Here’s the update I promised in an earlier post, Special Needs NKy awarded grant, about the community event that’s part of the myNKY Nano Grant program. I hope you can come out and enjoy the day!
Picnic in the Park with Pumpkins
Sunday, October 30, 2016
South Fork Park in Florence
2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Families dealing with disability or special needs are invited to gather at the park shelter for food, treats, games and music. Enjoy a playground, walking trail, basketball and volleyball courts and lots of open space to play.
You are welcome to wear your Halloween costumes. Bring chairs or blankets if you’d like to spread out.
The Bean Bash – a down-home, big-hearted October tradition at Turfway Park in Florence – gets under way this weekend. It’s an event filled with family, friends and co-workers, food, auctions and entertainment, all coming together to help children and adults with disabilities in Northern Kentucky.
The weekend starts with painting and poker Friday night. Volunteers fire up the kettles for the Bash’s signature bean soup early Saturday morning before the start of the Bean Bash Dash, a 5K walk/run. Soup’s on at 1 p.m., and served with it are cornbread, coleslaw, tomatoes, hotdogs, chips, ice cream and soft drinks, all included in the $5 admission. Children under 12 are free.
This will be the event’s 43rd year. That’s a lot of years. And a lot of beans.
To learn more about the event, and all those beans, I talked with Bean Bash President Donnie Martin, who first got involved with the Bash about 10 years ago as a bartender. He moved on to oversee the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament for a few years and is now in his third year as president. Here’s a condensed version of our conversation supplemented with information he sent me.
Q: I have a daughter with special needs, and I was touched by how many of her friends we’ve seen at the Bean Bash over the years. It’s a huge event but has a welcoming, close-knit feel – like a church festival or something similar. How would you characterize it?
A: It’s a very similar atmosphere as a church festival, but with a lot more wonderful items to be won in the silent and live auctions. Everyone is welcome, from the most able-bodied athlete to those with special needs who may not often get to special events like festivals.
I greatly enjoy seeing the clients of the specials needs charities in attendance for a couple reasons. First I’m glad to see so many of them out and about, and I hope that helps them see they are not alone and that many others go through what they go through. Second I hope the Bean Bash opens other people’s eyes by introducing them to people with special needs that they may not have experienced before.
I grew up with a step sister with special needs. When we first met I didn’t understand why she was the way she was. That wasn’t easy to handle at 7 years old. Some people reach adulthood with little to no interaction with a person with special needs. Years ago, families with special needs children were shunned, embarrassed, and often hid or abandoned their children with special needs. Now they have options, and the Bean Bash supports local charities that provide those options.
Q: How much money does the Bean Bash raise?
A: Last year the event brought in a record $121,250. Some money came out of that to cover costs, but we try not to pay for much. Donations from local businesses and individuals keep our expenses down. I would guess we have less than $5,000 in expenses and that might be high.
We support four local charities that serve people with disabilities: BAWAC; New Perceptions, which was added last year; Redwood; and Special Olympics of Northern Kentucky. Each organization collects auction items and receives the proceeds from those. The Bean Bash board’s portion – money from the door, donations, live auction items, and extra events like the 5K and poker tournament – is divided evenly among the charities.
Q: What’s new at this year’s Bean Bash?
A: We were looking for an event to complement the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament on Friday night and decided on a Wine and Paint event, sponsored by Wine & Canvas of Florence. The cost is $45, which includes supplies and step-by-step instructions to create a piece of artwork to take home. A glass of wine or a cocktail, light food, and admission to Saturday’s Bean Bash are also included.
The Wine and Paint will start at 7 p.m., the same time as the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament. Both will take place on Turfway’s third floor. Registration for the Wine and Paint ends Wednesday, Oct. 5. Participants can register at www.beanbash.org or contact Becky Price at 859-760-3951 for group discounts and pricing. The $75 online preregistration for the Texas Hold ‘Em ends Thursday, Oct. 6. Players can register at the door for $85. The door to both events opens at 6 p.m. on Friday.
