My next step: The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio

RMHCThe very first day I stepped into the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, I knew immediately I wanted to be part of the organization. There was no guesswork, or wondering, or hem-hawing ~ I saw what the volunteers and the staff were doing with their lives, the way they were helping children and families in need, and I just knew I had to join in.

Five years later, I’m so humbled and honored and proud to say that I get to join this life-changing organization as its new Communications Manager, reporting to the guy you all probably know and love, Ryan Wilkins, the Director of Communications and Facilities.

I also have an amazing opportunity to work with, and learn from, the amazing Dee Anders, CEO and Executive Director. Plus, some of the best people I know work there, too; from the heartwarming Jamie Foltz, to the most loving family activities manager, Abigail Brumme, and my new teammate and office mate at “The Beach,” Lynne Holmes.

It is a dream come true.

RMHC PSA
Evelyn sleeping with her Mama as we filmed the PSA for RMHC.

I started with RMHC as an active member of the Red Shoe Society; a professionals network dedicated to serving the House. I would make breakfasts for the House families, donate time and money, and serve on committees. Eventually, when I started my own production company, Eleven One Productions, I chose the RMHC as a recipient of my company’s donated PSA’s ~ I give away three every year to nonprofits. It’s featured on the RMHC home page; you can watch it here.

I worked closely with Ryan, Abigail, and Jamie, as well as other volunteers, over the years and always hoped that, someday, the RMHC would be my home away from home. The most perfect job I could ever have ~ because it wouldn’t feel like a job. It would feel like fulfilling a piece of my life’s mission. Yes, I loved to write when I was a journalist ~ and I still write. Yes, I love to make films ~ and I still make films. But most of all, in my life, I love being a mother.

I remember the day I had to rush my child to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital emergency room after she tripped on a flipped-up rug and tore her forehead open above her eye on the corner of a table. Suddenly, I was that parent, sitting in the emergency room, alone, waiting to see if my kid would be OK. I felt the helplessness of not knowing, of waiting, of wondering, of worrying; but I was lucky. I lived in Columbus, Ohio, where I was privileged to have access to the best healthcare my child could ever receive at Nationwide Children’s. Where I could easily make arrangements for work, for groceries, for assistance, for anything I needed.

Some families are not so lucky.

Families from every state in the union and across the world have traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to give their child the same care I received at Nationwide Children’s ~ the best care. And when they find out it will take weeks, or months, or years, to help their child, where do they go? Where does someone from California stay when they’re thousands of miles from their home? How do they eat or get transportation? How do they do laundry? How do they find a sense of normalcy in a situation that is no longer normal?

I’ll tell you how.

They come to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. They come to a place where they can live life, uninterrupted, during the greatest interruption they will ever face ~ a sick child.

And how could I not be humbled and grateful and excited to help Ryan and the RMHC team tell that story? To me, it is the greatest story I will ever write. It speaks to a calling in my life, a purpose, a mission, an opportunity to do more than a job. It is an opportunity to help change lives. To make them better. For parents just like me. For kids just like my daughter.

Yes, I will still be writing and making movies and raising my not-so-tiny tot, but I am so honored to say that, beginning tomorrow, I also get to be part of an amazing team at RMHC. The best team. My new team and home.

Thank you, Ryan, and RMHC, for making me part of the family. I am truly blessed to join your organization.

Come say “Hi!” the next time you visit or feel free to make a donation to an organization that truly helps families in need. (And get used to seeing more about the RMCH on my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages!)

Let’s talk soon about how we can all help the RMHC help families!

Women Supporting Women ~ Dr. Lisa Hinkelman of ROX

LisaHinkelman002
Dr. Lisa Hinkelman is changing the world for women one young girl at a time, through her female empowerment nonprofit organization ROX (Ruling Our Experiences). Photo courtesy ROX.

