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Friday, December 6, 2019

Holiday Fun This Weekend in Cold Spring

Cram the Cruiser kicks off a weekend of holiday fun in Cold Spring

It’s a packed weekend of holiday fun in Cold Spring on Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8. As are several communities in our area, the city is celebrating the season in a big way.

Cram the Cruiser

The festivities kick off on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Cram the Cruiser at the Cold Spring Kroger on Crossroads Boulevard. It’s an effort to fill a police vehicle with non-perishable food to help make sure local veterans have a warm and happy holiday. Donations will go to the VA Foodbank. Cash donations are also appreciated. Collections will be taken until 2 p.m.

Visit with Santa

What’s the holiday season without a visit from the Jolly ol’ Elf himself! Get on board a train in Municipal Park (5694 E Alexandria Pike), and ride over to visit Santa. The event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Refreshments are included (cookies and hot chocolate, of course).

Light Up Cold Spring

Get those holiday lights and displays up by Sunday at 6 p.m. to enter this year’s Light Up Cold Spring competition. City council will do the judging at that time, and prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place. Everybody wins as the community celebrates the season in a big way!

Midway Cafe hosting "Pappy Party" - here's how you can get a taste

Shhhhhhh! Did someone say speakeasy?

It’s that time of year again at The Midway Cafe Fort Thomas (1017 S. Fort Thomas Ave). The Midway crew is hosting a 1920’s Prohibition Party on December 14. Entry time is 9:00 p.m.

They'll be closing early at 8:00 p.m. to set up for the party at 9:00 p.m.

"We're really excited to be able to offer them to our local friends and customers who have been so great to us," said Erika Kraus, co-owner of The Midway Cafe. "We will be serving up authentic 1920s cocktails and we also want to introduce you to the whole Van Winkle family that night."

She said they'll have the entire Pappy lineup: 10 year, 12 year (Lot B), 15 year, 20 year and 23 year and the Rye available.

"We wanted to price the bourbon for people to enjoy, not just to sit on our shelves," said Staci Edmonds, another owner of Midway.

So, how can you join in on the bourbon-fun?

1) Get your password. 

Private message The Midway Cafe on their Facebook page. 

2) Dress in your favorite cocktail party or 1920s attire.

3) Have fun. 

The Midway will also be tapping 2018 and 2019 Goose Island Bourbon County.

"We will have a small bites menu and pouring that giggle juice all night," said Kraus.

Southern Campbell County Industrial Park among KY sites selected for upgrades

Dozens of Kentucky communities will be better positioned to attract jobs and business investment following the first round of the Kentucky Product Development Initiative – or PDI – a new program implementing a proactive approach to enhance the state’s site-and-building inventory.

Through PDI’s objective, third-party process, Dallas-based Site Selection Group (SSG) recommended nine communities receive a total $2.95 million in grant funds to upgrade industrial and office sites and buildings.

Included in the recommendation was the Southern Campbell County Industrial Park.

The Southern Campbell County Industrial Park (SCCIP) near Campbell County High School off of US-27/ Bud Pogue Way. The current industrial user within the SCCIP is Hillshire Brands/ Tyson Foods.

Communities must match any state grants dollar-for-dollar, thereby allowing PDI to leverage a total of nearly $6 million to upgrade Kentucky’s inventory of sites and buildings. As well, 36 communities statewide will receive professional development consultations from SSG to identify next steps in improving local sites and buildings.

“As the corporate support center for economic development statewide, we’re pleased to receive these recommendations from Site Selection Group. We’re also incredibly encouraged to see so much interest and involvement in this first round from local economic developers across Kentucky,” said Vivek Sarin, interim secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development, a partner in PDI.

The nine submissions SSG recommended for grant-funded enhancements are:

*         Commerce Park – Christian County

*         Crossroads property – Marion County

*         T.J. Patterson Industrial Park – Hardin County

*         425 Bypass property  – Henderson County

*         Southern Campbell Industrial Park – Campbell County

*         3000 Bill Robertson Way property – Madison County

*         RiverPort Phase V – Jefferson County

*         UK Coldstream Research Campus – Fayette County

*         Southeast Kentucky Regional Industrial Park – Knox County

“Kentucky’s record-breaking economic development success over the past four years claimed many of the state’s tier-one sites and buildings,” Sarin said. “Through this first round of PDI, communities will have additional resources and guidance to upgrade their available properties and attract new business projects.”