We’ve never stayed open after the live auction, but this year we’re having an after-auction concert by popular local band Doghouse. The band has quite a following, so we’re hoping the concert will bring more people out.
Another exciting addition is an employment drive. During the Bash, FedEx will be set up to accept applications for full- and part-time jobs at FedEx Ground in Independence.
Bean Bash by the numbers:
Years held: 43
Organizations helped: 4
Guests expected: more than 2,000
Volunteers: about 300
Bowls of soup: nearly 2,000
Pounds of dried beans: 200
Large pans of cornbread: 40
Hot dogs: 1,200
Bags of chips: 1,000
Gallons of Ice cream: 50
Q: The Bean Bash added a trap shoot last year as an additional way to raise money. How did this year’s trap shoot go?
A: It went well, especially since the rain held off. We had 25 shooters in the tournament, and raised about $1,000. Last year we held the trap shoot on a date after the Bean Bash. This year we did it beforehand, on Sept. 17. We had a lot more people come out this year, and we hope to keep it growing. It was sponsored by the Crittenden AAA Gun Club and held at the Lloyd Wildlife Management Area.
Q: Where do the Bean Bash volunteers come from?
A: We have students who volunteer from many schools including Boone County, Cooper, Ryle, Notre Dame, St. Henry, Covington Catholic, and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Other volunteers include the charities’ employees, Boone County Business Association members, local pageant winners, news personnel, local celebrities, and family and friends of the Bean Bash board and charities.
Q: Who are the people on the Bean Bash logo?
A: The face on the right represents former State Representative Bill McBee, who founded the Bean Bash as a political fundraiser in 1974. The other face is that of Stevie McBee, Bill’s son, who had special needs. Stevie inspired organizers to transform the Bean Bash into a fundraiser for charities serving people with disabilities. Stevie died in 2009, and Bill in 2011.
Many people thought for years that the Bean Bash was a political event, but it has been a charity fundraiser since 1975. No campaigning is allowed.
Q: How is that soup made?
A: The beans get soaked the night before, and the cooks arrive before 6 a.m. to fire up the kettles. Sand goes down on the parking lot, and cooks build fires to set the kettles over, using air deflectors to help regulate the heat. Piles of wood are out there for the cooks to feed the fire. The health department is out there to make sure everything is set up right.
When the water is boiling, the ham hocks go in. Once cooked, the hocks come out and the ham is cut off, chopped and set aside. Next go in the beans, white pepper and onions to cook. Eventually we throw in the ham from the hocks and extra ham. Sometimes hot sauce gets put in, sometimes it doesn’t – it’s always a matter of opinion depending on whose out there cooking.
The soup is cooked for hours in the same cast iron kettles and stirred by the same wooden oars we’ve used for years. They probably have their own special seasoning. One seasoning that’s not added to the beans is salt. We stopped using that years ago, so if you like your beans salty, you need to use the salt packets offered with the meal.
Usually a couple of generations of people come out to cook. Several of the bean cookers started out as kids helping their fathers. They use the lessons they learned as kids to bring their youth into the world of community service.
Bean Bash 2016 Schedule of Events
Friday Oct. 7
6:00 p.m. Registration Open
7:00 p.m. Wine and Paint event begins
Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament begins
Saturday Oct. 8
10:00 a.m. The Bean Bash Dash 5K registration opens
11:30 a.m. The Bean Bash Dash 5K begins
1:00 p.m. The Bean Bash begins, admission $5.00 (kids under 12 free)
1:00 p.m. Silent auctions begin / All charities have items for auction
2:00 p.m. Live music begins
4:15 p.m. First silent auction table closes (Redwood)
4:30 p.m. Second silent auction table closes (Special Olympics NKY)
4:45 p.m. Third silent auction table closes (New Perceptions)
5:00 p.m. Fourth silent auction table closes (BAWAC)
5:00 p.m. The 43rd Bean Bash remarks and presentations
5:30 p.m. Live auction begins
7:30 p.m. (estimated) Doghouse rocks The Bean Bash
I have an aunt who has been instrumental in an organization called Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky for years. I’d heard about it through the family grapevine on occasion but never really knew much about it. Then I started this blog.
