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Columbus Does Good: Girls on the Run

The Girls on the Run 5k is not your typical running event. With more than 1,000 kids hitting the route with their teammates, volunteer coaches and families, running etiquette is left in the dust. They don’t audibly signal on the left, they run in a big clump, and they “literally stop dead in their tracks [...]
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The Girls on the Run 5k is not your typical running event. With more than 1,000 kids hitting the route with their teammates, volunteer coaches and families, running etiquette is left in the dust. They don’t audibly signal on the left, they run in a big clump, and they “literally stop dead in their tracks at the water stop,” says Jess Sparks, executive director of Girls on the Run of Central Ohio. There, they’ll nicely take the cup of water and hang around for minute before embarking on the rest of their run.

The 5K, held May 20, is the culmination of the Girls on the Run 10-week program aimed at empowering girls in third through fifth grade through movement. Since its local council was founded in 2008, the program has grown from 12 girls to over 100 sites around Central Ohio.

“When I found Girls on the Run to volunteer with I was like, ‘This is it. This is the thing that more girls need,” said Sparks, who started as a volunteer coach with that first group of girls. “[We] teach girls how to navigate conflict and healthily assert herself and how to be a stand-byer instead of a bystander when it comes to bullying.”

This, she said, is done through asking girls to think about themselves, who they are and how they navigate relationships with others, exploring these questions through physical activity. Although not every girl who participates in the program ends up loving running, Sparks said Girls on the Run helps them feel more confident in moving however their bodies are comfortable. “We always tell them, ‘Forward is your pace,’” Sparks said.

Christie Doty, an art teacher in the Columbus City School District, started the Girls on the Run program at Salem Elementary four years ago. The program was an immediate hit; Doty was forced to turn away girls even for its first season, and she says it’s changed the atmosphere of the school, providing the opportunity for fourth and fifth graders to act as role models and mentors while giving younger elementary girls something to aspire to. It also, she said, helped fill a gap at her school in both after-school extracurriculars and sports for girls.

Girls on the Run has councils across the country, the first of which was started in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1996. Since then, the organization has focused on expanding to communities that can sustain a site from one season to another. In Central Ohio, these closely mirror the demographics of the region, an effort the program prioritized through intentional site development.

“We want to make sure we’re growing in all communities, serving girls of all race, ethnicity, identity, and ability,” Sparks said.

The organization also utilizes a curriculum that each site uses, increasing the continuity across neighborhoods and school districts so that one Girls on the Run program in the 43207 area looks almost the same as a program in a 43221 school.

“It’s really important for our girls to be building confidence that they’re getting through Girls on the Run, and our community needs—every community needs—strong girls and women that believe in themselves, that believe that they can do whatever they set their mind to,” Doty said.

As Sparks looks into the future of the program, she sees it expanding into increasingly rural areas around Columbus and potentially into Southeast Ohio. But, although the interest might be there, she says GOTR needs to find creative ways to address the challenges those areas present, like an increased need for transportation.

“It’s really just about meeting girls where they’re at and being with them through this critical timing [in] the journey of their lives,” Sparks said.

“We don’t teach girls what to think.We teach them how to think for themselves.”

GOTR kicks off at 8 a.m. (9:30 race start) at Columbus Commons on May 20. For more info, visit girlsontheruncentralohio.org/5K.

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The local architecture firm who gave beautiful home to family in need

Mike Thomas

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Curt Moody knew he wanted to be an architect before he knew there was a name given to that particular career path. While enrolled in a middle-school industrial arts program, he discovered a love for drawing, but was less than taken with the rendering of machine parts that made up much of the curriculum.

“In the back of one of the books, there were houses,” Moody explains. “I asked my instructor if he’d allow me to draw those instead of what was normal for the class, and he said yes. That was when I knew I wanted to do buildings.”

Thanks to this gracious concession from his seventh-grade teacher, Moody had taken the first steps in what would be an accomplished career. Moody Nolan, the architecture firm that Moody would go on to found in 1982, is today a booming operation with offices throughout the country and an impressive list of awards and accolades to its name.

The successes enjoyed by Moody today are largely a result of opportunities available to him in his youth, and the fact that others may not be as privileged is not lost on him. Like many businesses that have achieved a certain status, Moody Nolan has engaged in the sort of philanthropic work that is expected of leaders in the community. 

In spite of years of time and energy spent giving to various causes and organizations, Moody couldn’t seem to shake the nagging sensation that he and his company could be doing more.