The first thing you need to know about Dr. Lisa Hinkelman is that she’s got an incredible laugh. It’s this big, vivacious, life-affirming laugh that comes straight from her toes, into the air, and moves you to laugh right along with her.

Lisa, often cloaked in black and pink, is not afraid to say what she thinks, laugh at herself, or to make you a part of the joke ~ this gal won’t leave your high-five hanging and, if she does, she’ll apologize with a big, hearty laugh.

“We are stronger, healthier, better adjusted, and more successful when we support one another,” Lisa said.

I was, of course, immediately drawn to her energy the first time I met her and wanted to learn more about how her nonprofit (501c3) organization, ROX (Ruling Our Experiences), came to be.

And that’s the second thing you need to know about this amazing woman: ROX came to be out of a gamble Lisa took. A risk. A desire to change the world, one girl at a time, and in doing so, become a powerhouse of Women Supporting Women.

“I think we do a great job talking about the importance of women supporting women, but we often struggle to actually implement the strategies that we verbalize,” Lisa said. “I don’t think anyone sets out to intentionally screw over other women, but the reality is that many of us can think of one or two experiences in our professional lives when another women was the one judging us, competing with us, undermining us or in some way negatively impacting our productivity, reputation, or happiness.”

And it’s not just grown women. According to Lisa, female competition over support starts much sooner than adulthood.

“In our research at ROX, we have found that more than 80 percent of fifth grade girls report that girls are in competition with one another ~ these are 10-year-old girls!” she said. “This disturbing trend unfortunately continues as girls grow up so that it’s no wonder by the time women are in the workforce, the competition, both personal and professional, is palatable.”

Because of that, ROX goes one step further and tries to tackle the problem at its roots. Lisa and her team of trained facilitators empower the next generation of females through school and community-based programming by teaching them how to handle behaviors such as girl bullying, low self-esteem, unhealthy dating relationships, and sexual violence.

“I believe that we have both the ability and the responsibility to change the conversation and the trajectory for girls,” Lisa said.

And she took her responsibility seriously as a researcher and faculty member in Counselor Education at The Ohio State University in 2006, where she had been running a program that helped girls navigate the challenges of, well, “being a girl.” She, along with her research team, gathered statistics for five years through this program. Lisa then used those facts and figures to develop an evidence-based curriculum for girls in elementary, middle, and high school, that supported them in developing skills to meet the above-mentioned challenges.

ROX uses licensed facilitators to teach the curriculum in schools throughout Central Ohio, and the country, at a cost of approximately $75 per girl ~ which your donations help support. ROX also provides professional development for educators and counselors, as well as parent workshops. Read more about the story behind ROX here.

“When girls have the opportunity to learn from strong and caring female role models who are true champions for one another, their sense of themselves and their options changes,” Lisa said.

My own daughter, Kerrigan, benefited from ROX training. She was one of nearly 1,700 school-age girls in communities across the country last year that were were empowered by Lisa and her team. Kerrigan’s favorite part of the programming was learning how to properly kick and punch an assailant. She left the training feeling truly equipped to deal with the world; and the relationships she built with the girls in attendance proved to be effective when she later encountered issues in school.

In fact, my daughter’s favorite tank top is one she got from ROX, which reads something close to, “Be the doctor they told you to marry.” And she plans on it ~ a veterinarian, to be exact.

This year ROX will be offered for the first time in New Mexico, Guam, Florida, and Hawaii. See where a ROX program is near you, here.

Lisa continues to move forward in her work having just completed The Girls’ Index study. The comprehensive survey of more than 10,000 girls focuses on the perceptions of girls in grades 5-12 on many major social, personal, and academic issues, such as: friendships and relationships, social media, body image pressure, self-esteem and confidence, leadership, and career aspirations. Initial findings tell a “compelling story of the challenges facing girls today.”

