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Thursday, November 21, 2019

2019-2020 Highlands Girls Basketball Preview

Highlands Figuring Out Roles Early in Season

Highlands junior Rory O'Hara (left) and senior Maggie Hinegardner (right) defend Dixie Heights forward Madelyn Lawson (23) in the 9th Region semifinals last year. O'Hara and Hinegardner are two key returning players with experience from last year's 29-5 squad.
The 9th Region girls basketball tournament starts out like a maze in late winter at the BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.

The Highlands Bluebirds consistently find themselves as one of the eight teams at the starting line. They are always in the hunt to be first to the 9th Region championship prize. It just seems like the Bluebirds always finish several turns short.

Highlands put together another solid season at 29-5 last year. The Bluebirds won a fifth straight 36th District championship and started out the region tournament with a convincing 72-46 win over Covington Holy Cross for their first region tournament win in three years.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Fort Thomas Welcomes New Firefighter/Paramedic

Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey pins badge number 6 on his department's newest firefighter/paramedic Adam Hinkel.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor  

The Fort Thomas City Council meeting on November 18 just happened to also be the first official day of work for the city’s newest firefighter/paramedic.

Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey introduced new Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Hinkel who will be badge number six and wear helmet number to 658.

Hinkel comes to the department after serving since 2017 with the Florence Fire Department. Prior to joining that department full time, he had worked on a part-time basis with Taylor Mill Fire Department and started his career with the Union Fire Department. He completed his fire service training at Cincinnati State and his paramedic training at the University of Cincinnati.

"We are extremely excited to have Adam join our group and become one of the Fort Thomas Fire Department members and family," said Chief Bailey.

Bailey noted that Hinkel had been looking at a couple of different departments. "He interviewed with us, but he also interviewed with the airport. It came down to both the departments, and obviously Adam is standing here this evening. So he decided to come to the Fort Thomas Fire Department — and we are so pleased he made that choice."

Alexandria Police Chief Announces Two Officer Promotions

Alexandria Police Lieutenant Natalie Selby and Sergeant Richard Northcutt take the oath of office from city attorney Michael Duncan for their new positions.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

Two Alexandria police officers received promotions and were sworn in for their new duties at the November 7 city council meeting.

Lieutenant Natalie Selby serves the department and the community

Natalie Selby, who has been with the department since 2002, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. She came to the department after serving three years with the Northern Kentucky University Police.

She serves many roles in the department, said Chief Lucas Cooper. She serves as the field training officer and heads the crisis negotiators for the department’s SWAT team. Selby also serves as the coordinator for the Volunteers in Police Service Program and within the community she is active in the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and is a Crisis Intervention Training instructor (CIT).

"Lieutenant Selby is a dedicated and passionate employee. She cares about the people she works with and commits herself to serving the citizens of Alexandria in the highest capacity," said the chief.

Sergeant Richard Northcutt demonstrates professionalism in all his work

Richard Northcutt was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Before joining the Alexandria Police Department in 2017, he served as an officer for the Greater Cincinnati International Airport Police from 2005 to 2017. In Alexandria, he serves as a field training officer and as direct supervisor for four patrol officers.

"Sergeant Northcutt is an officer of very high character. He is always polite, willing to help and provides very good advice and guidance in new situations. He serves with integrity and honor, and always represents the agency in a professional manner," said Cooper.


Alexandria Police Department Honors Longtime Officer

Alexandria Police Chief Lucas Cooper presents retiring Detective Sergeant Gary Frodge a plaque to honor and thank him for his many years of service to the community.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

With 36 years in law enforcement, Detective Sergeant Gary Frodge of the Alexandria Police Department is retiring at the end of this month. At the November 7 meeting of Alexandria City Council, Police Chief Lucas Cooper presented Frodge with a plaque and expressed his thanks and warm wishes for the future.

This moment "is bittersweet," said Cooper. "I’ve been working with Gary since I started. He has served in a lot of capacities including SWAT Team...He serves as a detective currently, a supervisor and sometimes the cleaning lady and maintenance guy — whatever has to be done, he does it. He has done a lot for us."

The chief went on to say it was a pleasure to bring him before council and the community to honor him with the plaque and a sincere thank you from the department, the city and the community.

Student Beverly Hills Supper Club documentarians capture life-changing experience

Caution: this story contains some graphic imagery. 

By Jennifer Summer

Since being diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in February 2017, I feel as though I lock eyes directly with mortality each day. And on every one of those days, I am able to stare him down until he relents. Some days it takes more strength than others, but I find that I can prevail.

On a late afternoon in early October, we had an eye to eye battle and I was unable to look away.

Your new home is waiting. Start your search here. 