Thursday, December 5, 2019

St. Elizabeth has 22 labor and delivery staffers pregnant at same time, now 18 are moms

There must be something in water at St. Elizabeth's Healthcare in Kentucky, as 22 labor and delivery hospital staffers were all pregnant at the same time this year.

Among the group of physicians, nurses and administrative workers, 18 of the women are now mothers.

Two of the little ones arrived on the same day, Sept. 25, and four more women are still to give birth, with the last mom expected to deliver in January 2020.

Kristy McDowell, a labor and delivery nurse, was the first to have her baby on May 13. At 32 weeks, McDowell welcomed a girl, Priscilla, who weighed 4 pound, 8 ounces.

"She's [now] the biggest out of all of them," McDowell said of her daughter. "She's very happy, always smiling -- doesn't cry unless she's hungry."

McDowell said each day she'd come into work and more and more of her colleagues would reveal their pregnancies.

"We had a list at the nurse's station and somebody was always adding their name to it," she said.

Sarah Dixon, a secretary in the labor and delivery unit, welcomed a girl, Jensyn, on Sept. 11 weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces.

"She's a double rainbow baby and [myself] and her older three siblings, we hold her all the time," Dixon said. "She's very special."

Assistant nurse manager Jocelyn Laake said the hospital is one big family.

"Then to get to share this moment in the lives of so many people you work truly a blessing."

Students take a run at fixing Campbell County's "Malfunction Junction"

By Robin Gee, Council Beat Editor 

A Highland Heights "Good Neighbor Award" went to a group of students from outside of the city whose project focused on helping Highland Heights with a specific problem. Seven students from Calvary Christian School in Covington gave a short presentation of their ideas aimed at addressing a local traffic issue.

Students from Calvary Christian School presented their ideas about a Highland Heights traffic issue to city council.

City Planner Dave Geohegan introduced the students and explained how the project came about. It all started when he got a call from an old friend looking for ideas for his daughter’s school group. The students were tasked with identifying and addressing a city infrastructure problem.

Located at 2000 Memorial Parkway, Fort Thomas. 
Fresh from a recent meeting of the US 27 Smart Corridor Committee, Geohegan said he had some ideas. He suggested the students take a look at the intersection of US 27 and Sunset, an area he dubbed "Malfunction Junction," and come up with suggestions on how to help pedestrians cross the busy and dangerous street.

The US 27 Smart Corridor Committee includes representatives of Highland Heights, Southgate, Newport, Fort Thomas and NKU in an effort to improve connectivity and revitalize the corridor. The committee had recently attended a workshop that included discussions of 'road diets' and other ways to make the corridor more 'human friendly.'

RELATED: Fort Thomas is first NKY city to sign Smart Corridor Memorandum 

Geoghegan said he’d been thinking about this and about the section of US 27 that runs through the city when he got the call from his friend that got the ball rolling.

The students, who are in 6th through 8th grades, are members of a school group they call the CIA — the Calvary Intelligence Agency. They presented a poster board and model for their idea to build a pedestrian bridge, complete with accessibility ramps and lighting for safety, that would go over the intersection. They even had ideas for funding including making the bridge out of materials, such as bricks, that residents could purchase and personalize.

Highland Heights Focuses on Fairness and Kindness at December Council Meeting

Highland Heights City Attorney Steve Franzen reads the summary of the city's new Fairness Ordinance at the December council meeting.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

By passing a Fairness Ordinance at its December 3 council meeting, Highland Heights joined a growing number of Northern Kentucky cities updating their city codes to specifically include protections for LGBTQ community members.

City Attorney Steve Franzen read a summary of the the Highland Heights ordinance that is closely based on Dayton’s recent ordinance. The ordinance "promotes fair treatment and equal opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or familial status. The city desires to protect all individuals from discrimination on the basis of these protected classifications in the context of housing, financial transactions, employment and public accommodations."

The council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance and were met with a round of applause from those present.
2000 Memorial Parkway, Fort Thomas. 

Celebrating good neighbors

The council also celebrated the success of several community events at the meeting. Through its "Good Neighbor" program, council nominated groups of people within the community who had helped contribute to the success of the events.

