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Local Derby Day event to raise funds for Winton Woods Riding Center

The Kentucky Derby is just around the corner, and while most everyone can get excited about the grandeur of the event and the stakes of the race, there is a population of local individuals for whom the stakes are also high.

The Winton Woods Riding Center with Great Parks of Hamilton County — home to the Special Olympics Hamilton County Equestrian Team — will receive 50 percent of the proceeds from Parkers Blue Ash Tavern’s 4th Annual Kentucky Derby fundraiser.

This year’s May 6 event, which occurs on Derby Day, will help raise scholarship money for students. These scholarships will give them the chance to experience nature, animals and activities in a unique and moving way that due to lack of funds, wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

“Great Parks Foundation believes that all members of our community should have access to all that the great outdoors has to offer,” says Rachel Neumann, manager of the Winton Woods Riding Center.

Through the scholarship fund, individuals and groups — many of whom are Special Olympics athletes and therapeutic riding students in the Special Riders Program — benefit, as medical equipment, therapy expenses and the cost of adaptive equipment add up.

“Seeing the joy on these riders' faces as they arrive for their weekly lessons warms your heart,” Neumann says. “Watching them build relationships not just with the horses they ride, but also with their classmates and volunteer supporters is my favorite part of working at the Winton Woods Riding Center.”


- Plan to attend the Kentucky Derby Party and Fundraiser at Parkers Blue Ash Tavern from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on May 6. Admission is $15 and can be paid at the door.

- Once at the event, have fun. Dress your best. Grab your hats. Enjoy a Mint Julep, and bring extra cash for raffle items, which also support the Winton Woods Riding Center.

- Support the Riding Center by donating.

SCPA's memory of a beloved teacher is helping raise funds for harp education

Michelle Gwynne, harpist and former teacher at the School for Creative and Performing Arts passed away last semester, but her memory will live on through a benefit concert hosted by the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Harp Society.

The concert, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, aims to not only honor Gwynne and her legacy, but also seeks to gather donations to help purchase a practice harp for the SCPA Harp Program as a “perpetual memorial to Michelle,” says Alaina Graiser, president of Cincinnati’s American Harp Society.

Gwynne, who was with SCPA for more than 18 years, was the driving force behind the creation of the school’s Harp Program and was able to take what was a “practically nonexistent program,” Graiser says, and allow it to thrive.

“She really poured herself into the harp department with thoughtfulness, energy and determination that drove the program to be a really unique asset to the school."

The SCPA Harp Department, former students from year’s past, friends and colleagues of Gwynne will all take part in Wednesday’s performance, which is free to the public. Various items will be up for raffle.

According to Graiser, the SCPA Harp Program is particularly special because it makes a unique instrument like the harp accessible to a large number of students who are diverse in age, race and socioeconomic status.

“There are only a handful of harp programs in public schools in the U.S.,” she says. At its high point, the SCPA Harp Program had upward of 40 students.

Through fundraising efforts, Gwynne was able to secure what Graiser calls “an impressive number” of harps for students to play during class — a testament to Gwynne’s positive influence and position within her students’ lives.

“We believe in the power of this program to touch students' lives in a positive way,” Graiser adds. “And while Michelle is deeply missed, we are honored to remember her vivacious spirit and further her undeniable legacy in the Cincinnati Harp Community.”


- Attend Wednesday’s memorial concert, which takes place at 7 p.m. in the Corbett Theater of the SCPA.

- If you are unable to attend but would like to contribute to the purchase of the practice harp, do so here.

- Share the event page on Facebook, and encourage your friends to enjoy music while giving back to a worthy cause.

The Cure Starts Now's annual event aims to provide funds for continued cancer research

On May 6, the Cure Starts Now will celebrate 10 years at its Once in a Lifetime Gala & Auction, and with more than $7.3 million in research funded since the foundation’s inception, there’s a lot to celebrate.

In that time, the Cure Starts Now has come a long way. When Wyoming residents Keith and Brooke Desserich lost their 6-year-old daughter Elena to brain cancer, “the cure starts now,” was written in a blog they maintained that detailed Elena’s journey.

