCincinnati.eventbrite.com
“Sound Ideas” Presenters
Patti Ann Collins – The wife of Hall-of-Fame funk musician Bootsy Collins, Patti Ann Collins is President of the Bootsy Collins Foundation which was established to assure that all people, regardless of their finances, get proper treatment for health-threatening dental conditions.
Libby Hunter is the executive director and co-founder of WordPlay
Dr. Jason Singh is Executive Director for OneSight, a nonprofit organization providing sustainable access to quality vision care and eyewear in underserved communities worldwide.
Dr. Ingrid Bianca Byerly teaches ethnomusicology on the faculty of Duke University and the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea voyages.
Joe Boyd is the founder and president of Rebel Pilgrim Productions, a ﬁlm, television and web media production company that tells stories that spark people to hope and action.
Ron Esposito, M.A. plays Crystal and Tibetan Singing Bowls to create music that is quiet, dreamy, and introspective.
Dr. Tonya Matthews is an award-winning writer and poet who is known as the JaHipster
Ass Ponys was an indie rock band based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For more details on the program, visit TEDxCincinnati.com.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a conference in California 26 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with many initiatives. On TED.com, talks from TED conferences are shared with the world for free as TED Talks videos. A new TED Talk is posted every weekday.