“There were so many golf outings and dinners that we participated in over the years, but if you asked us where did that money go,
we couldn’t tell you,” Moody says of the firm’s past charitable efforts. “We knew we were doing it for a good cause, but how can we do something better, using what we do? We are architects. We design buildings, we design houses—why can’t we use what we do to make something more permanent?”

Inspired to give back to the least advantaged members of society in a more tangible way, Moody and his associates conceived the Legacy Project. Designed to set an example to their peers in business and beyond, the project would begin with a single house, designed by Moody Nolan, to be given away to an underprivileged family at zero cost. 

“There are a whole lot of great programs out there when it comes to affordable housing, but the truth is there are not enough,” Moody explains of the issues central to the project. “There’s a problem that no one seems to know how to address: if you make $22,000 a year, what’s affordable [housing]? There’s nothing that you could purchase that is affordable when every bit of your income is going toward trying to just live.”

Its plan of action decided, Moody Nolan set aside 50% of its annual budget for giving to put toward the Legacy House. Moody reached out for donations from longstanding business partners, who donated time, funding, and building supplies to see the project through to completion. When all was said and done, the modern, fully-furnished 700-square-foot home included everything a family starting from scratch would need, from linens to cabinets fully stocked with food. 

Thanks to a land donation from The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Moody Nolan decided to place the home in Columbus’ Linden neighborhood. Having previously designed a community recreation center in the area, Moody and his associates were already well aware of the challenges faced by this economically disadvantaged community, and knew that it could benefit from the positive exposure.

When it came to finding a family in need to receive the home, Moody looked to YMCA of Central Ohio and Southeast Inc. to help navigate a list of potential candidates. 

“[Curt] really wanted a family that was currently experiencing homelessness. This would be a new start, a new beginning for a family that was in about the most vulnerable state that you could possibly be in as a human—which is without a home,” says Sue Darby, the Senior Vice President of Housing for the downtown Columbus YMCA. 

While the family who was ultimately chosen has asked to remain anonymous, Darby describes them as a very young family experiencing homelessness for the first time after a series of unfortunate life events.    

“I think what compelled us the most through the interview process was their determination, always putting the children first in every decision,” 

Darby says of the family. “With the legacy house, you’re just really hopeful that the poverty cycle for at least this family has now been broken.”

While the Legacy Project has made an immeasurable difference in the lives of one family, the realities of homelessness continue to pose significant challenges to communities in Central Ohio and beyond.

Moody and his partners hope that the greatest impact of the Legacy Project will be found in its example, and encourage others with the means to do so to undertake similar projects.

“I admire Moody Nolan for what they did, and I encourage other companies and individuals to take this same challenge, and to build new or revamp some areas that could be used for individuals who are in this kind of crisis,” says Darby. “Right now at Van Buren [shelter] we have over 80 families every night that come through our doors who are experiencing this tragedy. Affordable housing is the number-one issue. It’s not rocket science—housing ends homelessness.”

Moody Nolan plans to build other homes in the communities it serves. For more inforation, visit moodynolan.com

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The Interview: Wil Haygood

Author / Journalist / Curator Everyone loves an underdog. And in our interview, celebrated Columbus author Wil Haygood referenced many feel-good sports stories woven into the fabric of American culture. From Remember the Titans, to Hoosiers and Friday Night Lights, he maintains that the feat accomplished at East High during the 1968-69 school year, in [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Author / Journalist / Curator