To begin raising money to fund research, while honoring Elena’s life and legacy, the Desserich family sold Elena’s artwork — each piece accompanied by a lesson or story — at their hometown art show.

Those four words — “the cure starts now,” however, were resolute, proclaiming a determination and dedication to finding the “homerun cure” for cancer by funding research of its most deadly forms, such as DIPG.

And it was going to take more than an art show to make the strides the Desserichs were hoping for.

The Cure Starts Now Foundation began small, but it now has 30 chapters on the international stage, all of which are working closely to help researchers and oncologists collaborate to find a cure.

Last year’s Once in a Lifetime Gala & Auction helped the foundation raise $400,000 to help continue to support research funding.

“This event each year is not only fun, but it also raises significant funds that make a real difference in the lives of these children battling cancer," Desserich says.

- Purchase your ticket to this year’s Once in a Lifetime Gala & Auction.

- Can’t attend the May 6 event? Donate today.

- Learn more about how you can get involved with The Cure Starts Now and help make a difference.

One of Porkopolis' biggest events has a philanthropic mission

It’s almost time for The Flying Pig Marathon (it's on May 7), but you don’t have to be a runner to participate in the fun that surrounds it.

Everyone, for example, can have a little fun with the Pig Drop, for which participation is not only easy, but also charitable. By adopting a pig for just $5, you gain the chance to win a Cincinnati Getaway experience, a two-year car lease or $5,000 in cash. It’s truly “The Piggest Raffle Ever.”

On top of the prizes, 100 percent of your $5 pig adoption fee goes to the charity of your choice, and if you win the grand prize of $5,000, your charity will also receive $5,000 — a $10,000 prize in total.

The race was founded on three principles: "To put on a world-class event, to celebrate our communities and to support our charities,” says Betsy Ross, public relations for The Flying Pig Marathon. “More than 200 charities take part in The Flying Pig Marathon weekend events, with more than $1 million raised for these charities each of the last six years.”

More than 100 nonprofits are participating in The Piggest Raffle Ever — smaller organizations like Adopt-A-Book and Journey to Hope, and larger nonprofits like the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Since 2011, the raffle has grown “so much so that our ‘pig-nata’ that we use to drop our pigs is getting almost too heavy to hold all the piggies,” Ross says.

For the nonprofits involved, it’s a simple, fun and affordable way to raise awareness as well as funds that help the organizations achieve their missions.

“The Flying Pig helps these charities raise these funds without taking any administrative or service fee,” Ross says. “We are a conduit to their fundraising.”


- Learn more about the nonprofits involved by viewing the list of participants and learning about their visions.

- Follow the link to adopt a pig — or a few pigs — to fill the “pig-nata” to the brim and assist your charity of choice.

- Tell a friend about The Piggest Raffle Ever and encourage them to join in the fun surrounding this year’s Flying Pig Marathon.

LNGC to host 26th annual adult community-wide spelling bee on April 27

Spellcheck and autocorrect may be today’s norm, but the Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati is keeping spelling relevant with its 26th annual Adult Team Spelling Bee, which is slated for April 27 at The Holy Grail at The Banks.

Local businesses, organizations and individuals are invited to sponsor teams of three who will compete for the title of Cincinnati’s best spellers, with all proceeds benefitting the LNGC and the programs it offers.

“The Spelling Bee is a fantastic way to help those in our community who struggle with basic reading,” says Michelle Otten Guenther, president of the LNGC. “With thousands of adults and children in Cincinnati fighting to overcome illiteracy, events like this make our much-needed programs possible.”

Not only does the Spelling Bee promote literacy awareness, but it also promotes teambuilding as corporations, small businesses, schools, families, friends and nonprofit participants take on a competitive yet encouraging spirit.

“It is a win-win for us,” says Harry Cappel, partner at Graydon Law Firm and LNGC board member. “The event instills a sense of pride and teamwork among colleagues in the firm. We are proud to be part of this unique event to help improve literacy.”

Graydon is conducting an Internal Spelling Bee, which is new this year. Employees will use a provided toolkit to conduct a Bee of their own leading up to the event to make sure top spellers will compete at the community-wide event.