Aunt Pat, or Pat O’Bryant to most people, asked me to help get the word out about the upcoming pageant in Louisville. So I looked into Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky to find out what it’s all about.
I found out that Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky is all about education, advocacy and opportunity. The organization gives women in wheelchairs a means to educate society about the achievements and needs of people with disabilities. It gives them a platform to advocate for change to improve the lives of people with disabilities. And it gives them the opportunity to branch out into the world.
I also found out that the pageant, which is not a beauty pageant, has a strong Northern Kentucky connection.
But first, Aunt Pat wants you to know some things:
She wants you to know that the organization needs contestants. Now.
She wants you to know that the application deadline for the pageant is Monday – but if you need more time, especially to get together the $400 fee that helps pay for the pageant, just let her know. “We will work with them,” she said.
She wants you to know that contestants should be US citizens aged 21 to 60 who have lived in Kentucky for at least six months and who use a wheelchair or cart for all of their mobility outside the home.
She wants you to know that contestants should be accomplished and articulate because the winner must be able to communicate with the general public, the business community and elected officials.
The Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky pageant will be held Nov. 5. The pageant venue recently changed; it is now Jefferson Community and Technical College at Broadway and Second St. in Louisville. The winner of the state pageant goes on to compete in Ms. Wheelchair America, which will be held Aug. 14-21 in Erie, Penn.
Aunt Pat knows a little about these competitions. While talking with her, I learned that her husband, a.k.a Uncle Tom, used to be the president of Ms. Wheelchair America. And then Aunt Pat was the executive director of the national organization some time after that, in addition to working as the Kentucky state coordinator.
“They’re my heroes,” Aunt Pat said of the contestants. “The things they overcome …[are] unbelievable.”
Now, about that Northern Kentucky connection: Robbin Head, of Burlington, lived in Louisville when she was 38 years old and suddenly found herself with a disability.
She was goofing around with her husband one day when he picked her up from behind in a playful bear hug and her vertebrae fractured. She eventually found out that she had severe osteoporosis and was told it was not a matter of if her vertebrae would fracture, but when. The injury left her paralyzed.
This woman – who had joined the military at 18, had married and lived all over the world – now needed a wheelchair to get around.
Three years after her injury, in 1998, a vocational rehabilitation counselor working with Head in Louisville suggested she enter the Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky pageant. It was the first year for the pageant after an independent delegate from Kentucky, Terri Cecil, won Ms. Wheelchair America and came home to start a state organization.
“The Ms. Wheelchair pageant is what really helped me discover and more understand the world of disability,” Head told me when we spoke on the phone recently.
Head didn’t win that year, but she entered again. She was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky 1999 and went on to compete in Ms. Wheelchair America. While she didn’t place in the national competition, Head relished spending the week with so many other women in wheelchairs.
“It was probably one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever been to in all of my life,” she said. “It made you feel like you were really part of a community again and part of actually the real society because you didn’t feel like you were the only one sitting there in a wheelchair.”
After her Kentucky reign, Head, who moved to Northern Kentucky in 2000, served as the state organization’s president for six years. More recently, she’s in her sixth year as the pageant’s head judge. As you might expect, she speaks highly of the program and encourages women to participate.
“It’s a way to be in touch with not just being a woman in a wheelchair but a woman of the world,” Head said. “It makes you feel like you’re part of something more than just being yourself, that there’s a place that wants you as a woman or as a person with a disability to use your voice and to use your experience to help others.”
Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky strives to give voice to the needs of those with disabilities of all kinds, whether they are mental, physical or both, she said. The organization, she said, educates the public about special needs and “why we are different and yet very much the same as the able-bodied community.”
