Friday, February 5, 2016

Elementary Schools Present Annual Kentucky History Wax Museum

Curtis Rust as John Calipari
It may be difficult to believe but last night, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Colonel Sanders, and John Calipari all gathered in the same room.  They were joined by Heather Renee French, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Rosemary Clooney (who’s nephew, George, was also present). These famous Kentuckians (portrayed by fourth graders in the Fort Thomas School system) gathered together to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Local Police Dog program.

John Doughtery and Sen. Wil Schroder. 
On Thursday, February 4, fourth grade students at all three Fort Thomas Independent Schools, Johnson, Moyer, and Woodfill, presented their annual Kentucky History Wax Museum as a fundraiser. Each year, the students choose to be a famous or influential Kentuckian from history or current events.  The students dress as these characters, memorize facts about their lives, and generally portray the character.   The students wait in a freeze frame until a spectator drops money into their coin-operated slot at which point the student comes to life and gives facts from their character’s life.

Last year I attended solo but this year, after hearing all about it from my quite-impressed Kindergarten student (“Mom, how do they know all that stuff to say?”), I took my three-year-old (quite the performer herself) who was awestruck at this historical caricature performance.  I too was impressed by the historical facts, the character-portrayals, and how great a charitable event it was.  Check out the photos below to see for yourself and feel free to add your own of your children.
Samantha Heilman as Jennifer Lawrence

Chris Buchert as Muhammad Ali

Nora Greiwe as Tori Murden

Josiah Richards as Pee Wee Reese

Madie Lecky as Martha Layne Collins

Annie Brown, Long Committed to Random Acts of Art, Wins Grant to Build Little Free Art Studios

Fort Thomas resident Annie Brown is committed to beautifying northern Kentucky through random acts of art.

Fort Thomas resident Annie Brown is committed to making our world more beautiful through random acts of art. Perhaps you remember her handmade mushrooms that one day appeared in Riggs Memorial Park, along with the poem "Mushrooms," by Sylvia Plath, written and posted on a tree. Or maybe you drew in one of Brown's Random Acts of Art books placed in various Fort Thomas Parks. Or, maybe you knew of Brown's work in the mid-1990s, when she spent her time and energy on another beautification project: Working and building mountain bike trails in Tower Park.

Annie Brown's mushrooms, installed in Riggs Park in 2013.
Today, Brown is active as ever beautifying northern Kentucky communities. Currently she's co-instigator at Pique, a new experimental art space in Covington. She teaches a homeschool art class at The Art House in Fort Thomas. And she teaches dance for Pones Inc. 

Brown has also received two Creative Community grants from The Center for Great Neighborhoods, which are awarded every six months and are based on a different theme. The first tied into Covington's bicentennial. With her grant Brown taught students needle arts that would have been used 200 years ago. "The six-week program taught Holmes Middle School students hand sewing, knitting and crocheting," Brown says. "It has been so popular, the school asked us to continue through the end of the year, and we have expanded it to include needle felting, machine sewing and jewelry making." 

Last week, Brown was awarded her second Creative Community grant. This cycle's theme was inclusion. "I am interested in fostering creativity in everyone, but particularly in areas where it is not necessarily a common thing, such as a public space," Brown says. "I want to see what people come up with and share with others." 

And with that, Little Free Art Studios was born.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

80s Party Raffles for Brighton Recovery Center for Women

Our winner of the Coach purse at last year's party. FTM file. 
The first big party of the year is this Saturday, February 6 at the Highland Country Club. DJ Mark McFadden will be there and your $25 ticket gets your two drinks, food and the opportunity to help Brighton Recovery Center for Women fight heroin at ground zero.

Even if you can't make the party, a ticket bought will help to combat this issue that has become a full-blown crisis in our community.


If that's not enough, there are going to be some amazing raffle items. Buy a chance to win some of these prizes, that you could walk home with that night:

- $375 purple Coach Purse; Edie Shoulder Bag in Leathercoach (donated by Q102)

Travelers Warned About Dangers of Zika Virus

Public Health Urges Mosquito Protection When Traveling to Affected Areas

Kentuckians traveling to areas of the world affected by the Zika virus disease, an infectious illness circulating in various countries, should take steps to protect themselves and their families from this and other vector-borne diseases, the Kentucky Department for Public Health advises.

Like many viruses, Zika can be acquired from the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus is currently circulating in parts of Mexico, Cape Verde, and 26 other countries in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Oceania.  Zika virus disease is considered by the World Health Organization to be a serious international public health threat. Although many people who contract Zika virus infection have mild or no symptoms, pregnant women are thought to be at particular high risk for complications after Zika virus exposure, because the virus has been linked with the birth of babies who have defects in their brains.

