Difference Makers build a better future for kids

Rene Brinson, Latasha Hamner, Dasha Penas Johnson, Cecille Figueroa

Rene Brinson, Latasha Hamner, Dasha Penas Johnson, Cecille Figueroa

The Cincinnati Museum Center honored adults, youth, organizations and businesses for their work on behalf of children at the 10th annual Duke Energy Children’s Museum Difference Makers celebration.

Event chairs were Joe Wiles and Donna Zaring.

CMC asked the community for nominations. The response was overwhelming, with entries submitted from across the Greater Cincinnati region.

The 2018 honorees are:

  • Youth: Cecille Figueroa and Dasha Peñas. They started Warm Hugs-Blankets of Love to provide small blankets to Hispanic immigrant children who lack basic necessities. Last year they distributed over 300 blankets and hope to increase that number to 650 next winter.
  • Youth: Latasha Hamner. She has impacted countless children and families through volunteer efforts with her church, tutoring younger children and by organizing a clothing drive. She has engaged children and their families with educational programs at CMC and the Cincinnati Art Museum and helps mentor new teens in the program.
  • Adult Professional: Christi Kettman. For more than 17 years, Kettman has been a staff member with Fernside, a nonprofit that helps children sort through feelings of grief and loss after death. She leads Fernside’s School Program, which offers onsite grief support for students.
  • Adult Volunteer: Sheryl Rajbhandari. She left the corporate world in 2012 to start Heartfelt Tidbits, an organization focused on helping refugees assimilate into American society. She helped 34 teens attend a summer camp program focused on trauma and healthy relationships.
  • Nonprofit: Empower Youth. Founded in 2015, it provides resources to children living through generational poverty. Last year, Empower Youth provided 600 students with backpack meals each week. It also facilitated 149 scholarships for students to attend summer camps.
  • Business: Antonio Violins, Kenwood. Store manager Shawna Wingerberg and her staff devote many hours to nonprofit music programs. The company donates instruments and accessories to groups such as MYCincinnati Youth Orchestra. Antonio Violins also supports programs like the Adaptive Music Project.
  • School or Youth Group: PeaceJam, Leaves of Learning. Elementary, middle and high school PeaceJammers build their own skills and reach out to others to help solve problems. They build such skills as active listening, goal-setting, anger management, positive identity expression and role development, applying them to build a safer community. Their projects are youth-centered, youth-designed and youth-led.

Lighthouse Youth & Family Services was recognized as the 2018 Community Honoree for its work to advance the dignity and well-being of children, youth and families in need. The nonprofit agency serves 6,000 children, youth and families each year.

In celebration of the program’s 10th year, CMC honored three legacy Difference Makers: the late Norma Petersen, Thomas J. Klinedinst Jr. and Logan Brinson.

Petersen and Klinedinst were integral to the growth of the School for Creative and Performing Arts. As executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center, Petersen worked with Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel to spearhead funding for the new building. She helped build one of the country’s most touted revitalized urban arts districts in Over-the-Rhine. Klinedinst used his business acumen to transform the GCAEC into the SCPA Fund. As the chairman of the board for more than 10 years, he guided the SCPA through many phases. Both Petersen and Klinedinst recently passed away.

In 2015, Logan Brinson was honored for his work fundraising on behalf of Kindervelt and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. As a patient of Cincinnati Children’s himself, Logan worked on behalf of the hospital to build better lives for thousands of other patients. He died in 2016. The Lovis Foundation continues Logan’s legacy, with a mission to promote charitable initiatives that celebrate individuality, inspire compassion and encourage others to shine.


Click on a thumbnail below to view photo gallery from the event.

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