If you know a woman in a wheelchair who might be interested in this effort, please get them in touch with Aunt Pat. You can email her at email@example.com. You can call her at 502-394-9160. You also can visit the Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky website to find out more. And if you think this is a great program and want to support it, Aunt Pat is always looking for sponsors.
Aunt Pat is not the type of person who needs anyone to speak for her, but I’ll go out on a limb here as her niece and say this: Aunt Pat thanks you.
September in Northern Kentucky means Oktoberfest celebrations, pumpkin festivals and football. Now a new tradition may be making its mark on the month: The Royal Prom.
The dining, dancing, partying extravaganza for people with disabilities aged 14 and older gets under way Friday at Crossroads church in Florence. In its third year, the Royal Prom seems to have become part of Northern Kentucky, said Brian Kremer, director of Northern Kentucky Capernaum, which organizes the event with local churches, businesses and organizations.
“It seems like everywhere I go people are talking about how much they love the prom or asking about next year’s prom,” Kremer said. “It’s amazing that this has taken root and is something people look forward to each year.”
Kremer likes what this says about Northern Kentucky. “We are serious about loving our friends [with disabilities] in this community,” he said.
That love will be on full display when 350 guests – a full house – converge on the spacious venue at Crossroads to celebrate together thanks to the work of nearly 700 volunteers. Kremer said the guests and volunteers “come from every corner of Northern Kentucky.”
Andy Dalton returns
Much of the prom will be similar to years past, Kremer said, noting that many prom guests like consistency.
Kremer said organizers are “delighted and thrilled” to have Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton return for the second year to announce each guest for a walk down the red carpet. The red carpet starts the night on a high note as volunteers line up to cheer guests on their way into the prom.
Volunteer escorts will welcome guests and accompany them throughout the prom to help ensure everyone has a good time and stays safe. Guests will dine on meals provided by Chick-fil-A in Florence and Newport and dessert from Gigi’s Cupcakes in Florence. They’ll receive flowers – boutonnieres or wrist corsages – and will have the opportunity to hit the dance floor, play games and get their photo taken.
New this year
Some new features this year include a photo booth for more informal, fun photos and jugglers to entertain the crowd.
Also new this year will be the registration and pick-up processes. Guests will register at a tent in the parking lot before walking the red carpet. Registered guests should have received in the mail a wristband they are to wear at prom. The bands note dietary restrictions, allergies and other health information for their escorts to be aware of.
At registration, each guest’s driver will also receive a wristband with the guest’s name on it. The driver must present the wristband at pick-up to make sure everyone goes home with the right person. If drivers are sharing drop-off and pick-up duties, Kremer said, they can use cell phones to send photos of the wristbands to each other and those will be honored at pick-up.
Traffic officers will be new this year, as well, to make getting in and out of Crossroads easier.
Safety has always been a focus. A team of doctors, emergency medical technicians and nurses will wear scrubs so that they can be easily identified in case of a medical emergency. Also, qualified medical personnel will be available if anyone needs help in the restroom.
Volunteers working security will wear referee jerseys for easy identification. Many workers will have radios so that they can communicate easily about any needs or issues, Kremer said.
Eric Northrup is back too
Each prom features an uplifting faith message, and this year’s speaker will be Eric Northrup. Northrup is a rock star in this crowd. He started Northern Kentucky Capernaum in 2009 and was instrumental in starting the Royal Prom in 2014. He moved to Cincinnati last year to establish Capernaum there.
Capernaum is a nondenominational Christian ministry that reaches out to teens with disabilities to foster relationships and share the message of God’s love. It is a branch of Young Life, a national ministry in many area high schools. Capernaum organizes events throughout the year, offering Bible studies, monthly “club nights,” summer camps, and other outings.
Joining Capernaum in the prom effort are area churches, businesses and organizations. You can visit the Royal Prom’s website, where, if you scroll down on the home page, you can find a list of prom sponsors. A committee of ten to 15 people work throughout the year, devoting an incredible amount of time, energy, thought and sacrifice, Kremer said. “I’m so thankful for everybody on that committee,” he said. “To me they are heroes.”