My son, Dakota Summer, along with three other classmates are doing a documentary project for his 10th grade film class at Highlands and they chose to document the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. As a writer and artist myself, I chose to document the students doing the project, as I find that each new generation is compelled to learn more about this tragedy. If you’re local, you know this story. If you’re not, I encourage you to pause your reading here and look it up, as you need a glimpse into the history to understand this story.

Most natives to our community either knew someone who perished, nearly escaped, or was supposed to be there that night, through some degree of separation or another. My uncle delivered propane gas to the club, and my parents entertained having their wedding reception there. This would turn out to be one of the largest fires in the country, taking 165 lives.

To assist the students in their project, we were able to come into contact with a man who was working the night of the fire, Mr. Wayne Dammert, a person who had already dedicated his life to defending his country. On the night of the fire, he says he saved the lives of two hundred people by putting himself in the direct path of the fire in order to do so. Now in now in his 80s, he has lived a life of experiences that are unmatched by any person I’ve ever known, and he was eager to share them with us.

We met him over lunch and he generously agreed to help with the project and to go with us up to the site of the fire so the students could film his timeline of that tragic night. The plan was to meet there, do the filming, and then we would go to the library for a quiet, sit down interview, and then we would take him to dinner.

My aunt Deb had expressed concern with our plan, as the heat that day was a balmy 95 degrees and the path to the site is a very, very steep roadway that was used to enter the club. We would have to walk, as it is barricaded with a gate and cars are not allowed access, and neither are pedestrians. Deb was concerned primarily about me, with my health issues and the fact that I was less than a week post-surgery to have a new port-a-cath placed in my chest. I was not supposed to excessively stretch my right arm or lift anything over five pounds for the next couple weeks, and even then, I needed to not overextend or lift anything excessively heavy with that arm.

She was also concerned about Wayne, and even though he is in good health, he is still a man in his eighties. However, all of us were committed to this project. The night before, Deb called me with a plan. She would meet us in the parking lot at the base of the road, and bring her garden wagon for the filming gear, a jug of water and cups, bottles of water, electrolyte packs to put in them, towels for our necks that we could get wet, and wrist band ice packs to keep our temperature down.

Check out the menu here. (Hint: Try the Fort Thomas Matters burger).

She said she would stay in her car and wait for us, and ask that I keep her updated via text. Everything started out perfectly. We went up the hill very slowly. We paused to take breaths, and Dakota and his one classmate who was able to help film this evening pulled the wagon and carried the rest of their stuff.

Once the path finally leveled out and we were at the top, a breeze started to blow and the temperature dropped to about 80 due to the shade from the trees. The boys set up the filming gear and Wayne walked us through the path while the boys filmed him and captured the audio via a microphone they attached to his shirt. I followed silently behind them and documented them with photos I took on my iPhone as Dakota was using my Canon to take the video.

When we had first met Wayne, he expressed that his main concern was that the flag that was placed at the top of the hill was crooked and he wanted to straighten it out. He asked Dakota if he would help him do so, and of course, Dakota agreed. Wayne was the most instrumental part of the memorial pieces that are at the top of the hill on 471.

And now here we were, at the top of the hill. The sun shot through the clearing and revealed a field of wild flowers and tall, wheat colored grass. We were standing by the white statue of Jesus that faces 471. This was my third time visiting the site. I came once with my best friend and we encountered a coyote that sent us running back down the hill. I came a second time with another one of my best friends, her daughter, and Dakota. And, know what they say about things in threes.

But I had never been to the very top before.

There was a huge collection of pieces from that night that had been organized into one spot; light bulbs, broken pieces of china, forks, dishes, liquor bottles. On my previous visits I had seen a few things lying about but only took photos, never items. I was taking photos of the items and Wayne said, “If you see something that connects with you, take it.” I told him that I was afraid of being disrespectful, of disturbing the sacredness of the ashy remains of those who did not escape. He insisted that I take what I felt drawn to, and show it reverence, so I looked at them all and went with my gut, choosing a light bulb, and a few pieces of broken china.

Around this time, Wayne had started to walk toward the flag pole. The large sign that recently announced that the property was for sale had blown down. Wayne said, “You know who knocked that sign down? God did.” The boys were setting up for the shot of him straightening the pole. I left them alone and walked back down the hill about 15 feet away to take some photos of the wildflowers.

I turned back and got some photos: the flag dancing on the wind, Wayne’s arms outstretched, looking up. The boys watching him, getting him in the shot. I turned back to the flowers.
And then I heard the screams.

I heard Wayne first and whipped my head around and then I heard Dakota screaming for me.
Hell! He fell over the side!