Everyone loves an underdog. And in our interview, celebrated Columbus author Wil Haygood referenced many feel-good sports stories woven into the fabric of American culture. From Remember the Titans, to Hoosiers and Friday Night Lights, he maintains that the feat accomplished at East High during the 1968-69 school year, in which the Tigers won championships in basketball and baseball 55 days apart, eclipses them all.“I would never like to be called an activist,” says Wil Haygood when asked if he might consider himself such. “That’s not my game. I’m here just to find a good story. It’s my calling to be objective. I could never just tell one side of the story.”Yet, in reading his latest book, Tigerland, and immersing the reader in the strife East High faced in the wake of the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the “feel-good” triumph of two championships takes on a higher purpose. There’s so much more to the story. It’s the tale of a segregated city getting its first African-American principal in Jack Gibbs. Of the white basketball coach Bob Hart, choosing to settle in an East side neighborhood he was warned against. The players, and mothers of players, who persevered in the newly developed housing projects despite overwhelming odds. Haygood may not want the title activist, but Tigerland could easily serve as guide in how to counter civil unrest, especially now, fifty years removed.That objective journalism is becoming more of a rarity is troubling. Haygood’s storytelling is a resistance, and in Tigerland it’s a redemption story brought “from the shadows” that is uniquely complex and distinctly of Columbus. He insists there are many more stories of Tigerland’s ilk which must be exposed. The uncovering of a zeitgeist forgotten is a theme consistent with Haygood’s recent curation of the Harlem Renaissance exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art. In I, Too, Sing America (also an award-winning art book), he chose to spotlight lesser-known writers and artists of the era that continue to play “an enduring role in moving us forward.” How that dais influenced the cultural rise of African-Americans in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood where the sub-plots in Tigerland play out, is palpable in Haygood’s words.In talking with Haygood, he’s acutely aware of how Tigerland’s legacy and the continued re-awakening of the Harlem Renaissance add to the social discourse that accumulates to this day. Our interview here is abridged, if only because we spent a taut 45 minutes veering down rabbit holes created by the vivid representation Haygood paints of Columbus, Ohio in 1968. Fortunately, it’s a conversation that has and could last for generations.In an interview you talked about Tigerland not being the story “you were born to write, but a story that the rest of the world needed to hear.” Why is this now such an important story?Wil Haygood: When I traveled around the country, to about 25 different cities talking about this book, people constantly asked me if the release of Tigerland was intentional given how timely the story was. It just happened that it was the 50th anniversary of the famous Olympic protests by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the Colin Kaepernick narrative was playing out, the President of the United States was attacking black athletes for their social activism—these were the things on the mind of so many people on this tour. Of course, I didn’t time it, but this story is just so topical, it’s so rich with drama, it just calls for very enlightening conversations with the people I met across the country.I love it for the locality, and learning about a Columbus I never knew existed. So I’m curious to know if the heroes in this book, Bob Hart (East’s white football coach), Jack Gibbs (East’s first black principal), and the Tiger athletes, have always been heroes in your eyes, especially growing up? Did Columbus, en masse, know the history being made on the East side of town? WH: The city was so segregated that it was hard to give the East side its proper due. A figure like Jack Gibbs—he’s someone who you can almost make a movie about his life. It took so much perseverance and so much focus for the student body of East High to do what they did in that 1968-69 calendar year that I thank the literary gods for the foresight to return to my hometown and pull this story together. Frankly I kept waiting for this to be written by someone else, given the amount of high school sports stories that are on the shelf. I’m not trying to rate this story against any of the others, but I do think that it’s a book with a sports theme. It’s also a book that’s about far more than sports.Was this your favorite book to write?WH: That’s a tough question, but here’s how I’ll answer. As a little boy, I lived in the North side of the city. When I lived there East High was a mythical place and I had never laid eyes on that school. But I knew about it because it seemed to be this spiritual epicenter of the East side. It was where you had a lot of black teachers, an all-black student body. Your uncles, aunts, and cousins would always be talking about East High School. It constantly grew in my little boy mind. I lived within walking distance of the Ohio State Fairgrounds, so I would always beg my mother to let me go watch the team play. You had to be there. It was a lot wrapped up inside of me as I approached this book, because in a real way I was writing about my heroes. I’m sure that my history and emotions played a part in me wanting to do this book. What memories do you have of Columbus during that time, that reminds you that no place was isolated from the racial and social unrest of the events of that era?WH: In the summer of 1968, the very summer of after Martin Luther King’s assassination, my mother moved her five children to the Bolivar Arms housing project. Within weeks of moving there, there were riots on Mt. Vernon [Avenue]. I, as a 13 year old boy, saw National Guard tanks right through my screen door. It was a very frightening summer for me to wrapped up in that racial turmoil. I did not know that urban unrest on the North side of town. That street was integrated, our neighbors were white. Then I was thrust into this community on the East side that was feeling pain—the pain of a lack of good housing, a lack of jobs. The whole environment of urban America was set right outside of my front door.How much do you think Columbus has progressed since the time of Tigerland in accepting inclusion and fostering growth in underprivileged neighborhoods like the East side?WH: There has been a lot of maturity and growth in this city. I’m very proud of a lot of things that have happened. There is no big city in this country right now that doesn’t have social problems, but I think Columbus has done a much better job than some cities certainly in creating a peaceful dialogue over the years. I think that there have been stories that haven’t been championed as much as they should have. There is a gap in what the young people of Columbus know about the city’s past. Another fact from the book is that during that school year in 1969, East High sent more kids to college than they ever had before. Those are stories people need to know.As a teacher of many students who come from broken homes and neighborhoods, I’d love to know what advice you give to young people?WH: Since the release of the book I’ve spoken to Somali students in St. Paul, Minnesota, to white students in rural Maryland, black students in Dayton, Ohio. I tell students that on their darkest day, on that day when they feel like the world is not loving them enough, that they need only to take inspiration from these East High Tiger athletes. Eight of the twelve basketball players’ mothers worked as maids, many of them did not have fathers living in the home, two of them had fathers in jail, and none of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. But what pushed them and helped them succeed was a championship attitude before they dribbled a basketball or swung a baseball bat. They knew they wanted to be successful. They can lean into this story and they can rise up. Sports is a very gentle way to open the door to talk about poverty, racism, and sexism. You want to hear about how the winners won and how the losers dealt with losing.Wil Haygood will be the first featured speaker of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Carnegie Author series on Jan. 27th. Register for free at Eventbrite.com.
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Remembering Chris Bradley