Changing the culture
Kremer, as Northrup did before him, talks about changing the culture. So often, people with disabilities are isolated and not given the same opportunities as others, Kremer said. He talks about a society where people with disabilities are seen for the people they are on the inside. He talks about a society where people with disabilities are accepted and loved.
It’s only one night. … We want this to be just what our friends experience every day.
The Royal Prom creates such a night, but, Kremer said, “It’s only one night. … We want this to be just what our friends experience every day.”
While seeing the joy of the prom-goers is richly rewarding, some of the best stories, Kremer said, come from people working at the prom. “It really leaves its mark on our volunteers,” he said. “I encourage people to bring tissues because I guarantee you at some point there will be tears in your eyes.”
Organizers hope that the prom is opening people’s eyes to see more clearly the lives of people living with disabilities. “We get to impact the community too and help change the culture,” Kremer said. “There’s so much more to this than just a prom.”
As I’ve said before, the people at Northern Kentucky Capernaum know how to do fun. They also know how to do video. Justin Newman put together this fabulous and inspiring Day Camp video that gives viewers an idea of the activities and energy at the Newman Farm in Union last week.
This year’s camp — held July 25-29 — was the biggest in the event’s four years, said Brian Kremer, area director of Northern Kentucky Capernaum. More than 60 campers with disabilities middle-school age and older attended Monday through Thursday. Counting staff and volunteers, nearly 150 people came together each day to share faith and sing, dance and play.
Friday night’s banquet and talent show attracted 280 people, Kremer said. Campers and their families and friends ate burgers, hot dogs and sides at long tables set inside the airy barn. After dinner, campers took the stage for a talent show, entertaining the crowd with singing, dancing and jokes.
Yes, camp is over but the fun continues. The next big event for Capernaum is The Royal Prom, a spectacle of a night with dinner and dancing for people aged 14 and up with disabilities. It’s scheduled for September 23 at Crossroads church in Florence.
At The Royal Prom’s website, visitors can watch another great video — a gorgeous account of last year’s prom. If you need something to remind you of the goodness and joy in this world, this video might be just the thing. (I usually need a tissue for this one.) Also on the site, visitors can sign up to attend the prom or to volunteer for it.
Capernaum is a nondenominational Christian ministry that serves teens and young adults with disabilities. I wrote a previous post about the group’s plans for day camp. I plan to write more about The Royal Prom in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you’re interested in The Royal Prom, check out the website and video. You might want to have a box of tissues handy.
When Max and Duke romp onto the big screen in The Secret Life of Pets this weekend, a Northern Kentucky movie theater will turn the lights up and the sound down so some special patrons can watch the dogs’ animated antics in comfort.
The accommodations are part of Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Newport on the Levee 20. The film series, offered by AMC Theatres in partnership with the Autism Society, invites guests with autism and other special needs to “feel free to be you.”
The screenings offer a more relaxed atmosphere for moviegoers, said Kevin Coffman, a supervisor at the Levee theater. If viewers like to get up, walk around or make noises, that’s all OK. The audience is more understanding, he said. Guests also are welcome to bring their own snacks.
The theater shows Sensory Friendly Films on the second and fourth Saturday and Tuesday of each month. The Saturday shows begin at 10 a.m. – that’s when you can catch The Secret Life of Pets this weekend.
The Tuesday shows begin at 7 p.m. and were added last summer for guests looking for more mature films, said Ryan Noonan, AMC’s director of corporate communications. Originally focused on families and children, the film series expanded to meet more needs, Noonan said. “We’ve seen kids grow up now.”
The movies for each month are selected by AMC’s film department according to demographics and popularity. Almost half of AMC’s theaters offer Sensory Friendly Films, Noonan said. A check of their website showed 175 participating theaters. The Newport on the Levee location was the only one listed in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area.
Coffman, the local theater supervisor, said moviegoers at the Levee have told him they appreciate the opportunity to view films in the modified environment. Crowds vary depending on the movie, he said. An average crowd may be 20 to 30 people, while a long-awaited movie like Finding Dory might attract as many as 50 to 100, he said.