St. Elizabeth Healthcare Reaches Notable Lung Cancer Screening Milestone

Healthcare System Located at the Epicenter of Lung Cancer Saves Lives 

St. Elizabeth Healthcare has just performed its 10,000th lung screening, a significant and rare milestone only held by a handful of other systems in the country. The system’s estimated rolling 12-month completion rate for eligible patients is over 25%, exceeding the national average of less than 5%, based on 2016 data presented at the 2018 American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

Kentucky ranks worst in the country for lung cancer diagnosis and death rates, according to 2018 data from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries reported by the American Cancer Society. Based on the most recent rates published for the current American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system, when lung cancer is diagnosed and treated early (Stage I), the five-year survival rate can exceed 90%. This is all the more important since Kentucky is consistently one of the top two states in smoking rates, according to 2018 CDC data.

“That’s why we have stepped up to solve a problem that’s right here,” shared Dr. Doug Flora, executive medical director of oncology services at St. Elizabeth. “We want our patients, their families and the community to do more than recognize Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November—let’s get more area residents screened and save lives.”

The lung screening is a low-dose CT scan that has now identified about 100 lung cancers under Stage III. Early detection offers more options, namely allowing St. Elizabeth surgeons and their teams to remove the tumors and often spare lung cancer patients the need for chemotherapy. For patients who are not surgical candidates, the St. Elizabeth radiation oncology team also has excellent means to eradicate the cancer.

“By finding these tumors at an earlier Stage I or II, we are seeing a ‘stage migration’ shift. Pinpointing tumors at lower stages significantly increases chances of survival,” said Dr. Michael Gieske, medical director of lung cancer screening at St. Elizabeth. “The screenings are already extending and saving lives.”

St. Elizabeth has recruited and developed a large multidisciplinary team to combat lung cancer, led by highly qualified lung cancer surgeons, radiologists, pulmonologists, primary care physicians, nurse navigators and medical and radiation oncologists. Under their direction, a comprehensive lung cancer screening program was built that is among the country’s most robust and successful. Early on St. Elizabeth obtained and continues to maintain certifications as a Screening Center of Excellence and a Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence.

Approximately 350 at-risk patients are screened per month at St. Elizabeth, detecting a new lung cancer in about one in every 62 scans. When Dr. Gary Schmitt, radiologist with Radiology Associates of NKY, and Dr. Glen Turner, now retired St. Elizabeth pulmonologist, began the program in late 2013, staff completed seven lung cancer screens total for the year.

“Since the program’s inception, progress and impact are both significant,” said Dr. Royce Calhoun, medical director of thoracic surgery at St. Elizabeth. “These screenings give patients and their physicians important information, creating opportunity for early tumor removal when time is of the essence.”

St. Elizabeth is investing heavily in building programs and focusing resources on aggressive lung cancer screening and early detection. The St. Elizabeth lung screening program is just one example of being “right here” for the Northern Kentucky community. To learn is you are a candidate for a screening, visit

Community honors veterans at Fort Thomas Coffee

New owners of Fort Thomas Coffee, Christine and Justin Smalley, were overwhelmed on Veterans Day this month with the kindness their customers displayed towards local veterans.

At the front counter, guests put money in a jar labeled “Loving our Military” to pay for those who have served and are serving our country.

"This fund was first a tab behind the counter started by a loving community member.  It was then a jar placed on the counter offering the community opportunity to take part," said Christine.  

She said that because of the generosity of our community, American Veterans are offered free drinks at Fort Thomas Coffee. 

"Customers kindly fill the jar and pay for those who have served and are serving our country," she said.

On Friday, November 15, the Smalleys celebrated veterans by delivering coffee, morning fresh donuts and coffee cake to the 84 military veterans residing and/or receiving services at our Fort Thomas VA Hospital. 

"A little change in the military jar combined with that of a loving community allows us to say a big thing in our small and simple way.  I think it's an incredible tribute from our community to our veterans that says we remember, we are grateful, you are thought of highly, often and are greatly valued," said Smalley.

Op-ed: We Can Advance Racial Equity in Kentucky by Investing in Pre-apprenticeship

By: Wonda Winkler, Executive Vice President at Brighton Center, Inc

One of our core values at Brighton Center is a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and racial equity. That core value is driven by the fundamental belief that our society will only truly be fair when people of every race and ethnicity have an equal opportunity to succeed as well as equitable access to the tools, resources, and support they need to reach that success.

The unfortunate reality is that far too many Kentuckians are struggling to achieve economic security for themselves and their families, especially people of color. And while our state has made advancing and promoting apprenticeship programs a priority and is seeing some momentum, we must still work to build out and expand these efforts across the Commonwealth, including Northern Kentucky, to best support working families. We must also broaden the apprenticeship pipeline for people of color by investing in pre-apprenticeship programs.

