Finalists announced for ninth annual Duke Energy Children’s Museum Difference Makers by Cincinnati Museum Center

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is ready to celebrate the inspiring individuals, organizations and businesses that are making a difference in the lives of children in our region at the ninth annual Duke Energy Children’s Museum Difference Makers Celebration. Tickets are now on sale for the Difference Makers Celebration on February 11.

The Difference Makers program recognizes those individuals, organizations and businesses that work to make a difference in the lives of children and the communities in which they grow, learn and play. 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 50 nominations submitted from across the Greater Cincinnati region, each nominee demonstrating leadership and compassion.

A total of 15 finalists in six categories were selected for their contributions to children and the community around them. The Difference Makers program will also recognize one community honoree for their positive impact on the lives of children and their families. The ninth annual Difference Makers Community Honoree and Difference Maker is the Junior League of Cincinnati.

Last spring, the Junior League of Cincinnati helped children brush up on proper oral healthcare through their GrinUp! initiative, highlighted by the opening of the permanent exhibit Inside the Grin in the Duke Energy Children’s Museum. Tooth decay is the leading chronic infectious disease in children, with more than 40% nationwide experiencing dental decay by kindergarten. Locally, one out of every ten children in Cincinnati Public Schools has visible tooth decay. But through education and awareness, the Junior League’s GrinUp! initiative is creating a city of happy, healthy smiles.

The Junior League of Cincinnati is also working to foster community acceptance and inclusion to improve the lives of refugees in Greater Cincinnati through RefugeeConnect, a united, collaborative program that relies on educating, connecting and advocating.

“We love the opportunity to celebrate the many different people, organizations and businesses who are working to make a difference in the lives of children in our region,” says Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “This family-friendly event is a wonderful teaching moment where we can shine a light on community spirit and encourage future leaders.”

The finalists by category for the ninth annual Difference Makers Celebration are:

Logan Pickett – Logan has been helping those less fortunate and in dire circumstances for over five years. At just 6 years old he donated his own money and raised additional funds for the American Red Cross to donate to local tornado victims. Since then he has held a blanket drive at his school for victims of Hurricane Sandy, created over 300 gift bags and stockings for children during Christmas at the Hamilton Dream Center and donated books, puzzles and craft supplies to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He continues to raise money for people locally and nationally, including holding an annual food drive for Light House Church.
Devi Namboodiri – Devi initiated an after school music class at the Academy of World Languages , developing the curriculum and running the classes herself. Her interest in neuroscience and the impact of music education on brain development encouraged her to expand that curriculum into Music Without Limits, a traveling program that teaches music to young students who may not have resources or access to instruments and music lessons. Using craft activities, singing and clapping, Devi is able to teach children about rhythm and reading sheet music even when instruments are hard to come by.
Katie Deitsch – Katie leads programs that break down barriers and create true friendships with individuals with special needs. As a volunteer in Winton Woods Riding Center’s Special Riders Program and Special Olympics Equestrian training program, Katie develops deep, personal relationships with special needs children and their families. She provides a space for inclusion that makes children feel confident, accomplished and proud. She is also one of the founding mentors of the Finneytown Sparkle Cats program, an inclusive high school cheerleading squad for individuals with and without disabilities.
Brooke Page – Brooke is an avid volunteer with Children for Change, the Newport Aquarium and Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden . Her passion for animals and the environment inspired her to create the Eco-Animal Committee at her school. The program helps students learn more about their impact on the environment and organizes volunteers for river cleanups and service at animal shelters. As the keynote speaker at the first annual Children for Change Global Youth Service Day, Brooke spoke to a group of over 80 students about how they can work together to save the environment.

Adult – Volunteer
Leeann Fitzpatrick – As a mother of two children diagnosed with a rare brain malformation called Chiari Malformation, Leeann experienced the realities of living life in a hospital as neurosurgeons performed multiple surgeries to correct the condition. Her experience inspired Leeann to change the outcome for children diagnosed with Chiari Malformation by creating a website to educate parents. She organizes activities to create awareness and raise funds to improve the lives of children diagnosed with the malformation. She also regularly donates toys at Christmas to children on the neurosurgery floor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to brighten their stay. This past year, she provided iPads for children and their families that were preloaded with information for parents on Chiari Malformation and games for children to play in their rooms.
Joe Dehner & Noel Julnes-Dehner – Upon learning how many children are reading below grade level and the impact it can have on a child’s life, Joe and Noel started Summer Reading Camp. Local schools identify students most at risk of falling behind in reading and invite them to Summer Reading Camp. The multi-week, intensive reading experience excites and motivates students to read by providing literacy activities and one-on-one tutoring with reading experts at libraries, churches and community sites across Greater Cincinnati. Students are tested before, during and after Summer Reading Camp to assess their reading proficiency. Some of the students involved in the program improve as much as 200% from initial to final assessment.
Michael Beck – Since moving to Cincinnati in 2002, Michael has been dedicated to giving back to the community he now calls home. He has focused on supporting underprivileged youth in education, especially STEM education that will pave the way to brighter futures. Through programs like Code for Kids and Robotics Summer Camp, Michael is working with low-income schools to narrow the digital divide and has even worked with the Community Action Agency to include computer and robotics skills in Head Start programs in the West End. His continuing collaboration with schools and organizations in the West End engages parents, educators, businesses and non-profits working to broaden the STEM knowledge of students and break the cycle of poverty.