Until more is known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant take the following precautions:

BREAKING: Raniero's Pizza Moving Into Fort Thomas Plaza

Raniero's Pizza will be opening up in the Fort Thomas Plaza. FTM file.
In the infancy of Fort Thomas Matters, we traveled Greater Cincinnati to unlock the best food challenges that the area had to offer. We ate grilled cheese donuts against ESPN 1530's Mo Egger, challenged Tricia Macke's entire brood to a stuffed pizza challenge, and participated in the Olde Fort Pub's annual hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July. There were ten challenges in all.

Of course we did this to raise money for Brighton Center.

The very first installment of "Mark vs. Food" took place at Raniero's Pizzeria in Cold Spring, Kentucky. Will Chambers and myself took on former Highlands football greats Jared Lorenzen and Patrick Towles in a ten-minute pizza eat-off.

The skinny guys won.

RELATED: Mark vs. Food, Episode 1. 

Mark Your 2016 Calendars - Fort Thomas City Event Calendar (Summer Concert Series, Art Around Town, Fourth of July Parade, Holiday Walk)

Merchants and Music festival. FTM file. 

Summer concerts, Fourth of July parade and Merchants and Music festival. Get your calendar out now and do it once.

June 9 - Summer Concert  Northern Kentucky Legends
June 14 - Summer Concert Naked Karate Girls - Brighton Center Share What You CAN event
June 17 - Art Around Towne
June 28 - Summer Concert  Midnight Special
July 2 - Independence day parade and festival
July 12 - Summer Concert  Klaberheads
July 15 - Art Around Towne
July 26 - Summer Concert  Thunderstruck


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

FTM Radio: One Way to Beat the Heroin Scourge

The FIRST big party of the year is this Saturday at the Highland County Club. BUY TICKETS HERE. 

All the proceeds of the party go directly toward Brighton Recovery Center for Women, and their programming. They house 107 local women and have a 2-4 month waiting list because they simply can't accommodate any more women. 

They are at ground zero for fighting heroin. Even if you can't come to the party, consider buying a ticket to help them fight longer, stronger and harder. Your ticket makes a DIRECT impact to these women. 

FTM Radio discussed the day to day operations with Anita Prater, Director of the Recovery Center. 


Northern Kentucky University lands a $1 million gift to help first-generation students afford school

NKU college grad turned CEO pays it forward

By Bob Driehaus
See the original coverage and video here

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Rich Boehne landed his boyhood dream job as a newspaper reporter by becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree.

The lessons he learned at Northern Kentucky University, though, taught him to keep reaching higher. He did, ascending to his current role as president, CEO and chairman of the E.W. Scripps Co., the Cincinnati-based television and digital media company that owns WCPO and TV stations throughout the country.

"It just opened up a world that I could have not imagined," Boehne said of the bachelor's degree in communications/journalism that he earned from Northern Kentucky University.

He's about to open up that world to a lot more young people.

Boehne and the Scripps Howard Foundation are donating $1 million to the Boehne First Family Generation Scholarship Fund. The money will go to partial scholarships for about 20 first-generation NKU students a year, creating new opportunities like the ones NKU afforded to Boehne and his wife, Lisa, who was also a first-generation graduate of NKU.

The scholarships will be awarded to high-achieving, first-generation students who have demonstrated a commitment of service to others, according to NKU.

Hebel, Dougherty to join Mills, Bunning at Lindsey Wilson

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior Jared Dougherty will take his talents to Lindsey Wilson College as a kicker and punter.
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior Bo Hebel will also be going to Lindsey Wilson as an offensive lineman.
A pipeline from Fort Thomas to Columbia, Kentucky started last year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Creech's career 71-point night breaks Walz-Richey's record

Whitney Creech, Facebook. 
It was bound to happen this week based on her eye-popping average.

The question was whether it would happen Tuesday at Paintsville or Thursday against Perry County Central. It turned out to be Tuesday as Jenkins needed every ounce of it to beat Paintsville, 90-87 in overtime.
Jenkins senior Whitney Creech scored a career-high 71 points to lead the Lady Cavaliers to the victory and surpass Highlands Head Coach Jaime Walz-Richey's state record of 4,948 career points for both boys and girls. Creech now has 4,957 career points and 1,105 on the season for an average of just more than 50 per game.
This is an advertisement. Barre3 Fort Thomas. 

Jenkins travels to Perry County Central for a 6 p.m. contest Thursday. Creech needs just 43 points to become the first player boys or girls to score 5,000 points in a career.