Some efforts within the state include the Kentucky Advanced Technical College High (KTECH) program, the New Skills for Youth (NSFY) initiative funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Tech Ready Youth Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK). KTECH is designed for students in grades 9-12 plus 2 to ensure they have the skills employers need to fill well-paying middle and high demand jobs.

One way that will occur is through work-based learning. As one of the states funded for NSFY, Kentucky seeks to transform the delivery of career and technical education by increasing access to dual credit, industry recognized credentials, demand sector career pathways in demand sectors, and work-based learning. TRACK provides secondary students with seamless career pathway opportunities into Registered Apprenticeships.

These efforts are definitely a step in the right direction and are exactly the kind of meaningful workforce policy solutions that would help meet our state’s future workforce needs. It is important to ensure that opportunities and outcomes exist for everyone as these initiatives are being built. In particular, increasing economic opportunities for people of color requires developing relationships even before developing skills through job training. Therein lies the value of pre-apprenticeship programs.

Pre-apprenticeship programs also need our collective focus and attention, and are critical to leveling the playing field for workers of color who may not have the professional network to access high-wage industries like construction, manufacturing, transportation, or health care. This is especially important given the income disparities between people of color and White Americans.

For example, a recent report by National Skills Coalition – The Roadmap for Racial Equity – states that Black apprentices still earn the lowest exit wages of all apprentices (about $14 per hour median wage) compared to about $26 per hour for White apprentices.

Not to mention that more than half of Black workers and 60 percent of Latinx workers nationally are paid less than $15 per hour. Or that women of color and foreign-born women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs like personal care aides ($11.11 per hour average wage) and home health aides ($11.16 per hour) compared to high-wage jobs like registered nurses ($33.65 per hour), which tend to skew White.

Effective pre-apprenticeship programs for youth and adults will allow them to explore a variety of work environments, learn the basic technical skills to succeed in a particular industry, and receive the mentorship, coaching, and support services needed to succeed and complete training – such as child care and transportation assistance.

As apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and work-based learning opportunities are initiated, strengthened, or expanded, it is vital to remember the important role and voice that employers must have in this process. Their willingness to be deeply and fully engaged in partnership with education and workforce development practitioners must occur to ensure the best outcome for the current and future workforce, especially pertaining to diversity, inclusion, and equity. 

Lawmakers should require data disaggregated by race on pre-apprenticeship programs and they should use that data to target investments to organizations that have a demonstrated track record of effectiveness in serving people of color.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Serendipitous meeting leads to meaningful partnership for these northern Kentucky women

By Jessie Eden 

The annual Medicare enrollment is now underway through December 7, 2019 and for many people on Medicare , this is an extremely useful service you want to take advantage of to look at plan options for 2020.

For two Northern Kentucky women, Medicare enrollment was not only turned into a lifelong friendship with an emphasis on giving back.

Through a very serendipitous series of events, Cathy Halloran came across Suzanne Janosick’s Fort Thomas business advertisement. Suzanne is a licensed Health Insurance Agent with “Med My Way”. Cathy, who prefers the name “Chick”, saw her advertisement for Medicare enrollment while considering Medicare options for her husband that was close to turning 65.

“I just made a connection with her on the picture,” said Halloran. “We hit it off immediately. It wasn’t until we met face to face, that I realized we had met before.”

You see, before meeting during Medicare enrollment, Halloran actually helped Suzanne’s mother. “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple years ago and really benefited from the material that was given to her from Chicks and Chucks during diagnosis,” said Suzanne.

“Chicks and Chucks” is a non-profit created by Halloran that is dedicated to providing support and assistance to local breast cancer patients and their loved ones. The organization is completely ran by volunteers and has been operating for the past 13 years.

Over the past 13 years, Chicks and Chucks has raised over a $500,000 for Breast Cancer patients and survivors. The money raised goes toward co-pays, post-surgical garments, wigs, and deductibles.

Halloran herself was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and through a deep spiritual connection with God, she found her calling to help other breast cancer patients in the form of “Chicks and Chucks”. Halloran is now in remission and she and her sister Cheryl dedicate their lives to helping others affected by Breast Cancer.

“The passion I have at work keeps me going. I’m a prosthetic bra and wig fitter and there is so much validation when the nurses bring them {breast cancer patients} over to me,” said Halloran. “I am also a breast cancer survivor. It will be 18 years in January. The makes such a difference. They feel hopeless and they leave feeling hopeful and with a hug.”

Having such a personal experience with Halleron has resulted in a beautiful friendship and Suzanne even uses her Medicare sales to give back to the organization. “We have become great buds,” said Suzanne. “I give a portion of all my open enrollment sales to Chicks and Chucks.”

