By Leyla Shokoohe
March 17 is a triple-whammy of a day for Justin Kormelink, Louie Randolph and Ryland Ritchie. For some, the day is synonymous with green beer. For others, college basketball. But for them, it’s Starfire FCC Opening Day. The three are co-chairs for Starfire Council’s newly reimagined annual fundraiser, to be held at MadTree Brewing on St. Patrick’s Day.
“They’ve blown me away with their enthusiasm,” said Olivia Cook, events coordinator with Starfire.
The trio’s involvement with Starfire followed routes similar to the organization’s mission. The nonprofit strives to combat isolation for people with developmental disabilities by working one-on-one to help them find meaningful places in the community.
“I found myself getting older, realizing that I’m having issues with things or I want the community to improve, and then at some point, I just made the conscious decision (that) ‘I need to be involved. I need to do something about it,’” said Kormelink, 34, a Madisonville resident who works for Inmar, a technology and data analytics company. “I just made an effort to be involved with their mission of inclusion and community-building. The idea of inclusion for everyone I think is really cool. It was an easy cause to get behind and there continues to be lots of opportunities to help.”“I just made an effort to be involved with their mission of inclusion and community-building. The idea of inclusion for everyone I think is really cool. It was an easy cause to get behind and there continues to be lots of opportunities to help.” – Justin Kormelink
He and Ritchie, a 30-year-old probation officer in Clermont County, have some experience with the Starfire fundraiser. They were co-chairs last year, but the event looked a bit different. Known for the last 19 years as the “Final Four Flyaway,” it shifted from a basketball focus and now is themed around the Queen City’s professional soccer team.
Randolph, 29, is new to the co-chairing bunch, and the three individually own separate segments of the day. Randolph is focused on securing sponsorships (Ritchie calls him “the money man”), Kormelink on the silent auction and raffle items, and Ritchie on the kids’ portion of the event. The three have worked with a committee of 15 to 20 people to execute the event, but the bulk has landed on their shoulders since they took on the co-chairing roles last summer.
“The idea of inclusivity is what draws me to it,” Ritchie said. Growing up in a small town in Ohio, he watched as his younger cousins, one on the autism spectrum and one with Down syndrome, were “marginalized and compartmentalized” because of their disabilities. His professional work as a probation officer and background in social work contributed to his desire to lend a hand and make a tangible difference.
Family also led Randolph to Starfire. His sister volunteered with the organization, and his family’s business, the Randolph Co., served as a sponsor.
“Being able to give time and actually dedicate a part of your life to help somebody and coach them along the way is really what goes on to make the world a much better place,” said Randolph, an investment adviser with the family business. “That’s one of the things I love about Starfire. It’s not a daycare. It’s ‘we teach you the skills to survive on your own.’ We build community for you so you have people you can rely on who actually go out to dinner with you and help you if you come across a challenge. I think that side of it is what makes Starfire really special.”
Community inclusion is integral to the mission of Starfire, which was founded in 1993.“What we do is work one-on-one with people with disabilities to help them find a meaningful place in their community, through their passions and interests, so their life is defined by passion and interest and goals and dreams, rather than their disability.” – Oliva Cook
“What we do is work one-on-one with people with disabilities to help them find a meaningful place in their community, through their passions and interests, so their life is defined by passion and interest and goals and dreams, rather than their disability,” said Cook.
The Starfire FCC Opening Day event will help to expand those communities. The day will begin with the kids’ event, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is free and features a plethora of kid-oriented and family-friendly craft-making activities, as well as a live band, games and prizes.
The ticketed general admission portion of the event runs from 4 to 9 p.m. Eventgoers can watch the FC Cincinnati away game, or the March Madness game on televisions brought in by the chairs. VIP tickets include a catered meal from MadTree’s in-house restaurant, Catch-A-Fire Pizza, and an open bar. A portion of beer sales will go directly to Starfire.
“This will be the landmark Starfire event from here on out, and it’s raising money for a great cause,” said Ritchie. “You can’t beat that.”