Soccer-dribbling Monroe fundraisers complete 250-mile mission

Published: Monday, June 03, 2013 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Sunday, June 09, 2013 @ 12:29 AM

During their 13-day, 250-mile walk from Monroe to Toledo, four college buddies learned a lot about themselves, raised $3,000 more than their goal, and even named their soccer ball, their constant companion.

Three Monroe High School graduates — Jake Essig, 21, Derek Garde, 21, and Nick Streibick, 20 — and Isaac Beal, 22, of Greenfield, Ind., who graduated from Huntington University recently, won’t soon forget the Summer of 2013.

Last summer, as members of the Huntington (Ind.) University men’s soccer team, Essig, a 2010 Monroe High School graduate, and Beal attended a soccer camp in Toledo, where they were introduced to LifeLine Toledo, the city’s medical unit.

Since their bus is in major need of repairs and upgrades to keep up with the demand of its services, they decided to raise money and awareness by dribbling one soccer ball — named Wilson in honor of the volleyball in “Castaway” — among the four of them along U.S. 127.

After averaging about 20 miles a day, they arrived in Toledo at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, days before they expected, and immediately attended a community dinner there to celebrate their accomplishment.

They came up with a name — Dribble4Toledo — and decided to raise funds with a goal of $10,000. Essig said the group raised $13,000, thanks to the generosity of local companies and individuals who made monetary donations along the way.

The four guys all planned to carry 35-pound backpacks, and spend some nights sleeping along the road. But every night, they either slept in churches, homes and one night, in a hotel, courtesy of a gentleman they met.

The experience, Essig said, showed that if you display “energy, effort and a steadfast heart,” you can change this world, one dribble at a time.

“It gave us a great sense of accomplishment,” Essig said.

Throughout the trip, he said, the guys met the “nicest people in America,” those who housed them, fed them or simply gave them a thumbs up.

“They believed in us,” said Essig, who added they were joined for short stretches by others who wanted to volunteer.

Essig said there were two “close calls.” Both times, he said, in the final miles before the group reached Toledo, they were nearly hit by cars that were passing semis. They came within a foot or two of being hit, he said.

“A chilling experience,” he said. “One of us should have gotten hurt.”

When Essig’s parents drove him home Saturday night, he headed directly to the shower, then bed.

“It was nice to be home,” he said with a laugh.

But when he woke up Sunday and Monday morning, there was something missing. There was no duct taped soccer ball to dribble, no miles to log, no mission to accomplish.

“I can’t sit still,” Essig said. “I hope we have inspired others to go to action. We all have a lot to offer in this dark world at times. The power of one is amazing.”

Florida man pepper-sprayed, arrested after attack on elderly man

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 11:09 AM

Police arrested Edwin William Cunningham, 51, after a confrontation on Saturday, May 20, 2017.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

A Florida man was pepper-sprayed and arrested after police deemed he was the aggressor in a physical confrontation with a 79-year-old man, according to an arrest report.

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Edwin William Cunningham, 51, is facing a charge of battery on a person 65 or older and was released from the Palm Beach County Jail on Sunday on his own recognizance.

The dispute took place Saturday at the Boca Raton Community Center during a kids’ baseball game. Cunningham told Boca Raton police he was shouting instructions to his sons when the elderly man suddenly pepper-sprayed him in the face, the report said.

The elderly man told police Cunningham has been aggressive toward him in the past. On Saturday, the alleged victim was sitting in the bleachers with Cunningham’s ex-wife when he saw Cunningham rapidly advancing at him, the report said.

Cunningham allegedly put his hands on the man’s shoulder, who responded by unleashing his pepper spray.

Two witnesses supported the elderly man’s version of the events and Cunningham was arrested.

Medical practice, developer break ground on first new building on old school site

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 11:09 AM

Mayor Arlene Setzer with the PriMed Team

Mills Development and PriMed Physicians Family Practice held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first building at 40 West located on the former site of Morton Middle School on May 20. PriMed is expected to relocate from their current location at 1 E. National Road in early 2018.

»Related: Vandalia plant expansion expected to create 35 high-paying jobs

“With the recent addition of Dr. Teresa Menart to our practice, this new, expanded space will help our office grow while increasing access to primary care in the Vandalia community,” said Dr. March Couch, president of PriMed Physicians.

Health care bill hurts Ohio job growth, critics say

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 11:08 AM

            U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., talks about the American Health Care Act, the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, during a March 8 news conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

Efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act threaten to reverse years of steady job gains in Ohio’s health care sector and put the broader statewide economy at risk.

Those were the findings in a new report Tuesday from Policy Matters Ohio, which detailed how the health care sector has grown on the state and county level over the past decade and the potential economic impact of the AHCA — the President Donald Trump-backed bill passed by U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month and currently under review in the U.S. Senate.