And, Halloran fondly refers to Suzanne as her “Breast Friend”.

So, if you are looking into Medicare enrollment and you also want to make a difference in the lives of those affected by breast cancer, consider reaching out to Suzanne with “Med My Way” She’ll take good care of you AND a portion of the sale will go towards helping others with “Chicks and Chucks”.

In Other Words: Yes, There Are Perks of Cancer According to Author Diana Bosse

Diana Bosse holds her book.
I never wanted to be a member of the Cancer Club but I have met the most extraordinary people there and I want to introduce you to one. Her name is Diana Bosse and she is a lymphoma survivor but don’t define her by her illness.

Phone: 859-905-0714 - Email: This is an advertisement.

She was diagnosed in April 2019 and is now cured. But then something interesting and unexpected happened. Bosse is use to suffering. She works for the Alzheimer’s Association and there is no cure for that, but she sees much grace, strength, and humor in clients and family as they suffer that disease. But it’s different when it’s you.

 We met recently at The Colonel’s Kitchen for lunch to chat about our shared illness and the power of community, positive attitude, and love.

Bosse says, “When I was diagnosed, I went into the black hole for about three days. But then I thought this was not doing me any good.” But that is not productive or helpful. She had a good friend who beat lymphoma many years before and “he never missed work, never missed a beat.” She decided to take his approach because if not “I would already be giving up.”

She started posting Perks of Cancer on Facebook. Her first perk was about a false belief that she would end up with flat abs. She wrote, “Once all the swollen lymph nodes in my stomach are zapped, I expect to be bikini ready.” Absurd. Funny. But it disarms the disease and makes it not so threatening. Friends started checking in for her daily Perk. “I got up at 4:00 every morning to post my Perk. So I thought it might make a great book.” 

She says in her introduction that “Since humor is my default coping mechanism, laughing through lymphoma came naturally.” There’s a lot to be said about the healing properties of humor. She takes more of an Erma Bombeck approach to her situation like saving money by not buying shampoo.

She and illustrator Steve Wallace created The Perks of Having Cancer - An Inspirational, Positive, and Humorous View of a Not-So-Inspirational, Positive, or Humorous Situation. "Cancer is no laughing matter, but laughter can be the best medicine.  I hope this book brightens the day of others faced with a terrifying diagnosis and helps them discover their own perks in daily living."

She’s getting good feedback on her book. “It’s incredible so far. It’s only been out for a week and a half and I’ve sold about 250 copies.” She’s talking with local media and getting the word out to the world. And the world seems to likes it.

“People who have responded are people who have had cancer. They say it’s inspirational.” And it is inspirational. We don’t travel that road alone. I’ve often wondered what I need to do with this gift of survival and Bosse feels the same. Perks of Cancer is part of her gift to the world.

The book is available at, and will soon be available at local bookstores and gift shops for $20.

You can meet Diana Bosse at a book signing at Row House Gallery, 211 Main Street in Milford on Friday, November 29, 1:00-3:00 and Saturday, November 30, 2:00 - 4:00.

A portion of the book sales will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as well as the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati, where she has worked for nearly 11 years as a member of its Development team.

Chuck Keller, Diana Bosse, Linda Slone at Light the Night event

Friday, November 15, 2019

Bocce and Beyond: Woodfill Students Share Unified Sports Program Success

Members of Woodfill's Unified Sports bocce team explained the program that provides opportunities for athletes of all abilities to play together.

By Robin Gee

Unified Sports is a program through Special Olympics that partners athletes with and without special needs in a program designed to build relationships, leadership skills, essential foundational skills, self-esteem and all-round good sportsmanship and camaraderie.

Woodfill students presented on their school’s Unified Sports program at the November meeting of the Fort Thomas School Board. The goal of the program, which includes 28 students from all grades, is to build and promote the concept of unified sports throughout the whole school and the community.

The program at Woodfill includes a unified club, unified physical education (PE) classes and a unified sports team. The school has chosen bocce as its sport for the program.

Eli, a Woodfill student and Unified team member, explained, "Special Olympics is only in the Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Grant and Pendleton. Any child with a disability who wants to compete in sports must travel to play. Special Olympics currently has 15 sports, however there are only five unified sports – cheerleading, bowling, track and field, golf and bocce. Unified teams can compete at the state, national and world levels. We hope to compete at each of these levels in the future."

"It is our hope that we will continue to move on throughout this and grow unified bocce across the district... We really have become the unified bocce club for the whole region," added Principal Keith Faust.

Becoming a Unified Champion School

An additional goal would be for Woodfill to become a designated Unified Champion School. Criteria for a Unified Champion School set forth by the Special Olympics is to embody three elements — whole-school engagement, unified sports and youth leadership.