Newport Woman Sentenced in Child Abuse Case

Jennifer and Octavio Diaz plead their case in front of Judge Fred Stine. FTM file. 
By Clayton Castle 

After 434 days since the first reporting of child abuse, Desiree Rankin was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Fred Stine to three months in county jail for abusing two children she babysat for in 2014. The sentencing hearing took place on Tuesday morning at the Campbell County Courthouse in Newport.

Rankin agreed to an Alford plea, meaning she doesn't admit guilt, but agrees there is evidence that may be damaging.

RELATED: BREAKING: Woman Pleads Guilty With Technical Caveat 

Highlands Cheer Squad Cultivating Winning Culture

The Senior Stunt Group won first place at the NKACC. Allen Ramsey,, credit. 
The Highlands Cheerleading Squad competed in the 25th annual Northern Kentucky Cheerleading Coaches Association Competition, held at BB&T arena.

The NKCCA was founded in 1992 to help promote cheerleading in Northern Kentucky to help cultivate competitive cheerleading in the region. Highlands was entered in four events and participated in a demo match as well.

The Senior Stunt Team, made up of Sarah Hoffman, Dareyan Lang, Maddi Tate and Macey Gilberson, won their division.

The small varsity squad placed third overall. The Game Day squad which is comprised of all of cheerleaders in the program placed fifth. The Game Day competition highlights traditional cheerleading by performing the fight song, a sideline cheer, and a floor cheer.

SNL Theme Planned for Annual FTEF Dance

Dance Raised $67,000 Last Year

The 2016 Fort Thomas Education Dance and Silent Auction is Saturday, March 5th!  This year the theme is "Live from Fort Thomas...It's Saturday Night Live!"  What a fun opportunity to dress up as your favorite SNL character (The Sweeney Sisters, Spartan Cheer Leaders, Cave Man Lawyer, The Blues Brothers and Debbie Downer are just a few of the best).  This year, the dance will be held at the Mess Hall in Tower Park, 8pm - Midnight.  Musical guest will be The Naked Karate Girls!l

The Fort Thomas Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization raising money for the sole purpose of enhancing the education of students in all five of the public schools in Fort Thomas.  Money raised from the dance helps fund teacher grants, the endowment fund and other educational tools needed to help the students experience the next wave of learning.  Last year’s dance raised over $67,000.


Tara Halpin of Steinhauser says, "The Fort Thomas Independent Schools have been a significant part of the lives of my family for four generations. The pride I feel, when helping support the schools that will educate our children and prepare them for the future, is overwhelming. The FTEF is comprised of amazing volunteers who drive the changes we need in our schools and help build the foundation for our children's future."

The FTEF dance and silent auction is a much-anticipated annual celebration for friends and supporters that help grow the Fort Thomas Independent School District.  While the event is a terrific opportunity to dress up, have fun, enjoy good friends, bid on amazing silent auction items, enjoy delicious food and local libations, it also contributes to school programs and initiatives that are unable to be financed through the school district's operating budget.  We really hope you will join us!

Sponsors, donations and volunteers can help make this years FTEF dance and silent auction the best yet!

For sponsorship information, please contact Lori Thurnauer at or (859) 391-2154 or Megan Desola at or (859) 250-4002.

There is a great auction lineup, including four Disney World Hopper Passes, one-year membership to YMCA, gift cards to restaurants and shops and new items coming in daily.  If you have an item you would like to donate, please contact us at or call 859-630-7574.  Help us make it even better!

The auction will also be available online starting February 19, 2016 and will run through March 5, 2016.  The auction will close at 11pm.  To view the auction items and to start bidding, please go to and go to Fort Thomas Education Foundation

It takes many volunteers to coordinate this annual event.  Would you like to help this year?  We would love to have you!  To volunteer in any capacity, please contact Lisa Cooper at or (859) 283-1885.

For tickets or information visit or call 859- 815-2004.  Tickets may also be purchased at Fort Thomas Central located at 3 N Fort Thomas Avenue, Fort Thomas, KY.  The ticket price is $45.  All proceeds go toward the Fort Thomas Education Foundation.

Highlands Aims For Bigger Things With Full Access to Facilities in Offseason

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands rising seniors Sam Taylor (44) and Trey Bowden (right) tackle Pulaski County's Jaylon Conwell (33) in the Class 5A state semifinals in November. The Bluebirds will have full access to the facilities this offseason.
The Highlands Bluebirds football team started the offseason with a huge preparation victory.

That's full access to all the facilities.

Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich does not like to use it as an excuse for last season's 8-6 campaign that ended in the Class 5A state semifinals with a 41-31 loss to eventual state runner-up Pulaski County. But it did not help that Highlands did not have access to the football field until July 15 last year in terms of getting into various rhythms offensively and defensively. David Cecil Memorial Stadium saw a refurbished turf installed as the original one installed in 2002 began to have wear and tear.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Circuit Clerk’s Office celebrates legendary year in Organ Donation Awareness Efforts

In addition to their daily courthouse responsibilities, your Circuit Clerk’s Office gives everyone the opportunity to make a heroic decision.

Just ask Mike Hamm from Laurel County.  Mike loves spending time with his wife, children, and grandchildren, but he had a nagging cough that wouldn’t quit.  His doctor wasn’t sure why and ran a multitude of tests.  Although Mike tried to continue working as usual, he declined so quickly that he couldn’t even stand long enough to brush his teeth.  He required full oxygen to get through the day.  Mike was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.  His lungs were hardening.  Soon, he wouldn’t be able to breathe.  This disease has no known cause or cure.  His doctors told him a double lung transplant was the only treatment that would save his life.

“Stories like Mike’s remind us why it is so vital that our office continues these incredible efforts each year. Organ transplantation saves lives, and thanks to the generosity of our community, more patients will get their second chance,” explained Campbell Circuit Clerk, Taunya Jack.  “No one should lose a child or spouse, or parent or grandparent, waiting for an organ transplant.”

Currently over 121,000 Americans are on the waiting list for an organ transplant.  Sadly, 22 people die each day waiting.  Kentucky’s Circuit Court Clerks and deputies are an integral part of increasing public education about organ donation and growing Kentucky’s Organ Donor Registry.  These efforts will end the wait for nearly 1000 Kentuckians currently in need.  Today, a groundbreaking 1.6 million Kentuckians are registered donors.

FTM Radio Podcast: Chuck Keller

Chuck Keller. 
We talk to long-time Highlands teacher, and FTM contributor, Chuck Keller. Chuck talks about:
- What makes Highlands different. 
- The Facebook culture leading to negative thoughts. 
- The "stupid wall." 
- Lots of other anecdotes that will make you feel better about your place in the world. 


Please "subscribe" to FTM Radio on iTunes or directly on your "Podcasts" app (and rate us highly too, please). Just search "Fort Thomas Matters". 

You can see all of our FTM Radio archives at

Be sure to read all of Chuck's columns on FTM, titled, In Other Words

Former Highlands Student Susannah O'Brien's Movie Encounter Released Nationwide

Susannah O'Brien, born and raised in Fort Thomas, recently celebrated the theatrical release of her first movie, Encounter.

Susannah O'Brien, born and raised in Fort Thomas, recently experienced her debut, nationwide theatrical release of a move she wrote, directed and produced—Encounter.

Encounter, Susannah O'Brien's first film, is in theaters now.

The movie, she says, was shown to her in a vision about a real couple who married in the 1960s, moved to a farmhouse and "had something so horrific happen to them they died and no one knew their story." So, O'Brien, owner of Sahara Vision Productions, wrote it. She says someone offered to buy her script but instead, she chose to move to L.A., intent on making the movie herself. The film took 13 days to film. "I did everything for that movie," O'Brien says. "I cast it, did the wardrobe, hired everyone." 

You can currently watch the movie at Regal Wilder Stadium 14. (There's a 2:05pm and 7:20pm showing today.) In the meantime, read on to learn about O'Brien's atypical Hollywood success story, including how a childhood sickness gave way to future visions—now her films—and the Fort Thomas Independent School (FTIS) teachers who influenced her.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fort Thomas Independent Spelling Bee Winners

Aiden Nevels, a 5th-grade student at Moyer Elementary, won the school-level competition of the National Spelling Bee on January 27, 2016.  Aiden will now take the online school champion test in hopes of qualifying for the 2016 WCPO 9 On Your Side Regional Spelling Bee which will be held on March 12, 2016.

Juli Russ, a 7th-grade student at Highlands Middle School, won the school-level competition of the National Spelling Bee on January 26, 2016.  Juli is now qualified for the 2016 WCPO 9 On Your Side Regional Spelling Bee which will be held on March 12, 2016.

Upcoming Youth Sports at the Campbell County YMCA

Last week on FTM, two new classes for adults at the YMCA were highlighted- In Trinity and Y Weight (story found here).  However, as the Campbell County YMCA slogan says, “We are for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility”.  So, when planning your Spring (it’s coming soon!) activities, don’t forget the YMCA is not just a place where you can go and swim and work out on occasion, but also a great opportunity for entry-level children’s sports.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kynect Open Enrollment Enters its Final Week - Jeff Janosick Health Insurance

Individuals should sign up by Jan. 31 to avoid a costly tax penalty.

