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Finalists announced for seventh annual Duke Energy Children’s Museum Difference Makers

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center is ready to celebrate the inspiring individuals, organizations and businesses that are making a difference in the lives of children in Cincinnati by announcing the finalists in six categories of the seventh annual Duke Energy Children’s Museum Difference Makers. Tickets are now on sale for the Difference Makers celebration on February 7, 2015.

Museum Difference MakersThe Difference Makers program recognizes those people who work to make a difference in the lives of children and the communities in which they live. We asked the community to nominate youth, adults, volunteers, businesses and organizations they knew that were making a difference and inspiring others. The response was overwhelming with over 120 nominations submitted from across the Greater Cincinnati region, each nominee an unsung hero who has made a difference in the lives of children.

A total of 18 finalists in six different categories were selected for making the greater Cincinnati area a better place for children to grow, learn, play and thrive. In addition to the finalists below, a total of 20 young difference makers will also be celebrated on February 7, ten under the age of 13 and an additional ten aged 13 to 18.

The Difference Makers program will also recognize one community honoree for their positive impact on the lives of children and their families. The seventh annual Difference Makers Community Honoree is OneSight Vision Center at Oyler School.

OneSight Vision Center at Oyler School is the first self-sustaining vision center in the United States. The vision center was created and funded through public-private partnerships and is operated by the Cincinnati Health Department. The OneSight Vision Center provides access to comprehensive eye exams, glasses, fittings, adjustments and medical eye care to more than 3,000 Greater Cincinnati students each year. The Founding Partners of the OneSight Vision Center are the City of Cincinnati Health Department, Cincinnati Public Schools, the Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation, Ohio Optometric Association, OneSight, Growing Well Cincinnati and Oyler School, with support from the Cincinnati Women’s Club.

The finalists by category for the seventh annual Duke Energy Children’s Museum Difference Makers are:

Adult Professional category
Christina Russo, PhD – As principal of Winton Hills Academy, Dr. Russo has created a safe haven for children in an often volatile neighborhood, building a strong academic program and offering a wealth of opportunities that support the entire community.
Lynn Jones – As a speech and language pathologist-turned-teacher, Jones has been an active advocate for systems and methods to help students learn to read, helping them to overcome common challenges and disabilities that many teachers do not have the skills or take the time to overcome.
Shondale Atkinson – As founder of the Mustard Seed Home, Atkinson has provided housing, intensive case management, parent training, education and mental health services to recent and expecting teen mothers, preparing them to be a parent without letting them lose sight of their own dreams.
Adult Volunteer category
Charles Kelly – As co-founder of The Match Program, Kelly has brought together inner city and suburban youth to play ball, socialize and break down the barriers of racism while broadening their horizons and making friends that may never have happened before, growing from 85 children to over 2,500 in the last eight years.
Vickie Lassandro – As a volunteer with Lighthouse Youth Services , Lassandro spearheaded a program to organize a warehouse to receive and store items donated to the organization, helping to provide clothing and home goods to foster parents and new parents.
Kinny McQuade – McQuade has been involved with the Ronald McDonald House for 27 years, including three years as board chair. Returning as a volunteer in 2013, he has donated 725 hours over the past 18 months, offering comfort and compassion to families and serving as an enthusiastic ambassador for the House.
Small Non-Profit category
ProKids – Through strong alliances within the child protection system, ProKids maximizes the outcomes for all children, creating a new cycle of growing up safe and secure, changing the future for our children and our entire community, including 533 abused and neglected children last year, 100% of whom are now in a safe, permanent and nurturing home.
Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education – Benefitting over 60,000 students, teachers and community members each year, the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education continues the legacy of local Holocaust survivors, educating the community on this watershed event in world history and teaching students the dangers of unchecked power and bigotry while emphasizing the value of leadership and diversity.
Su Casa Hispanic Center of Cincinnati – Su Casa Hispanic Center provides social, educational, language, employment and health care services to the Hispanic community, including Vacaciones Útiles summer camp for children ages 3 to 8 years old that provides bilingual academic content to 70 children over a period of 10 weeks during the summer.
Large Non-Profit category
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Community Relations – Since its introduction in the fall of 2013, the Community Relations program and its more than 400 employee volunteers has reached more than 18,000 children and families to promote health education and awareness as well as conducting health screenings.
Girl Scouts of Western Ohio – The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio help girls of all ages discover who they are and connect with each other and their community, as well as exposing girls to science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, helping to close a gap in those fields often dominated by males.
KnowledgeWorks – Through educational systems that create personalized learning opportunities for all students regardless of family income, neighborhood or background, KnowledgeWorks is vibrant learning ecosystem that puts students at the center of their education and prepares them for success in college, career and civic life.
Business category
Game Time Budgeting – Game Time Budgeting provides financial fitness training to youth, helping them develop the mindset required to maximize their financial potential.
Paycor – Community Partners, Paycor’s employee-led community service organization, has filled more than 7,000 volunteer opportunities since its inception in 2010, including events benefitting the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, March of Dimes, Flying Pig Marathon and Junior Achievement.
Cincinnati Bell – Cincinnati Bell has been investing in the future of several bright students at Taft High School through a tutoring program that pairs 55 Cincinnati Bell employees with students one hour each week, eventually selecting ten of those students to receive a college scholarship.
School/Youth Group category
MYCincinnati Youth Orchestra – A free youth orchestra program that uses music as a tool for youth development, MYCincinnati Youth Orchestra currently helps 60 students build a variety of skills including self-confidence, focus, social skills and strong work habits and brings together students of different ages, languages, ethnicities and schools.
LiftUp Youth Initiative – Leadership Initiative for Teens Using Philanthropy (LiftUp) has involved teens in philanthropic endeavors throughout the community, helping them gain self-esteem and confidence while empowering them to do more through volunteer opportunities that have benefitted Freestore Foodbank, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Springdale Elementary Student Council – 30 students from grades 3-5 on Springdale Elementary’s Student Council have participated in meetings before and after school and have forgone recess time as they contribute to community service projects, including projects supporting the Ronald McDonald House and writing letters of support for Honor Flight during Veteran’s Day.
These finalists, 20 youth honorees and the community honoree will be recognized for their inspiring work and dedication at the seventh annual Difference Makers celebration on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at Cincinnati Museum Center. During the event, we’ll share the finalists’ inspiring stories and celebrate the strides they’ve taken to better the lives of children in the Greater Cincinnati region. You’ll also have an opportunity to engage with fellow Difference Makers during the family-friendly event and encourage others to become further involved in their community. To purchase tickets visit or call (513) 287-7000.

The seventh annual Duke Energy Children’s Museum Difference Makers is presented by the Harold C. Schott Foundation, Francie & Tom Hiltz. Special thanks to our sponsors: Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP; Sheakley Group of Companies; AT&T; Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP; Thompson Hine, LLP; Alison & Lee Bushman; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Cast-Fab Technologies, Inc.; Allison & J. Brian Kropp; Dr. Elsira Pina & Dr. Charles Mehlman; Junior League of Cincinnati; and TechBrite.

For more information and for a list of previous Difference Maker honorees, visit