In November, the city combined its annual celebrations of Veterans Day and a Senior Breakfast that brought out 75 people, more than it has in the last two years, said Public Works Director Steve Lehman.

Community support was key to the success of the event. In particular, officials thanked a group of honor students from Northern Kentucky University who came out to help. Mayor Greg Meyers noted that the students not only helped with set up, serving and other duties, but they took the time to sit down and talk with the veterans and seniors, something many mentioned as a highlight.

The NKU Honor students received a Good Neighbor Award for their kindness and support.

The Highland Heights tree lighting ceremony is wonderful every year, said the mayor, but this year he wanted to honor the Asbury United Methodist Church Choir who made the event special by entertaining and leading the community in song. The choir also received a Good Neighbor Award.

More city business

2019-2020 Highlands Swimming Preview

Bluebirds Expecting More Big Results

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands Head Swimming and Diving Coach Amanda Johnson (left) goes over practice strategy on Tuesday.
It is a common theme at Highlands High School.

Success breeds success.

The Highlands swimming and diving teams have seen a major influx of that these past couple seasons. The Highlands boys team has won the Region 7 title two years in a row before finishing third at state. The combined teams won their eighth straight region title before finishing runner-up at state. The Highlands girls improved to third in the region before finishing 17th in the state meet with 35 points.

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"You can see the team is very excited and energetic about getting into the meets and having that success," said Amanda Johnson, Highlands Head Coach. "Then it just spreads because I feel each year, we have more and more kids come out for the team. That's huge because that's how you build a program. Depth is so important."

Highlands graduated Olivia Hopper off the girls team and five off the boys team including Brenden Conley, Matthew Lorenz and Jake Ryan. But the Bluebirds welcome 31 boys and 29 girls this season for a combined total of 60 participants.

The four seniors for the boys are Tyler Brown, Mason Opitz and Davis Recht. Preston McAlpin is also back after taking a year off. Juniors Jack Banks, Will Griffith, Harrison Pawsat and Mac Russell are also hoping for big things. Russell finished fifth in state in the 50 Freestyle last year in 21.29 seconds and fourth in the 100 free in 46.85 seconds. Banks finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 57.08 seconds and eighth in the 100 butterfly in 50.96 seconds.

Griffith, Banks and Russell helped Highlands to a second-place finish in the 400 free in three minutes, 10.5 seconds. Russell and Griffith also helped the Bluebirds finish fourth in the 200 free in 1:27.05 and fifth in the 200 medley relay in 1:38.21. Banks also participated in the 400 free and Brown partook in the 200 medley relay.

Sophomores Reece Guthier, Sam Jones and Benjamin Vaught along with freshmen Sam Hopper and Matt Herfel could also score points in swimming for the Bluebirds. Johnson listed freshmen Logan Holbrook, Evan Jones and Adam Pawlak as up-and-coming swimmers along with new middle schoolers Griffin Barlow, Torin Bryant, Charlie Banks and Hayden Hasson. Junior Michael Meadows along with freshmen Robert Arnberg and Owen Rogiers are listed as the top returning divers.

"I know guys that have picked up club swimming just to help the team out, which is going from swimming about two times a week just here in the winter to year-round," Banks said. "It's definitely been a domino effect. It will help this year as well. It's definitely the camaraderie. When you go through training together, it forms a tight bond. That's really what everyone is here for."

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Highlandspring of Fort Thomas Wins Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities Award

Highlandspring of Fort Thomas Wins Back-to-Back Award

At a recent statewide quality awards banquet held at the Galt House, Highlandspring of Fort Thomas received awards and recognition by the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (KAHCF) and the Kentucky Center for Assisted Living (KCAL) for outstanding care and quality.

“We are so proud of Highlandspring as a “back to back” award winner.  Highland spring and our Team Members are a valuable part of our community, this “Best of Kentucky” award recognizes their contributions and results.  We are so extremely blessed to have a Caregiver like Sarah Phelps caring for our patients,” said Carespring COO, John Muller.

John Muller. 
The Best of Kentucky – Nursing and Rehabilitation honorees were selected based on CMS star ratings of four or higher as well as high marks on satisfaction surveys of residents and families.  Highlandspring was among the Honorees.