RELATED: Will Obamacare repeal leave Ohioans in the lurch

Locally, health care jobs have grown to account for 19 percent of all private-sector employment in Montgomery County, which is one of only 10 Ohio counties where at least one in six private sector employees works in health care, according to the Policy Matters, a left-leaning think-tank with offices in Columbus and Cleveland.

Statewide, more than one out of seven Ohioans, or 676,948 residents, worked in the private health care sector in 2015, accounting for 14.9 percent of total employment in the state — up from about 11.1 percent in 2000.

But proposed cuts in the AHCA could eliminate more than 81,000 jobs by 2022, based on projections released in March by the Economic Policy Institute and referenced in the Policy Matters’ report.

RELATED: ACA cuts number of uninsured Ohioans nearly in half

“Clearly the health care sector is increasingly important to Ohio’s still struggling economy,” said Wendy Patton, senior project manager at Policy Matters. “This is the wrong time to destabilize it further.”

The biggest impact of the AHCA would be in the way it would roll back Medicaid expansion in 31 states, including Ohio, where more than 70,000 low-income residents are now covered by Medicaid under new eligibility rules that allow most able-bodied, childless adults with incomes under 138 percent of federal poverty level to qualify for coverage.

The AHCA would strip $800 billion from the state and federal health insurance program for the poor over the next decade, with Ohio losing an estimated $23 billion in Medicaid funding, according to the report.

RELATED: GOP health bill threatens Ohio Medicaid

But its far to too soon to tell what the impact might be, according to Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp.,who said opponents of the AHCA may be sounding the alarm prematurely.

“Obamacare (ACA) has to be repealed and replaced,” Antani said. “I don’t think we can speak right now as to what the impact might be. I’m sure the Senate is going to have revisions (to the AHCA), and then there will be further revisions in a conference committee. We have to let the legislative process in (Washington), D.C. play out, and at the state level, we’ll comply with whatever comes out of D.C.”

Still, the local economy would likely suffer an out-sized impact if the proposed proposed cuts in the House version of the health care bill remain in tact. That’s because a disproportionate number of residents gained coverage through Medicaid expansion, which helped local hospitals cut their costs for providing care to the uninsured by millions of dollars.

RELATED: Hospitals see major reduction in charity care costs

“Premier Health stands to lose $861.1 million in Medicaid cuts through 2026, and see a $182 million increase in costs for treating people who are uninsured,” said Mike Uhl, president of Premier’s Atrium Medical Center in Middletown. “Combined, these potential cuts to Medicaid funding and increases in uncompensated care would undermine the health care safety net that our hospitals have become for our communities’ most vulnerable citizens. They also would force us to cut services and eliminate jobs.”

Nationally, hospitals saw a 21 percent decrease in the cost of so-called uncompensated care between the 2014 adoption of the ACA — former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law — and 2015, according to Policy Matters, and $5 billion of the $7.4 billion saved on uncompensated care happened in Medicaid expansion states like Ohio.

Here is a summary of major provisions of the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives:

■ To help people buy insurance, if they do not have coverage at work or under a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, or through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the bill would offer $2,000 to $4,000 a year in tax credits, depending mainly on age. A family could receive up to $14,000 a year in credits. The credits would be reduced for individuals making over $75,000 a year and families making over $150,000.

■ Under current rules, insurers cannot charge older adults more than three times what they charge young adults for the same coverage. The House bill would allow them to charge five times as much. The Congressional Budget Office said this change would reduce premiums for young adults and increase premiums for older Americans.

■ The bill would end Medicaid as an open-ended entitlement to health care and would put the program on a budget. States would receive an allotment of federal money for each beneficiary, or, as an alternative, they could take the money in a lump sum as a block grant, with fewer federal requirements. Medicaid cuts would total $880 billion over 10 years.

■ The bill encourages people to maintain “continuous coverage” by requiring insurers to impose a 30 percent surcharge on premiums for those who experience a gap in coverage.

■ Under the bill, states could opt out of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including one that requires insurers to provide a minimum set of health benefits, such as maternity care and emergency services, and another that prohibits them from charging higher premiums based on a person’s health status. Insurers would not be allowed to charge higher premiums to sick people unless a state had an alternative mechanism, like a high-risk pool or a reinsurance program, to help provide coverage for people with serious illnesses.

■ The bill would provide states with $138 billion over 10 years that could be used for various purposes like subsidizing premiums, providing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and paying for mental health care and the treatment of drug addiction.

Source: The Associated Press

A familiar unease for local Muslims

Published: Saturday, December 05, 2015 @ 7:00 AM
Updated: Saturday, December 05, 2015 @ 7:00 AM

As an American Muslim who wears a hijab, a veil that covers the head and chest, newly elected Middletown school board member Michelle Novak has been called a terrorist by passing drivers and been spat at.