Interested in participating in ROX over the spring and summer? You’ve got a few options:

  • A ROX Parent Symposium on April 22, sponsored by the Columbus School for Girls. Learn more here.
  • A summer camp as a part of the Wellington School Summer Camp will be held June 26-30 for girls in grades six through eight. Learn more here.
  • A six-week ROX mini-camp for middle school girls will be held at ROX in Columbus every Wednesday beginning on June 28 and ending on August 1. Learn more here.
  • You can also contact Nancy Willis for other fun events and opportunities to support or learn more about ROX here: nancywillis@rulingourexperiences.com
  • Stay aware of events local by following ROX on Facebook and on Twitter. Sign up for the newsletter here.
  • If you’re looking to do a little more with this organization, ROX is currently hiring a Development/Fundraising Manager who will lead the development work of the organization. Learn more here.

Lisa didn’t have to go out and change the world the way she has for women and their daughters. She could have stayed on at OSU and continued a different research project ~ but helping women and young women become better, become stronger, is an ideal she is absolutely devoted to. And that’s the thing I love most about her ~ she does what she knows to be right for women, using evidence-based research, and empowering women and young girls to go live life without fear that they are “just a girl.”

No, you be the girl you’ve always wanted to be. And if you don’t know how, Lisa will certainly be able to help.

“We can be the women who create the authentic and genuine shift that will allow girls to see the strength and beauty in female relationships,” said Lisa. “And then they can come to invest in and value these relationships for themselves.”

Cheers.

The beauty of Emerson, Thoreau, and Critical Theorists

I have always been in love with Ralph Waldo Emerson. Since the first time my 19-year-old eyes absorbed the inky words of “Self-Reliance,” one of his most popular essays, I was transfixed on his thoughts of transcendentalism and the belief in the essential good of man and nature.

“My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle,” wrote Emerson in Self Reliance. “I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady.”

Throughout college, I read with voracious lust the thoughts of men and women who dared to rise above the fold and observe life from a new angle. Henry David Thoreau being another favorite, with his quote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

To live deliberately, to not apologize for who I was ~ these were the battles I fought every day of my life, but were now placed before me in eloquent text. The prose was life-changing for its ability to simply and succinctly describe what was common to every man, but could not be translated into the written, nor spoken, word by him.

Once I graduated, it was rare I had time for such thought-provoking text that allowed me to observe the world from an angle that rose above the clutter of everyday life. Until recently when I enrolled in Ashland University to pursue a master’s degree. An MFA in Creative Writing, to be exact. On my journey to receive my degree, I ended up taking a master’s level course in critical theory.

IMG_1741

I had never been exposed to critical theory or its complicated text before. Initially, I was excited and intimidated by the fact I had to read the textbook alongside my Webster-Merriam dictionary just to understand it. But the deeper I got, the more I became absorbed in the complicated ideas of theorists and philosophers such as Karl Marx, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. The purpose of the class was not to master the notion of critical theory and its philosophers, but to simply be exposed to who they were and what they brought to society.

The class, for me, was eye-opening. The notion of the individual as an entity battling external forces in order to maintain his or her freedom, and how that individual responds, is a battle we all experience on some level. I, like most, had been part of that struggle in many facets of my life, from social constructs to political and socioeconomic hierarchies. I could relate to much of what was said and wanted to explore the text more.

We all jokingly talk about fighting “the man,” but this class puts that notion into perspective and helps broadly define what it actually means and how philosophers and theorists view it from its many different angles.

I now have a reading list I’ll be working on over the next few months if you’d like to join along. Some will be revisiting old loves, while some will be first reads of texts I find fascinating.

  • Thoreau, On Walden Pond
  • Emerson, Self-Reliance, Nature, and The American Scholar
  • Marx, Communist Manifesto
  • Horkheimer (with Theodor Adorno), Dialectic of Enlightenment
  • Marcuse, One Dimensional Man
  • György Lukács, History & Class Consciousness

Do you have a book in the same vein I should check out? Or perhaps a counter-argument to these theorists and philosophers?

I’d love to hear your suggested titles!

Cheers.