The LNGC will award prizes to the top two teams, in addition to the team with the most spirit. For those who want to sit back and enjoy the show, happy hour admission ($20; includes two drink tickets) can be purchased at the door.


- Sign up to sponsor a team today.

- Want to be a spectator? Mark your calendars for 4:30 p.m. on April 27 to watch the Spelling Bee fun.

- Support the LNGC by volunteering or donating today.

Michael Coppage is using art to start discussions about mental health

For one local Talbert House employee, thinking about the population served within the workplace extends well beyond the hours of a normal workday.

As a Housing Supervisor, Michael Coppage works with individuals facing mental health issues on a daily basis, and as an artist, he has the ability to shed light on some of those issues in a creative way. He aims to prompt discussion and promote inquiry through his art.

“The need to fit in and ‘be normal’ is often the biggest barrier to medication adherence and routine mental health treatment for the young African-American male population diagnosed with mental illness,” Coppage says. “We need all the help and support we can get.”

Coppage was recently honored with the Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Foundation’s Enlightenment Award for his artwork, which has enabled him to explain different topics, such as mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it, to adults and children alike.

Currently, his mural is on display in Over-the-Rhine, courtesy of ArtWorks, at Goetz Alley at 13th Street. His previous work has been displayed in Columbus at the FRESH A.I.R. Gallery on a multitude of occasions.

“Thanks to Michael’s efforts and passion for our clients’ wellbeing, our community is better educated on this important topic,” says Talbert House’s president and CEO Neil Tilow. “And our clients are more likely to be welcomed by a community that sees them for more than their mental illness.”


- Work to encourage your family and friends to both acknowledge and address issues of mental health.

- Support the Talbert House by donating.

- Connect with the Talbert House on Facebook.

Tri-State Trails inviting all to area trails opening day

Opening Day for Cincinnati Reds baseball is always a celebration, but there’s another Opening Day — also full of entertainment — in store for community members. Tri-State Trails is hosting its second annual Opening Day for Trails event April 8 and 9.

As part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s national kickoff to spring trail season, this weekend’s festivities will feature 14 trail events that encourage participants to walk, hike or bike their ways throughout Greater Cincinnati.

“Our vision is to make Cincinnati the healthiest region in the country,” says Megan Folkerth, program officer for active living at Interact for Health, one of Rails-to-Trails' community partners. “Opening Day for Trails encourages people to explore local trails and incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives.”

This season’s Opening Day for Trails sampler will showcase the variety of ways in which people can incorporate physical activity into their lives. Event highlights include:

  • Covington will host a scavenger hunt on the Licking River Greenway Trail
  • Indiana will host a guided history tour on the Whitewater Canal Trail
  • In partnership with UC|sustainability, Tri-State Trails will lead a four-mile bike ride through Uptown, along the proposed Wasson Way

“Opening Day for Trails showcases some of the many ways you can experience our robust trail system in Greater Cincinnati,” says Frank Henson, chair of Tri-State Trails and president of Queen City Bike. “We’re excited to engage new trail users and build support for continued investment in trails and active transportation.”


- Explore the full list of events for Opening Day for Trails.

- Post a trail selfie using #tristatetrails for a chance to win free gear from REI Cincinnati.

- Tell a friend about this weekend’s upcoming events, and encourage them to explore and be active as well.

Future Blooms program helps beautify blighted properties, urge economic development

Cincinnati’s vacant buildings have been receiving makeovers since 2009, thanks to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and its Future Blooms program.

Those who participate in Future Blooms paint plywood barricades to look like colorful attributes of what one would see on the outside of a livable space — awnings, flower boxes, windows and doors.

“We find eyesores in a community, and turn them into community assets by using the neglected space to create simple works of art," says Mary Huttlinger, executive director for KCB.

This past weekend, KCB celebrated a milestone as Future Blooms painted its 1,000th vacancy.

The impact?

“Our program uses art as a catalyst for reducing blight, crime and graffiti in Cincinnati neighborhoods,” Huttlinger says.