Adult – Professional
Revered Dawne Sarchet – As pastor of the Reading-Lockland Presbyterian Church, Dawne helps lead the church’s Summer Food and Educational Enrichment Program. The program provides a free breakfast and lunch to 85-100 children each day through the summer, filling a nutritional gap for children in the Lockland community. The program also offers educational and cultural enrichment through classes focused on reading, writing, math, art, recreation and character development.
Kathy Sabo – As principal of Norwood Middle School , Kathy focuses on building character and principles in addition to knowledge. She challenges students to embody the I am Norwood pledge, a commitment to being a peacebuilder in the community, practicing digital dignity and going above and beyond. Each year, Norwood Middle School holds a career dinner to recognize career research goals for 8th graders, working with Gear Up to make those dreams a reality. Kathy has also started a financial class for parents to arm them with financial knowledge on a wide range of topics.
Mike Moroski – As the executive director for UpSpring, Mike leads the only local non-profit exclusively serving the educational needs of children experiencing homelessness. He has helped the organization double its staff and triple its budget, securing funds for a second summer camp, which last summer served over 180 children. Mike was a classroom educator for 10 years and assistant principal for two years and continues serving the region as a board member of the Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board, the Mayor’s Hand Up Steering Committee and the City of Cincinnati’s Human Services Advisory Committee. Under his leadership, UpSpring has launched two after school programs and is developing a daycare program and a work-readiness program for children experiencing homelessness.

La Soupe – As a chef and caterer with 30 years of experience, Suzy DeYoung started La Soupe to address the needs of children in the city who go to bed hungry each night, a group that makes up as much as 40% of the city’s population. La Soupe rescues fresh produce and food from farmers, groceries and bakeries that is an overage, slightly imperfect and transforms them into more than 7200 servings of soups, smoothies and applesauce for children each month. La Soupe also offers the Cincinnati Gives a Crock Cooking Program that provides children in the class a new crock pot and teaches them to prepare a dinner to take home for their family.
Envision – Envision’s Community Integrated Training and Education (CITE) program connects skilled behavior specialists and families with children with developmental disabilities. Where school services and resources in working with children with disabilities ends, CITE begins. CITE, offered free of charge to children, travels to families’ homes and works around parents’ schedules to provide them and their children with the skills and resources they need to make their children more independent.
Giving Kids a Fighting Chance – Giving Kids a Fighting Chance started as a chance encounter with three underprivileged youth and has blossomed into a non-profit that instills self-confidence and educational enrichment. Working with the Real Deal and Golden Gloves gyms, Giving Kids a Fighting Chance combines mentoring and tutoring with training programs. Each participant must maintain regular school attendance, perform community service and attend three tutoring sessions a week provided by the program. In return, the kids are provided with a safe place to go after school, and each is coached and trained at the gym and provided a free meal. Through the program, children are challenged to achieve set goals, improve in the classroom and develop self-confidence.

U.S. Bank – U.S. Bank’s Adopt A Class program connects the corporate community to schools by offering mentors who adopt a classroom in a school of need. Each year, U.S. Bank adopts 13 classrooms where a total of 130 U.S. Bank employees provide mentorship, guidance and a focus on college and career readiness. U.S. Bank also provides corporate support to pay for field trips for the adopted classrooms.

School or Youth Group
Students Together Assisting Refugees – Disappointed by local efforts and opportunities to help those refugees seeking an escape from the violence in Syria, Adam Sella started Students Together Assisting Refugees (STAR) at Walnut Hills High School . STAR is dedicated to raising awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis and offering aid to those refugees. The group has invited local refugees to speak at school assemblies, collected donations of household items for refugees and recruited students to volunteer with refugees at the Academy of World Languages in partnership with the Junior League’s RefugeeConnect program. The group held a sold-out fundraiser concert for a refugee scholarship and has inspired students at schools around the country to start a STAR chapter in their own schools.

These finalists will be recognized for their inspiring work and dedication at the ninth annual Difference Makers Celebration on Saturday, February 11 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. During the event, we’ll share the finalists’ 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.