Nursing Care Award - Sarah Phelps, a nurse at Highlandspring of Ft. Thomas was honored for nursing excellence, receiving the Nursing Care Award.  “Sarah is an outstanding clinician who has grown and developed.  She cares deeply for the patients she serves.  Highlandspring is so blessed to have her on the team and thankful Sarah embodies the ideals of a “career in care”,” said Muller.
More than 700 long-term care providers met during the annual meeting of the association, energized by general sessions challenging them with strategies to cope with stress on the job, hiring and retaining quality staff, and breakout sessions on a variety of issues facing long-term care providers. The Association honored 23 facilities with the Best of Kentucky - Nursing and Rehabilitation Award.  Sarah Phelps was among 9 honorees receiving the Nursing Care Award.

Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey named one of “Top 20 Whiskies of 2019”

View from inside the tower at New Riff Distilling. FTM file. 
New Riff Distilling was selected as one of Whisky Advocate’s coveted “Top 20 Whiskies of 2019.” The annual list celebrates the most exciting whiskies of 2019, selected by Whisky Advocate’s reviewers from among hundreds of bottles tasted throughout the year.

“We take great pride in every spirit we distill at New Riff, knowing that every step of the process is done with utmost integrity,” said Ken Lewis, Founder, New Riff Distilling. “To be recognized for our Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey byWhisky Advocate is an honor that reminds us that due diligence pays off.”

Each year, Whisky Advocate Buying Guide reviewers collectively sample hundreds of whiskies. These include rare and extremely limited releases, as well as new and emerging labels — including New Riff, one of the newest on the list — that will find their way to shelves across the nation. To determine the Top 20, Whisky Advocate begins by looking only at whiskies rated “outstanding” (90 points or higher on Whisky Advocate’s 100-point scale.)

Reviewer, Susannah Skiver Barton upholds New Riff Distilling for their boldness. “New Riff’s first whiskey releases were all bottled in bond from the start — a bold decision for a brand new distillery,” she says. “This rye proves it was the right decision.”

The Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey — the only Straight Rye on the list — was chosen for its complexity, showing maturity while retaining liveliness and verve. Bottled in bond without chill filtration, the 100% Rye is bottled at 100 proof without the addition of any flavoring or blending material.

NKU Beats Fall 2019 Enrollment Projections

Northern Kentucky University beats its enrollment projections for the Fall 2019 semester. Final enrollment figures for this semester increased to 15,687 students, which is a 6% increase compared to last year and an 8% increase from Fall 2017.

NKU’s Success by Design Strategic Framework guides the university with a singular focus on student success aligned with the needs of the region. Anticipating market changes, NKU took proactive steps to become a student ready institution, and the investments are working.

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NKU’s graduate programs saw an increase and now make up 20% of total enrollment, driven by Accelerated Online Learning. These programs are completely online and offer the convenience and structure many students need. Another successful program, School Based Scholars, allows high school students to earn college credits before they graduate.

“Our students are widely diverse and come from many different backgrounds and experiences. We were responsive to their needs and created degree paths with the flexibility to fit into their schedule and lives,” said Provost Sue Ott Rowlands. “Our focus is to identify and remove barriers to higher education, and sometimes just getting to campus is a challenge.”

Last year, NKU invested in initiatives that address affordability, including the EDGE program that made tuition more affordable for out-of-state students and micro-grants that provide the “last dollar in” scholarships. With the increased support for students, NKU saw a 4% increase in retention and also closed achievement gaps.

“Our strategic framework has directed how we responded to the changes in the market. We focused on meeting students where they are and providing the support they need to succeed. These initiatives have paid off this semester putting these students on the path to earning their degree,” said Kimberly Scranage, vice president for Enrollment and Degree Management.

Success by Design outlines three pillars of student success: Access, Completion and Career & Community Engagement. NKU will begin implementing the framework by tackling the First Five, the top initiatives determined through campus feedback. These initiatives complement the actions NKU has underway to boost enrollment. Visit the Admissions page for more information on all of the university’s programs.

Light Up Alexandria and Business Highlights

All are invited to Light Up Alexandria, which runs Friday and Saturday, December 6 and 7. (photo: Creative Commons).