In fact, in target areas, Future Blooms has contributed to an average drop in crime by 27 percent, blight reduction by 27 percent and an increase in economic development by 34 percent.

And the artwork is serving as a model for other cities that are struggling with vacancy and the problems it presents.

KCB’s mission is to “educate and encourage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their environments,” and it’s with milestones like 1,000 works of art to replace vacant buildings — hubs for otherwise potentially dangerous activity — that the nonprofit is exceeding its vision.


- Volunteer with KCB and its Future Blooms program.

- Support KCB by donating.

- Like KCB on Facebook.

Starfire Council helping create inclusive artist collective in Lower Price Hill

Studio C, a free project incubator for nonprofits, is now in its third week. Seventeen teams are working diligently to “understand people” — a critical component that will allow the nonprofits to have a firm understanding of the populations they serve so they can then come up with viable solutions to reduce family-centered poverty.

Design Impact, in partnership with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, will begin its more intensive work next week with eight of the 17 nonprofits. Not every team will move forward — the final eight teams will be decided through an interview process. The remaining nine weeks of the curriculum will feature studio time and workshops as nonprofits work on their projects.

"Design thinking is important because it’s dynamic," says Tim Vogt, executive director of Starfire Council, which works to build a more inclusive Cincinnati. Starfire has participated in Studio C before, but with a different project.

“Nonprofits get stuck a lot,” he says. “In the old days, there were five-year plans, but the work is so dynamic now, the learning needs to be dynamic as well."

In Starfire’s first iteration at Studio C, it worked alongside Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services and its Early Intervention Team to look at how it could transform its services and influence the bigger system to build relationships.

Rather than a “captive client” situation, Vogt says it’s “an empowering future when marginalized people are pillars of the community.”

In this year’s program, Starfire is working in partnership with Kachelle Cunningham, a Lower Price Hill resident, to shape an artist collective — and with the help of Community Matters — an Artist in Residence program that would allow a member of the Collective to shine.

Cunningham helped launch the collective with “I Wish This Was," a social art project where stickers with dialogue boxes are placed around open spaces to prompt community members to envision an area that could be something else, such as a garden or library.

“I love being a part of Lower Price Hill and the artist's collective so I and other residents can work together to help the community,” Cunningham says.

For Danyetta Najoli, Starfire community builder, the Collective is “designed to bring residents out of their private spaces to share their art,” and in doing so, individuals will get to know one another and families will be strengthened.

“When family members are known, people are more likely to help each other out," Najoli says.

Stay tuned for more updates on teams' progress as Studio C narrows down the playing field.

Bethesda North's annual fundraiser to feature renowned scientist Hugh Herr

Since 2012, more than $2 million has been raised to support Bethesda North Hospital through its annual LYCEUM fundraising event.

Proceeds from this year’s April 12 event will benefit the development of The Robotic Center of Excellence at Bethesda North, while also helping fund the latest da Vinci Xi platform, which TriHealth uses to perform complex robotic surgeries.

This year’s keynote speaker is Hugh Herr, founder and director of the Herr Institute for Human Rehabilitation, and director of the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology.

Following a near-death climbing experience that left him with two below-the-knee amputations, Herr accomplished the unthinkable: He designed his own prostheses that would allow him to climb again.

“Hugh Herr is an extremely inspirational and driven individual who turned a tragic, difficult situation into a chance to innovate and help humanity in the process,” says Andy Swallow, Bethesda Foundation president and CEO. “We are very fortunate to host him for this year’s LYCEUM.”

Herr’s research is focused on the advancement of technology that merges body and machine — a subject matter sure to be of interest to those attending this year’s LYCEUM, as Bethesda North ranks first in the city, state and region in the number of robotic-assisted surgery. It's third in the Midwest and in the top one percent nationwide.

“This fundraiser will continue to allow Bethesda North to be the area leader in robotic-assisted surgery and deliver top-notch care to Tristate patients,” Swallow says.


- Support the Bethesda Foundation by purchasing your tickets for this year’s LYCEUM. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. with Herr’s keynote address beginning at 7 p.m.

- Become a sponsor for this year’s LYCEUM.

- Learn more about TriHealth’s robotic-assisted surgeries.