One way the mother of four deals with the stress of such situations is to put herself out there in the community even more, so more people get to know a Muslim who is a good person, rather than the far-too-popular caricature of a crazed Muslim terrorist.

Novak hopes more people who share her adopted faith – she was raised Catholic – will take that same approach, to let the world know that the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving people. In fact, she personally doesn’t consider those who commit terrorist acts to be practicing Muslims.

“The perpetrators on 9/11 and the perpetrators in Paris, I never really considered them practicing in the same religion that I practice,” Novak said. “Although they call themselves Muslims, I really think they have a completely different understanding from myself and from, really, anyone I’ve interacted with, who’s a Muslim in the United States.”

“I’ve learned that the terrorists, they tend to be people who are on the fringes of the community, that don’t really come to the mosques,” she said. “They’re isolated. And I think anybody, whether Muslim or Christian, who fits that description – someone who’s isolated and very alienated – they can be very scary people.”

American Muslims find themselves in a bind, she says. On the one hand, they experience hatred from fellow Americans who buy into the belief that all Muslims endorse terror. On the other hand, the Miamisburg native believes, Muslims don’t want to speak too loudly against terrorism out of fear that they or their families will be targeted by terrorists, who seem to come down harder on Muslims than any other religious group.

Rhys Williams, a sociology professor at Loyola University of Chicago, who used to teach at the University of Cincinnati, says he hasn’t heard many Muslims speak about the fear of being targeted by terrorists for speaking out against them.

“Of course, saying I haven’t heard about it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, or there isn’t that concern,” Williams said. “But I’ve heard much less about that than I’ve heard the frustration from particularly members of American Muslim civic organizations about their denunciations of terrorism being ignored.”

Novak herself was raised Catholic. Part of what drew her to Islam was its traditional family values that reminded her of her Italian Catholic grandmother, who used to cover her head while attending Mass.

“I do become afraid, but I don’t want it to control my life,” she said. “My approach is to help in the community more, become more active with helping the homeless, helping the people in my community that don’t have food, the children who need clothes.”

“That’s kind of my coping mechanism to deal with my fear, is to be out in the community more, and do more service,” she said.

Novak also has worked to get churches, mosques and synagogues to work together.

She wishes more Muslims, rather than containing their service work to mosques, would get out into the community. That way, when the words “Muslim terrorist” show up on television screens, more people can say, “Well, my neighbor’s Muslim, and they’re very nice.” Or, “I volunteer with this person at the homeless shelter, and so I know not all Muslims are like that.”

Williams, who has studied non-Christian immigration to the United States, says he understands why many Muslims these days are less eager to put themselves out there in society, given the backlash against their faith. But Novak’s strategy is good for diffusing some of the hatred, he said.

“It’s a fairly well-established principle in sociology that personal contact with people over time tends to diminish prejudice,” Williams said. “Particularly if she is consistently in settings where she works with people and they get to know her in a more well-rounded personal setting. That tends to lower prejudice.

“The sociologist Robert Putnam calls this the ‘My pal, Al syndrome.’ When you get to know people, they just seem less scary,” Williams added. “It’s one of the things that’s responsible for greater tolerance in the U.S.”

“On the other hand, they (Muslims) face a lot of backlash right now,” he said. “And I can understand wanting to be very careful about it, and being very concerned about their own safety.”

Novak and Williams both encourage people to feel free to ask Muslims about their religion, in genuine, non-combative ways.

“We’re not embarrassed,” Novak said. “We love our religion, and actually, it’s encouraging when people show an interest. It really makes us feel more accepted, and that people really are trying to learn. And that’s encouraging for Muslims. And I think it helps to have that dialogue, and we appreciate that.”

Levels of animosity that Muslims vary widely, even within the same community, says Shakila Ahmad, president of the board for the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester.

“We’re blessed to be in a good, sound, well-educated community,” Ahmad said. “I think people certainly have their biases, but they’re informed enough, they’re generally aware enough about the work that the center does that in some ways we’re a little shielded from some of the severe outward bias and bigotry that goes on.”

However, Ahmad added: “In no way are we immune.”

“We as Muslim Americans, and we as an American institution, are committed to this country, to fellow citizens of all faiths, and to our neighbors, in particular, in this region,” she said. “We encourage our neighbors to come and get to know us, and to really learn for themselves what Islam and Muslims are all about, instead of taking hate rhetoric or the actions of people who are the antithesis of our faith that are committing any heinous criminal acts, taking or hurting innocent lives.”

The center has a very active guided-tour program, and is offering one tour at 1 p.m. today. People can register by calling 513-755-3280.