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor  

Light Up Alexandria led the topics discussed at the November 21 meeting of Alexandria City Council. Residents can get in on all the city decorating fun at the event, which is hosted by Alexandria businesses.

In all, 35 businesses are participating. Businesses have signs in their windows if they are a part of the event, which will be held Friday, December 6, until 9 p.m. and Saturday, December 7, until 5 p.m.

Like a scavenger hunt, participants will receive a checklist to be marked as they visit the businesses. Those who visit all the participating businesses and have their cards filled, can enter their completed card for prizes. The completed cards can be dropped off at the Alexandria Brewing Company (7926 Alexandria Pike) by 5:30 p.m. on Saturday to be eligible to win a prize.

Although there are quite a few participating businesses, some have teamed up together so there are not as many stops. Children will also receive stockings to help them carry some of the goodies businesses will be giving out during the event.

The event kicks off at the annual tree lighting ceremony at the city building. Children can pick up their stockings at the tree lighting (or there will be some later at the participating businesses). Santa will be on hand for the lighting festivities as well.

Community decorating fun

Alexandria Welcomes New Member, Discusses City Investments

Alexandria city council is continuing to explore ideas and focus on a new city sign in the coming year.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor   

The Alexandria City Council met twice in November. At the November 7 meeting, Mayor Andy Schabell officially welcomed Tom Baldridge to the council. Baldridge, who had been serving on the council in an interim capacity, won his seat in the November 5 election. Baldridge serves as chair of the council’s Personnel Committee and is a member of the Public Works and Beautification committees.

While city paving work and other city business was finishing up for the end of the calendar year, officials had some substantive discussions about local issues as well as preparations for the holiday season.

Orangetheory Fitness at Newport Pavilion. 

Financial investment opportunities for the city

The city’s Finance Committee has set a meeting for December 5 to discuss investment opportunities for the city. These opportunities have opened up over the course of the last month due to a change in state law. The new law allows cities to pool some of their money to invest in opportunities beyond money market funds or CDs, investments that are generally very safe but that provide a low rate of return.

Finance Committee Chair Stacey Graus said the committee recently heard from the Kentucky League of Cities about the changes and opportunities in the new investment policies.

To participate, cities are required to do three things, said Graus:
  1. To create and pass an investment policy that is in line with the state statue.
  2. Enter into an interlocal agreement to be able to participate in the pool of money.
  3. Open an account with PNC bank, the selected institutional investor for the pooled funds.
He said the advantage to these investments is not only the higher rate of return, but also the access to funds. Unlike investments where money is tied up for a set time, the city could have access to the money right away.

"Another advantage is we can put a couple hundred thousand into an account and save it for a capital improvements project but also, if we can think we will get a rate of return of five percent, we could allocate two or three percent of that money...into our budget for that year," he explained.

"It’s a great opportunity," he added. "With any kind of investment there is that chance for risk, because equities are involved...but we can hedge what we put in there to reduce the risk but also give us a chance to have a good return...Now we have an opportunity to get a decent rate of return so we can grow that money and use it for a particular purpose or put it back into our fund for next year’s budget."

The council passed the ordinance to create an investment policy in accordance with state statue, clearing the way for the special meeting for discussion of investment and next steps.

Traffic calming discussion

At the November 21 meeting, city officials reported that street paving work was almost complete. Weather had caused delays, but the city only had one more street to finish up for the season.

As part of the completion of the street work, the city also is set to install a speed bump, or as it is known, a "traffic calming device" on Brookwood Drive. Council member Susan Vanlandingham, chair of the Safety Committee, raised some concerns about the procedure in selection of when and where to install speed bumps and related devices.

She stated that, while it is proven that these types of devices can slow traffic, many municipalities are opting for alternative methods for slowing traffic due to the cost of such projects. She pointed to the financial cost of installment and maintenance, which can range from $2,000 to $4,000 plus the cost of increased wear and tear on city vehicles, the slow down of emergency response time and expected complaints about the noise of engines and pollution from emissions.

"At a minimum, we should formulate guidelines for evaluating the need for these devices and a policy outlining the requirements necessary for their installation. This guide should include setting a criteria for determining if the device is favored by the majority of the population affected; setting a criteria for determining if the physical location of the device is appropriate, i.e., driveways, drainage, utility locations; and lastly, establish a plan for payment of the device installation, marking, upkeep and, if necessary, future removal."