What will be the job of a meteorologist in heaven? I’m not sure if I think of heaven as a place of eternally ideal weather, but I do think of it as a place of purpose. There’s a job for everyone in heaven. When I first met Chris Bradley, I didn’t know who he was. [...]
Laura Dachenbach

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What will be the job of a meteorologist in heaven?I’m not sure if I think of heaven as a place of eternally ideal weather, but I do think of it as a place of purpose. There’s a job for everyone in heaven.When I first met Chris Bradley, I didn’t know who he was. I was new to King Avenue United Methodist Church, and Chris was just a nice guy corralling his young son in the milling area, which was full of other people I didn’t know. He was the dad that everyone wanted, standing with a watchful and proud eye and who was always ready for a hug and kiss. Such a stunning smile, I thought. Almost like a trademark. He was the friend everyone wanted to be with, adding a buoyancy, an accessibility, a welcomeness to the conversation. Sharp ties. This guy’s got some sharp ties. The more I observed, the more I wondered. Somehow, he seemed like someone I knew, or should know. One day, I decided to engage Chris in the only awkward conversation I knew him to have.“So what do you do?”“The weather on Channel 10.”The dots started to connect. My face became warm. I started wearing hats and sunglasses and avoiding Chris for a couple weeks, hoping he’d forget me. But that wasn’t possible with the gregarious Bradley-Krausses, and eventually I grew to know and adore this charming and very musical bunch: Chris (who was an adopted child) his husband Jason, and their two adopted children Spencer and Maria—four people connected not by blood, but by their love for each other. The Bradley-Krausses became activists simply by being a family and living out their love for each other and their community with endearing authenticity, creating bonds that have extended beyond the loss of a family member.In their dying, some people give the rest of us life because they illuminate what life should be about. Chris Bradley’s death from an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia was one of those moments. We can sometimes strangely forget the worthiness of our own lives—the reality that life is indeed more than existence and schedules and tasks. Chris fought for his life because he knew life was worth living. And we should also fight every day for this rare and precious privilege to be alive: to understand all that we can, say all that we can, and be all that we can for however long we are called to do so. Life itself is a terminal illness, and once in a while we are granted a remission from that affliction in being allowed to witness a soul such as Chris love life so much that we cannot help but fall in love with it again.Weather is defined as an “act of God” because it is completely out of our control. Death is also out of our control. Both tend to depress people. I imagine the great faith in God Chris maintained throughout his life and illness is why he could confront both these inevitabilities with awe, never letting either of them overwhelm him, make him become bitter, or lessen his spirit.Weather is what makes our planet alive. Chris is now a part of the rain that will nourish the beloved gardens around his home. He is part of the sunshine that will smile on his husband and children. He’ll be in the iridescence of every rainbow we post on Instagram and part of the joy of every Columbus kid’s snow day. Each time we marvel at the mercurial, if not downright wacky amalgamation of temperature and precipitation that is Columbus weather, we will remember our Chris Bradley.Welcome to the incredible green screen of heaven Chris. You’ve still got a job, we’re still watching, and I have my derecho plan. Thanks for that.Donations in the memory of Chris Bradley can be made to The Columbus Foundation. Visit columbusfoundation.org/fund/bradley/3730.
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