Saturday morning movies cost $5.61. Tuesday evening tickets sell for $11.12. Guests can get their Levee parking tickets validated at a booth near the movie ticket office so that they pay $1.25 to park.
In 2007, a Maryland mother asked her local AMC Theatres manager to arrange a special screening for children on the autism spectrum after she’d had a bad experience with her young daughter at another movie theater. The manager agreed, the mother talked it up, and so many people showed up for the movie that the auditorium couldn’t hold them all, according to autism-society.org.
The manager added more movies and contacted AMC headquarters with the idea. The Autism Society partnered with AMC, and the film series grew to include theaters across the country. You can read more about it on the Autism Society’s website here.
Summer lineup of Sensory Friendly Films
Saturday, July 9: The Secret Life of Pets
Tuesday, July 12: BFG
Saturday, July 23: Ice Age: Collision Course
Tuesday, July 26: Ghostbusters
Tuesday, August 9: Suicide Squad
Saturday, August 13 and 27: Pete’s Dragon
Tuesday, August 23: War Dogs
Check the AMC Theatres website for current Sensory Friendly Films here.
Have you attended a Sensory Friendly Film? Would you like to share your experience? If so, please leave a comment. Thank you!
UPDATE: THE DANCE HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO LACK OF RESPONSE.
If your idea of a good night is music, dancing, food and friends, mark July 23 on your calendar. That’s the night people with special needs will be treated to a summer dance at Northern Kentucky University hosted by students in the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program.
Special guests’ families, friends and partners also are invited to the dance, which will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the auxiliary gym of the Campus Recreation Center.
The dance will bring people of differing abilities together to celebrate community, said organizer Teresa Hoffmann, a faculty member in the Governor’s Scholars Program. “They are all participants in just a joyful evening.”
Hoffmann’s healthcare class of 20 students will be “elegant hosts,” she said. The students will show guests to tables, provide light refreshments of water and fruit, invite guests to dance and serve any other needs they may have. Other faculty members and resident assistants also will be on hand to help.
The dance isn’t a formal. No special attire is required. Hoffmann said she envisions a casual party where folks go to dance, listen to music or feel the music’s vibrations. She wants to offer an activity that includes people who may often feel isolated.
‘They are all participants in just a joyful evening.’
The Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program is a highly competitive five-week summer residential program for rising high school seniors in the state. Established in 1983, the program aims to “enhance Kentucky’s next generation of civic and economic leaders,” according to its website. Colleges compete to host the scholars for three-year cycles. NKU, Morehead State University and Murray State University were selected as hosts for 2016 to 2018. This summer, 354 of the scholars are studying at NKU, Hoffmann said.
The program’s curriculum often includes service learning. Along those lines, Hoffmann’s healthcare students volunteer at the Given Campus of Stepping Stones near Cincinnati. The non-profit organization provides programs for children and adults with disabilities. It works to “increase independence, improve lives and promote inclusion,” according to its mission statement.
Through their volunteer work, Hoffmann’s students are learning to interact and communicate with people in different ways. They are learning patience, she said, and compassion. Her students have told her that their work at Stepping Stones is humbling because they are meeting people who live with extraordinary difficulties yet have happy, positive attitudes.
The dance will celebrate the relationships and connections formed at Stepping Stones and include the larger community in the fun, said Hoffmann, who organized similar dances in Louisville while working with the Governor’s Scholars Program in the past.
If you would like to attend, please call the NKU Governor’s Scholars Program office at 859-448-8820 by July 20 with the number in your party. Minors must be accompanied by an adult.
You’re invited …
Event: a summer dance for people with special needs and their families, friends and partners
Date: July 23
Time: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Place: Northern Kentucky University, auxiliary gym in the Campus Recreation Center
Parking: free in the Kenton Drive Parking Garage
RSVP: by July 20 to 859-448-8820 with the number of people in your party. Minors must be accompanied by an adult.