Music Resource Center hosting quarterly youth showcase tomorrow night

Cincinnati youth will have the opportunity to showcase their talents and potential tomorrow evening at The Sampler. The event provides a public outlet, on a quarterly basis, for Music Resource Center performers.

Housed within the MRC — an Evanston/Walnut Hills-based nonprofit that offers a rehearsal space and studio time for teens, grades 7-12, who can then learn from and receive mentorship from industry professionals as they create and hone their craft — is The Venue. The lounge-style space is where The Sampler will make its debut.

“Providing members with an opportunity to bring their ideas to the stage feels like the perfect way to celebrate how far they’ve come as young artists,” says Nick Rose, MRC's program manager.

From 5:30 to 6 p.m., community members are invited to mingle over a casual dinner, which is provided by Snack in a Sak — a nonprofit that regularly provides nourishment for MRC members who may not otherwise have access to a healthy meal — prior to the live performances, which will take place from 6 to 7 p.m.

"I love how our Sampler brings together people from all walks of life,” says MRC's founder and executive director, Karen D’Agostino. “Students, volunteers, donors and staff share a meal and celebrate the music being created at MRC.”

And the music produced, which students have the opportunity to create at a membership rate of just $2 a month via private instruction at an equipped space, is empowering.

“Music Resource Center’s youth take great care in developing their songs and learning about music,” Rose says. “It’s amazing to see them bounce their creative lyrics and beats among our teaching staff.”


- Attend The Sampler tomorrow night. The event is free with parking available in the lot adjacent to the MRC.

- Like what you see? Support the MRC by donating.

- Spread word about the MRC, and like its page on Facebook.

Envision Children's annual fundraiser to help fund its summer enrichment program

On April 9, Envision Children will host its 12th annual Lighting the Way fundraiser, which will raise money for one of the nonprofit's summer programs.

In past years, the fundraiser has benefitted a wide variety of educational programs through the nonprofit, but this year, it will function as a scholarship gala to benefit students who hope to attend its Academic Summer Enrichment program. Funds will also go toward Envision Children's private tutoring program.

Underwritten by Journey Steel, Lighting the Way will allow for an expansion of Envision Children's already successful Academic Summer Enrichment program.

“Now the entire proceeds from Lighting the Way will be able to go to providing scholarships to 300 economically disadvantaged students,” says Sheryl McClung McConney, founder of Envision Children.

The eight-week interactive and educational experience was recently accredited by the American Camp Association. It's a designation that few summer camps receive, and means that the program is now permitted to accept state daycare vouchers, which makes it more accessible to a larger demographic.

Designed to improve academic performance, Academic Summer Enrichment has aided the nonprofit as it has worked hard to help 677 local students get As and Bs on their report cards.

According to McClung McConney, the goal for this year’s gala is to raise $50,000, which would allow it to double its reach and serve more children.

Lighting the Way will take place at Prime Cincinnati and will feature food, drink, live music and a silent auction.

“We’re so excited about the wonderful food our guests will enjoy at this year’s beautiful venue, Prime Cincinnati, and the wonderful gift Journey Steel has given to Envision,” McClung McConney says.


- Purchase your ticket to attend Lighting the Way, which will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. on April 9 at Prime Cincinnati, 580 Walnut St. Tickets are $65 per person.

- Can’t attend? Support Envision Children by donating.

- Volunteer with the nonprofit.

Shroder Paideia High School students raise money to help peers experiencing homelessness

An 11th-grade government class at Shroder Paideia High School recently organized a bake sale and raised $650, which they donated to UpSpring — a local nonprofit that serves local children who are impacted by homelessness.

According to the nonprofit, there are approximately 7,000 children experiencing homelessness within the Greater Cincinnati region. On top of the obvious obstacles that they encounter, only 25 percent of homeless youth across the United States graduate from high school.

It’s a statistic that both the nonprofit and the Shroder student who fronted the effort — an individual who had personally experienced homelessness and who wanted to ease the transition for others during the difficult time — hopes to change.

“Through their leadership and selflessness, these students are helping empower other kids in their community who are in need,” says Renee Berlon, UpSpring’s development director.