Traffic calming devices, she noted, must be installed as part of a series of traffic calming along a route, either more than one speed bump or in proximity to traffic lights and stop signs.

Mayor Schabell said a process was used for selection of the upcoming speed bump, and that there are two ways in which traffic calming might be added in an area. In one way, the city decides based on data collected and input from the community. Another option is for residents to use a process in place to submit requests. He admitted the process can be cumbersome and is not used often.

To keep costs down, the speed bump will be installed using equipment and resources already onsite for the current street work. Data on traffic patterns in the area is being collected.

It was agreed that more data collection may be needed after the device is installed as well as exploration of alternatives to these devices.

Vaping as a health issue

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

St. Elizabeth Healthcare Introduces PrEP Services at its Medication Management Clinic

St. Elizabeth Edgewood

The St. Elizabeth Medication Management Clinic has launched Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) services for those at higher risk of Human Immunodeficieny Virus (HIV). PrEP is a daily HIV prevention pill that has proven highly effective for those at-risk of getting the virus.

The services are the result of a collaborative care agreement between the Medication Management Clinic and Infectious Disease physicians at St. Elizabeth which allows the pharmacists at the clinic to treat patients seeking prevention against HIV.

PrEP services provide one more way St. Elizabeth is dedicated to leading a healthier Northern Kentucky region. With more research, U.S. Preventive Services now recommends PrEP to persons who are at high risk of HIV. With this recommendation within preventative care, many more insurance companies are covering these costs.

The program also stems from the federal initiative “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” that aims to effectively eradicate HIV in the United States within the next decade. Through the initiative, the pharmaceutical company that produces PrEP medications, agreed to donate PrEP to 200,000 individuals each year for up to 11 years making PrEP much more accessible for all.

PrEP contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV. When a person is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection. If taken daily, studies have shown PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV —reducing the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% and among people who inject drugs by at least 74%.

East Row Victorian Christmas Tour — December 7th and 8th

A distinctive and historic home tour takes place Dec 7 & 8.

The 25th Anniversary East Row Victorian Christmas tour happens from Noon-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 7 & 8) in Newport Historic East End neighborhood.  The self-guided walking tour is through Kentucky’s 2nd largest historic district and takes visitors through a variety of Italianate, Queen Ann and other style homes, decorated for the holiday.

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Each home is distinctive both in and out. Besides the holiday decor, see newly renovated kitchens, master suites and bathrooms. This year we have an artisan’s market as one of the tour stops.

Northern Kentucky's (F)luke Skywalker: "I'm here to rescue you."

By Jessica Eden 

Local ‘Skywalker-impersonator’ raises money for kids at Children’s Hospital and here’s how you can be a hero and help him!

It’s the time of year where more people tend to give back...but for one local man, that generosity continues throughout the year in a galaxy *not* so far away.

Call Ashley Barlow. 859-781-5777. This is an advertisement. 
Meet “Fluke Skywalker” — yes, he’s a “Luke Skywalker” look-alike. He bears such a resemblance to Mark Hamill that he’s been mistaken for him repeatedly. He was even surrounded by hundreds of people at a Comic Con convention in San Diego because, well, people were CONVINCED he was Mark Hamill.

He even fooled people at the Red’s Opening Day Parade this year. Even Mark Hamill said “He looks more like me THAN ME!”

How does one end up with this unique skill set? It started with massive weight loss and a comment from a guy at a Lowe’s store. On a normal trip to the hardware store, the worker stopped Fluke and said “Hey buddy! Has anyone ever told you that you look like Mark Hamill?!” That’s when the wheels started turning and “Fluke Skywalker” was born.

The rest is, well, Hamill history.

Now, let’s get this out in the open. Yes, this local man has a legal name that he was born with. No, it isn’t Mark Hamill or Fluke Skywalker...but instead of focusing on his real identity, Fluke prefers to be...well, just Fluke. It’s not about the guy behind Fluke. The man behind Fluke humbly submits to the Hamill identity that helps him do what he loves.


Why? Because being Fluke allows him to do what he loves; raise money to buy toys for kids receiving medical care at Ronald McDonald house and for The Dragonfly Foundation.