At present there are only three Unified Champion Schools in Kentucky. If Woodfill were to join this group, it would become the first elementary school in the nation to do so, but Faust said that goal is secondary to building a strong unified program within the school with focus on the PE program, after school club and the bocce team.

Another team member, Kamden, who joined the team with her brother Mason, described the PE program, "The goal for the unified PE class is to create an exclusive class that allows athletes and partners to work on foundational skills...Foundational skills support basic health and fitness such as body awareness, strength, flexibility and coordination."

She shared a quote from her PE teacher Matt Gessner, "I am absolutely thrilled with the amount of foundational skills in our athletes. With the leadership of our students, this program is teaching all the necessary skills to be successful," he wrote.

An after school opportunity

The unified club meets after school twice a month. Said student Simon, "Our unified club mission statement is to work together as equal partners in inclusion and empowering kids to be leaders who stand for unity and inclusion within the school and community."

Woodfill teachers Holly Solzsmon (special education) and Natalie Heidrich (Title 1), and instructional assistant Kathy Burgin are club sponsors.

Heidrich explained that each month involves a theme. Last month’s theme was friendship, and the students learned about what makes a good friend and teammate. This month the students are discussing the concept of perseverance.

"We started off with the popular story of the Tortoise and the Hare, and we talked about how Tortoise is slow, but sticks to it and in the end wins the race. We talked about how this is true in their teams and in life. They will work with people with different strengths, and if they support each other, they will experience a win...We connect back to our mission statement, building leaders who stand for unity and inclusion," said Heidrich.

The students share the club’s themes and discussions with the entire school through posters and signage, announcements and sharing at the school’s monthly school meetings.

Bocce for everybody

Faust added that the favorite element for the students and all involved is the bocce team. The school provides a court, and holds bocce matches on Tuesday nights. He said sometimes 50 to 60 people come to watch the students play.

Students Luke and Lorenzo explained how they play the game. Basically, a small white ball called a pallino is thrown onto the court and then balls are thrown towards the pallino. Those whose balls land closest win. Teams of three compete against each other.

Brogan, explained his reason for signing up, "I signed up for an after school enrichment program and that’s how I got started. I wanted to sign up because I wanted to play with my brother because he doesn’t get to play sports and I wanted to help him improve and work together with my other teammates."

Indeed, the sport allows students of all abilities and ages play together and build relationships and friendships as they learn leadership and teamwork.

Carmen Sarge has two sons, Brogan and Lorenzo, in the program. He serves as a coach for the team and gave a parent’s perspective on this unique opportunity. "It’s actually a real honor for me to be here to say a few words... To see how much fun they have and how included they feel when they are out there playing a sport with other kids is just amazing."

Sarge said when his older son Brogan was playing basketball in the Take Flight program at school, Lorenzo asked to go to every one of his practices. "And when you are a parent, especially of a child with special challenges and abilities, you really long for them to be included and feel included...With regular sport that’s not always available to some of these kids. Bocce was a solution to this issue that we as a family had been struggling with over the years."

He explained that, not only did his son get to compete with kids who might excel at other sports, he is on the same team with them and has the opportunity to form the bonds and relationships that happen between teammates.

"It’s been wonderful for Lorenzo and for Brogan as well. It benefits both of our boys...And, it’s a lot of fun. After the game one of the kids was going around hugging everybody. Their eyes light up; it’s amazing. I can’t say enough good things about the program."

Faust said the team is wrapping up now due to the cold weather but will be back playing in the spring. He invited the entire community to come out to Woodfill and cheer on the team. For more, check out the video students made about their Woodfill Unified bocce team experience.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Northern Kentucky Woman Indicted for Murder in Child’s Death

A Dayton woman accused in the death of her child has been indicted at the Campbell County Courthouse for first degree manslaughter. (FTM file photo)
 By Robin Gee

Stacey Schuchart, 29, was indicted today for murder in the death of her 17-month-old son, Sean Buttery, Jr. She will be arraigned in the Campbell County Circuit Court.

Stacey Schuchart is awaiting trial for manslaughter in the death of her 17-month-old son.

On August 16, the Bellevue-Dayton Fire Department responded to a call from Schuchart that her son was unresponsive. She said the child had hit his head on the microwave. Despite efforts to revive him, the child was pronounced dead at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

After the coroner found severe injuries inconsistent with Schuchart’s claim, she was arrested on September 13.

Ashley Barlow can be reached at 859-781-5777. This is an advertisement.

The woman’s three-year-old daughter was also home at the time at the family's residence in Dayton, Kentucky. The coroner’s report stated that the three-year-old could not have contributed to the injuries. The child’s father was at work, and police have confirmed he was not at home at the time of the incident.