Jeff Janosick is part of the #FTMFamily. 
The deadline to enroll in coverage through kynect is midnight, Sunday, Jan. 31. Individuals who need health insurance can log on to kynect, contact an insurance agent or kynector, or call the kynect call center to see their options for health coverage in 2016 before the Jan. 31 deadline passes. The kynect call center will be open on Saturday, Jan. 30, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST and on Sunday, Jan. 31, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST. Medicaid enrollment is open at any time.

Individuals with income above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) who fail to enroll in healthcare coverage before Jan. 31, 2016 will be subject to an IRS penalty, including those whose income falls between 100-138 percent FPL and are eligible for the Medicaid expansion. Individuals whose income falls below 100 percent FPL are not subject to the penalty.

 Locally, if you need help with your Kynect account or health insurance, contact Jeff Janosick for free assistance at 859-414-0945 or 

Important tax information
Individuals who qualified for an Advanced Premium Tax Credit (APTC) through kynect will receive a 1095-A tax form in the mail as required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Form 1095-A provides information for individuals and families who received payment assistance to help them fill out IRS Form 8962 as part of their federal return.

Individuals with Medicaid, KCHIP, Medicare, catastrophic health insurance or insurance through an employer or other agency do not need Form 1095-A to file their federal income taxes.

Visit or call 1-855-4kynect (459-6328) to learn more about affordable health care options for Kentuckians.

You Can Help Save Our Urban Forests: Start Here

The East Row Garden Club in Newport, Ky., is offering a free showing of "Trees In Trouble," a local documentary, which is receiving national attention, about the threats facing our urban forests.

More than three years ago Andrea Torrice, a Cincinnati documentary and public television producer and writer, was jogging through Burnet Woods. "It is beautiful. But one day I noticed that interspersed between the green canopy were dead trees," Torrice says. And the dead trees were all marked—with a large "X."

That same day Torrice ran into a neighbor who was walking through Burnet Woods. The neighbor said the X's indicated infested ash trees. All were slated to be cut down. "Then a tree in my backyard fell down after a storm," Torrice says. "It was also an ash tree. That's when I began to read more about the infestation." 

Soon after a scientist colleague told Torrice that the ash trees were defenseless and in danger of extinction. "I love the trees in our region, but I'm not a scientist," Torrice says. "Originally I wanted to do a children's video about trees but then everything changed course." The result: "Trees in Trouble: Saving America's Urban Forests," a film that is getting national attention.

Andrea Torrice and her crew filming "Trees in Trouble" in Bellevue Beach Park.

The documentary focuses on America's urban and community forests—their history and importance—and the threats they face from diseases and non-native insects. Particular interest is given to Cincinnati and the effect the emerald ash borer has had on its beloved ash trees—an infestation Fort Thomas is not immune to. Torrice then explores the community-wide efforts that are happening still today to save and protect our urban forests.

A national PBS premiere is slated for Arbor Day, April 29, but you have the opportunity to attend a free viewing Tuesday, February 16 at 6:30pm at The Sanctuary Event Center (417 East 6th St., Newport). The East Row Garden Club (ERGC) is hosting the event to support the Northern Kentucky Urban and Community Forestry Council. Davey Tree provided the funds to purchase the film.

Highlands seeks continuous improvement

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior post Kyle Finfrock (25) pulls down a rebound in Tuesday's game at Newport Central Catholic. Finfrock's emergence in the post has helped Highlands go 3-1 in recent games.
It is that time of year coaches hope things come together.

In Other Words: Putting Wow in Bow Wow

So I admit to this deception - I make up dog breeds. Why? Well, a mutt needs a little dignity and this gives them a little instant heritage. I love dogs and I have a soft spot for mutts. The muttier the better.

We had one dog, Buddy Einstein the Genius, who looked like he was assembled by a sensory deprived committee - long and lean body, big ears, colored like a shepherd, top knot like a lab, a huge snout, but the eyes, ah, the eyes.

One was blue and the other was marbled blue and brown. It really was a striking characteristic. They always photographed red and green. Christmas eyes.  But he was loving, smart, and gentle. I mean, he would share his dog toys with small children.  Yep. He would often select one of his toys and deposit it in front of a child and then he would drop into play mode.

As Buddy took my wife and me on a stroll around town, a woman stopped us and remarked upon the unique physique of Buddy Einstein the Genius. He sat politely still as she commented upon his eyes. “My, what interesting eyes he has.”