This special toy fund at Ronald McDonald House and the Dragonfly Foundation goes toward children undergoing treatment for various diseases. Fluke says a toy can help a child take a break from the pain and stress of the hospital and allow them to just be a kid for a little bit. He says a new toy goes a long way in the eyes of a child managing a chronic illness. “I go about every three months,” said Fluke. “They have a toy closet, where everything is donated, for kids after operations. They can go to the closet and pick out a toy and then their minds aren’t on the cancer, pills, or surgeries. So, that’s what I’ve been doing...just loading up the closet”.

In between filling up the toy closet, Fluke does special appearances at charity events, birthday parties and even weddings. Yes. Amazing birthday parties like “May the 40th be with you”. “One time I delivered a birthday cake to a surgeon at Children's Hospital, who had his surprise 40th birthday party at  Boca and brought two lightsabers. We had a battle throughout restaurant and did a whole lap around the place. Everyone loved it.”

It is a lot of fun and games, but don’t let that fool you. It’s just an added bonus! Every single dime...literally all of the proceeds from these types of events go towards the two charities. “I just ask them ‘Would you please write a check to Dragonfly and Ronald McDonald house?’ It works out because they charities get the money and the person writes it off. I request zero as a volunteer.”

Some may ask where the fancy Skywalker costumes and lightsabers come from then…? Since he puts all the money made back into charity, Fluke literally uses his birthday as a way to add items to his persona. From new, fancy light sabers to movie-quality costumes, those birthday gifts go to the cause he is most passionate about.


All the work he has put into the costume has drawn national attention. At Comicon in L.A. in 2016, fans actually thought he was Mark Hamill. Hundreds of people crowded around him and disrupted the entire event. Fluke graciously took photos with them and even local media took notice. “We were blowing their minds out there! The trip was my daughter's graduation present. She said ‘You gotta do the Fluke thing’. I figured there would be a lot of good costumes, there are so many good people out there…but then I made the paper, Entertainment Weekly featured it, Ranker had me as the number one cosplayer out there,” said Fluke. “I was taken aback!” (you can read the Comicon story here -  and there is even a 30 second YouTube video: You can watch a 30 second video of what happened here). 

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But — who would Fluke Skywalker be without his fellow Star Wars-obsessed friends? Josh Sneed, co-owner of Cincy Shirts, is a huge supporter of Fluke’s and a GIANT Star Wars Fan. “Josh helped me host my first fundraiser at Cinemark Theater,” said Fluke. “Josh raised nearly $2,000 and donated it to Children’s Hospital. It was the first showing of SOLO and my first public fundraising appearance.”


Josh, who is also a local comedy star, is helping Fluke with an upcoming fundraising weekend for Dragonfly Foundation in December...and it’s one YOU can help with!

  • Thursday, December 19: Special Premier of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
    • Cost: $20/person
    • Location: Cinemark in Oakley
    • Included: A drink, popcorn, Funko pop Star Wars toy AND lots of opportunities to take photos with characters!
    • All proceeds to Dragonfly Foundation. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Shoppes of the Barrington one-stop shopping event | December 7

The Barrington of Fort Thomas (located at 940 Highland Avenue is Fort Thomas) is inviting the community to a one-stop shopping event featuring many vendors, free food and snacks and pictures with Santa.

The event is on Dec 7th, from 10am-2pm. Santa will be there for pictures and gifts for the children. The Barrington will have a Children’s raffle and adult raffle. One, separate raffle for everyone that visits all of the vendor booths. There are vendors on 4 floors. The raffle is also free to enter.

There is no charge for admission. There will be a variety of different vendors from jewelry, crafts, handmade wood home designs, wine tasting provided by Grassroots & Vine, clothing and many other items from local vendors.

Santa’s hot cocoa, sweet treats, chicken tenders and water will be served.

A few of the Vendors that are participating: Grassroots & Vine, Ft. Thomas Florist and Greenhouses, Le Sorrelle Boutique, Anchor Love Designs, Refreshed Living, Scentsy, Patient Aids, Color Street, Lean Toward Happy, Celebrating Home and many others.

"This is an opportunity for the local vendors and community to come together and share the holiday spirit along with our residents and families of the Barrington of Fort Thomas," said Kevin Brooks, Director of Development at The Barrington, which is an Independent and Assisted Living Apartment Community.