The coroner’s report revealed that the child had suffered traumatic injury inconsistent with hitting his forehead on a microwave.

Newport District Court Judge Karen Thomas read parts of the coroner’s report aloud. In addition to head and skull trauma, the child had lacerations, bruises and evidence of several recent wounds and injuries including a detached bladder and four fractures to the pelvis area.

The injuries were consistent with “the level of trauma you would expect in a serious car accident.”

The judge entered a plea for Schuchart of not guilty but denied a request from the mother’s public advocate for alternative monitoring due to the severity of the injuries and her past criminal record that included bail jumping and probation violations. Bond was set at $1 million.

Schuchart appeared in court on September 26, and initially was charged with first degree manslaughter. A Grand Jury changed the charge to murder. If convicted, she faces 20 to 50 years or life in prison.

Fort Thomas Independent Schools Staff Member Honored for Going the Extra Mile

Global Leader Award winner, staff member and avid school booster Mary Turner with her award.

By Robin Gee

People who work behind the scenes in offices and departments that support our schools often can be unsung heroes, taking care of the day-to-day business and quietly making sure administrators’, teachers’ and students’ needs are met.

At the November meeting, Fort Thomas school board members made sure to recognize and honor a staff member for her support and service she gives to her colleagues.

Mary Turner handles payroll and benefits for the school’s employees. The board honored her for the care she takes to ensure everyone has all the information and support they need to ensure their families receive the benefits provided for them by the district.

Superintendent Karen Cheser explained. "Mary does all our payroll and benefits, and sometimes she has to do things that are not quite as fun, such as tracking down people to get their insurance done. We heard from Whitney McKay, a counselor at Johnson, who contacted us to make sure we knew to say thank you to Mary for her persistence in making sure we enroll successfully for our health insurance claims."

In her nomination letter, McKay said "I carry my children on my health insurance, and in addition to this I have to have very expensive medication covered by insurance that is incredibly important my family."

She said she could not afford the medication without the insurance. She thought she’d registered properly and even printed out a receipt but came to find out that she had not. Turner reached out to her and said she’d make sure the family was enrolled.

McKay said Turner followed up and saved the family headaches and potential financial hardship. "She checked and I was so glad she did."

Cheser added that at some other institutions an office person might just send out a notice or email, but otherwise leave the respondents on their own. If things aren’t filled out or done right, that leaves the employee to suffer the consequences.

Woodfill Principal Honored as a Global Leader

Keith Faust, principal at Woodfill Elementary, received a Global Leadership award in November.

 By Robin Gee

No surprise to the teachers, students, parents and staff of Woodfill Elementary, Principal Keith Faust received a Global Leadership award for the work he has done to make his school culture one of learning, respect and leadership.

At its November meeting, the Fort Thomas school board honored Faust with the award after he was nominated by a visitor to the school, an educator who served recently as a substitute in Woodfill’s counseling department.

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Karen Strong, a retired classroom teacher, principal and Northern Kentucky University educator said she was privileged to do her second stint at Woodfill as a substitute and wanted to share her thoughts with the Fort Thomas school community.

In her nomination letter, she shared praise for both Principal Faust and for the school. "This is the second time I’ve spent extended time at Woodfill Elementary working for Keith Faust. It would be remiss of me not to share my reflections. After my first experience five years ago, I was so impressed with the building culture, the research-based standards and instructional practices, inclusiveness and the maximizing of staff potential. Fast-forward five years, and this amazing school has reached new heights."

To Strong, Woodfill’s principal, teachers, staff and students model all the characteristics outlined in Portrait of a Graduate and the Global Leadership effort. "I am most struck by the kindness, consideration and respect that is demonstrated among and between staff and students. This school exemplifies a community of learners. The staff and students have embraced Covey’s seven habits. These skills for living and learning should very much impact their entire lives," she said.

Highlands Soccer Player Maria Broering Scores Big in Academics

Highlands senior and Bluebirds varsity soccer player Maria Broering earned a perfect score of 36 on the ACT exam.

By Robin Gee

Maria Broering, who just finished a great season on the Highlands Bluebirds varsity soccer team, demonstrated academic achievement as well. At the November meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools Board, she was honored for earning a perfect score of 36 on the ACT exam.

Broering is also a National Merit Scholar Semi-finalist. Her name was included at earlier fall board meetings for her honors, but Superintendent Karen Cheser said it was difficult to get Broering to the meetings to congratulate her personally due to her demanding soccer schedule.

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Now that the season was over, it was time to honor Broering for all the senior’s achievements and contributions to Highlands.

