Each year, Hamilton County Board of DD Services gives out awards at its annual  banquet.  This year, they are giving out nine awards.  Out of the nine awards, people connected to Starfire won five!  Here are their stories:


Kasey McCarthy-   Self-Advocacy Award for her Senior Project of promoting grass-roots community kindness.  After a meeting of the minds of her neighbors, friends, and new people, a collaboration project was created centered around the themes of kindness, appreciation, and reaching out to others.  The goal was to do one kindness project per month that incorporates the people she wants to get to know, organizations she is involved in/wants to be involved in, her neighbors, and educating others on the value of kindness.

Kasey has also been written up on a couple local blog posts for her efforts, including the blog of her new friend, Ashley, A Year of Random Kindness.  You can read about their journey from first meeting, to World Kindness Day, to planning for a young girl’s program, to Christmas giving and other kindnesses the two have done together.

Kasey has also been involved in celebrating another recipient of an award: the Mount Notre Dame Youth Philanthropy Council.  MND’s Youth Philanthropy Council has been honored with the Volunteerism Award for their ongoing support of including our friends and neighbors with disabilities.  Since 2010, Mount Notre Dame Youth Philanthropy Council has been partnering with Starfire to include women with disabilities in the opportunity to participate in the philanthropic process.  MND YPC is a group of 70 students who have been given the opportunity to invest $5000 in the Cincinnati non-profit community.

Mount Notre Dame Youth Philanthropy Council

The first year of partnership during 2011-2012 school year, six women from Starfire U participated in the process.  From researching organizations, to presenting, to deciding which local nonprofit received grant money, and participating in the end of the year awards ceremony, six women from Starfire participated alongside the young women at MND.  For the 2012 – 2013 school year, the conversation of inclusion deepened, and the Executive Board of Mount Notre Dame decided to focus on funding organizations that provide a valued role or volunteer opportunity for a person with a disability that is a member of Starfire.   As the young women decide where to grant their monies, they will hear from 21 different Starfire members who are currently working at 21 different non-profit organizations throughout the city.  Kasey holds a valuable role during the process to help mentor the young women’s decisions, as well as provide encouragement and kindness during their process.

By focusing on nonprofits that already include a person with a disability in a valued role, they are helping to raise the status of people with disabilities in Cincinnati, as well as supporting the work of a nonprofit that values their contributions.

Kathleen Cail, pictured with daughter, Grace at Positive Exposure

Kathleen Cail (mom and new Starfire Board Member) has been honored with the Family Advocate Award for her efforts to promote inclusion and appreciation of beauty in everyone.  Kathleen collaborated with multiple people and organizations to bring Positive Exposure, an exhibit that shows the beauty in people with labels of disability, to Cincinnati in Fall 2011, and continues to help with strategic planning and getting the exhibition and programming into other communities and schools.  She has been a part of the Action Learning Groups that some families are leading, and has supported her daughter, Grace, and son, Ben, as they have launched an inclusive teen group, the Inclusion Seekers.  She has written some powerful blogs about inclusion here on Cincibility about the use of words and their importanceinclusive youth communities, and about chance meetings.

Will Latham (personal caregiver for a Starfire U member) has been honored with the Health Care Professional Award for his excellent work and attitude.  We have all met or seen paid staff that miss the mark, or miss the point completely.  (We’ve known aides that sat outside knitting while they were supposed to be supporting someone, others who play on their cell phone and sit in their car, and still another who sat at another table during lunch even after being invited…)  We know how much it means to see paid staff who really cares about their work.  Will is wonderful, respectful, and is always smiling.  He takes his role as a caregiver very seriously and we are continually impressed with the level of respect he has for those he cares for on a daily basis.


Vonceil Brown is a 4th year member of Starfire U and is being honored with the Speaking Up Award for her Capstone Project helping Cincinnati children and teens find their creative and expressive voice.

Vonceil’s story is one of courage and poetry.  Her confidence on stage when standing in front of a room, along with her lyrical, poetic words have helped changed the perceptions of community members for many years.  This year, Vonceil is taking her spoken word to a much broader scale, and is organizing a city-wide spoken word showcase with Public Allies of Cincinnati, local poet Jori Ann Cotton, and Elementz Hip-Hop.  “Voices of Cincinnati” showcase will tie together Vonceil’s love for kids with spoken word, partnering with 5 local urban high schools including her alma mater, Taft High School.  She will offer poetry and spoken word workshops to help these students express themselves, and empower them to make a difference.  As a poet, Vonceil’s voice is making a difference beyond her disability.

Tim sent out an email sharing these successes today.  Here are his thoughts, which I think speak well of small efforts.

“These are just a few efforts that we can all be proud of.  Vonceil is teaching kids of the next generation that everyone’s voice matters.  The Mt. Notre Dame girls are fully aware of the need for places that welcome people with disabilities.  They’ll carry those lessons with them for the rest of their lives.  The difference Kasey is making is small, but sends a powerful message of “what if we were just a little kinder to each other?”  Kathleen is helping us see the power of families embracing the role of advocates, and Will is highlighting the dignity and value in taking care of someone in a respectful, careful way…these are all people who have made an intentional effort to change the future in a personal way.  I know it’s a hard journey, but just take a moment to think about and appreciate all that we can accomplish together.”

Take a moment to think about and appreciate all that we can accomplish together.Andthese are just the few who are being honored in Hamilton County.  Imagine all the other small, meaningful efforts that are being made each day.

What small efforts have you noticed?  Who is someone you know deserving of being honored for their efforts?

Candice Jones Peelman