Programs like UpSpring Summer 360, which provides educational and enrichment activities to children facing homelessness during the months that school is not in session, will benefit from the funds raised by the Shroder students.

“It’s inspiring to see students stepping up to support and invest in their peers," Berlon says.


- Support UpSring and the programs it offers by donating.

- Volunteer with UpSpring.

- Talk to your children or students about local nonprofits and the causes that they serve. Consider a service learning activity, or allow them to brainstorm ideas on their own.

Studio C announces new class, focuses projects on poverty reduction via family-centered approaches

Studio C, a free project incubator for nonprofits, is now underway as 17 teams are in week one of the program. The 12-week curriculum is aimed at reducing poverty via family-centered approaches.

The topic for this week’s session is Project Framing.

While most of the chosen nonprofits have some idea as to what they want to accomplish throughout the course of the program, the first three weeks are really about “defining that purpose,” says Design Impact’s Sarah Corlett, a co-facilitator for the program.

“We’re throwing a lot of new ways of thinking at them,” she says.

After the initial three weeks spent thinking about systems and people, getting a feel for the time commitment Studio C requires (27 hours of Studio C sessions and about 20 hours of outside work on their projects) and the feasibility for the implementation of a new project within each respective nonprofit, informal interviews will be conducted and the playing field will be narrowed yet again.

Only 8 teams move forward in the program," Corlett says. "After the first three weeks we look at team commitment, organizational leadership support and potential for community impact."

The current listing of chosen teams is as follows:

“We had more of a focus this year, which I think will be good in that they’re working toward a common goal,” Corlett says.

Seven of the 17 nonprofit teams are Studio C “repeats,” as they have found new and successful approaches to move their ideas forward and implement change in past sessions.

“They have new challenges and new things they want to work on,” Corlett says. “They’re back because they found it so helpful.”

Look for more on Studio C teams to see how they’re progressing in coming issues.

ReelAbilities Film Festival to showcase 60 films about living with disabilities

In years past, the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival has attracted more than 8,000 attendees, but this year’s Festival is shaping up to be bigger than ever.

With celebrity guests like Breaking Bad's RJ Mitte (Walter White "Flynn" Jr.), various discussions and workshops, themed parties and celebrations and 60 film screenings — all of which will be showcased at the Duke Energy Convention Center, this year's Festival is becoming what Director of Public Relations Lisa Desatnik says is a true Hollywood style film event. 

“The films are world class,” she says. “A number have won awards — they’re coming from all over.”

Organized by Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled, RAFF aims to showcase the lives, stories and artistry of those with disabilities.

According to Desatnik, 1.3 billion individuals worldwide — a number equivalent to the population of China — are living with a disability, and face challenges with dexterity, cognition or the senses. This section of the population includes veterans and those with mental health issues.

“People will leave the Festival with different ideas of what disability is,” Desatnik says. “It’s a beautiful way to break down barriers to the community with questions about diversity and difference.”

To enrich the lives of those with disabilities, proceeds from the Festival will benefit 28 local nonprofits. Previous years’ festivals have helped local organizations tremendously. For example, the 2015 RAFF generated $50,000 for 17 local nonprofits, but this year it is on target to raise much more.

“Each screening is matched with a nonprofit that serves people with a disability,” Desatnik says. “They share a work that’s all about strengthening lives of those with disabilities.”

This year’s event also includes a tribute to veterans, an Interfaith Breakfast that will kick off a year-long effort of religious institutions supporting inclusion efforts through art and film and Family Fun Shorts — a showing that will feature a variety of animated short films.

“I love that it’s getting young kids involved and opening the community up to talking about difference,” Desatnik says. “It should make Cincinnati proud to see how many businesses, nonprofits, academic and governmental institutions are supporting the festival. Its impact is broad and far-reaching.”


- RAFF is still in need of volunteers. You’ll receive a free T-shirt and two tickets to a film if you sign up to help.

- Purchase tickets to this year’s festival. RAFF will run March 9-12, with all film screenings at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

- It’s not too late to sponsor the event. Contact the Cincinnati RAFF today.

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