About 1.6 million juniors from 21,000 high schools enter the national scholarship program each year by taking a qualifying test known as the PSAT. As a National Merit Scholar Semi-finalist, Broering was selected one of only 16,000 students to earn the designation.

About 15,000 of the semifinalists will advance to the finalist level. Finalists will be announced in early February and a little over half will be named winners and will receive a $2,500 Merit Scholarship or a scholarship sponsored by a private company or a college. More than 1,000 additional special scholarships will be awarded to finalists who were not named winners.

Broering plans to attend Ball State University where she will continue her soccer career. She plans to major in Dietetics.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

BB Riverboats christening new event center, celebrates 40 years in business

The Bernstein family christened a new component of their floating-family business today as they introduced River's Edge, a state-of-the-art event center on the northern Kentucky banks of the Ohio River.

The event center holds up to 225 guests to experience the romance of the river without ever setting sail.

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Located on their brand new Newport Landing dock facility, River's Edge is Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s only private event space located on the Ohio River.  It's designed to host and cater weddings, rehearsal dinners, family reunions, corporate meetings or sorority/fraternity parties.

40 years in business

BB Riverboats gets its name from the initials of the people who were instrumental in getting the business started; Ben Bernstein and Betty Blake.

In 1977, Ben Bernstein purchased the Mike Fink Restaurant in Covington, KY from Captain John Beatty.

In 1979, BB Riverboats was formed and a staff began booking cruises from the Mike Fink Restaurant. The first cruise was on March 15, 1980 on the M/V Betty Blake. The Betty Blake was a 400 passenger sternwheeler that was leased from the Gateway Clipper Company from Pittsburgh, PA.

Port of Cincinnati

It didn't take long after the grand opening of BB Riverboats to realize that the business was going to be a success. Following the first cruising season at the Mike Fink, a long-term home was purchased for BB Riverboats and it was moved further down the river, just below the John Roebling Suspension Bridge. BB Riverboats ran out of this location for about ten years before becoming part of Covington's riverfront entertainment complex, "Covington Landing", where it operated until 2005. In 2005, BB Riverboats moved up to Newport, KY, where it is located today on Riverboat Row.

Propelling into the Future

‘Making Spirits Bright’ is taking over Grassroots & Vine this holiday season

Looking for a festive place to “eat, drink and be merry” that still feels like a neighborhood hangout? This holiday season, Grassroots & Vine will transform into a Christmas pop-up bar and experience.  The concept, Making Spirits Bright, will take over the full-service bar and spread into the tasting room and onto the patio.  Sip on festive cocktails served in Santa mugs beneath Christmas lights, tinsel, garland, baubles galore and non-stop Christmas music.

The Christmas experience will take on a nostalgic, retro, mid-century modern but cozy feel.  There will be tons of photo opportunities, games and events throughout the month of December. You will feel right at home for the holidays!

Making Spirits Bright will open on Small Business Saturday, November 30th and run through Tuesday, December 31st with a New Year’s Eve party.  Hours will coincide with Grassroots & Vine’s business hours: Tuesday-Thursday 10 a.m. -10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. - 11 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.  The bar and restaurant will offer a festive menu of Christmas cocktails and snacks, as well as, their everyday lunch, dinner and beverage items, including CAKE, cookies, coffee, cider and hot chocolate.

Grassroots & Vine will tie-in between drink sales and the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky by donating a percentage of all Christmas themed cocktail sales for the month of December.  The Christmas cocktails menu will include drinks like Santa Clausmopolitan, A Kentucky Christmas, Chai Hot Toddy, Nice and Naughty Shots, just to name a few!

Making Spirits Bright at Grassroots & Vine is also available for private and semi-private holiday parties with in-house menu options.  Email today to reserve your holiday spirit!

Upcoming Holiday Calendar-of-Events
November 13th Kid’s Club “Kids Giving,” 5-7pm; $8 includes kids meal and craft/activity
November 14th-17th Annual Holiday Open House; FREE gift w/ purchase everyday
November 21st Holiday Edition Mega Wine Tasting, 6:30-8:30pm; $15 per person
November 30th ‘Making Spirits Bright’ opening on Small Business Saturday
December 1st Fort Thomas Holiday Walk
December 11th Kid’s Club Christmas Cookie Decorating; reservations required
December 19th Mega Wine Tasting – Big Bang Event!
December 31st First Annual Grassroots & Vine New Year’s Eve Party

*Local musicians will be featured throughout the holiday season. Please visit the events calendar at  for additional information.

The countdown has begun.  Be sure to join Grassroots and Vine this holiday season, Making Spirits Bright, spreading good cheer and joy, one “Merry Christmas” at a time!  Located at 1011 S Fort Thomas Avenue, Fort Thomas, KY.