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Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
— It seems there’s never a shortage of people from Dayton who are out there doing great things. However, there’s one very special person in particular who is Dayton born and raised, especially important this time of year, and yet most people probably have no idea he’s living right here among us.
That’s right: the North Pole’s resident number one is actually a huge University of Dayton Flyer fan who graduated in 1970 from Chaminade Julienne High School, and he drove a Greater Dayton RTA bus for 16 years.
Dayton’s very own John Kern is Santa Claus. Aside from doing countless private parties for sick children unable to visit Santa at the mall and other gatherings of more than 45 children at a time, Kern has been the star of the Dayton Holiday Festival for the past 12 years.
>> The Gift of Spirits: A dozen boozy bottles for the days before and after Christmas
When was the first time that you thought you might want to be Santa?
When I was going to Our Lady of the Rosary, in my late 20’s, early 30’s. I was involved over there in the parish. They had a Christmas bazaar and they asked me to be a Santa Claus over there and they had their own suit and everything. I got to do it more every year or so and then I said, “Hmm. This may be a good thing to start.” So I went and got a couple suits and here I am!
>> DAYTON GIFTS: 5 foodie gifts you can get before Christmas
Where do you get your very own Santa suit?
I bought the two that I have in Huber Heights -- the place is out of business now. Then I was going to Act One costumes to buy some beards, and I went to Foy’s in Fairborn and bought some supplies over there.
What has kept you putting on the big red suit year after year?
Oh, it was just a joy of bringing smiles to the kids’ faces and the parents really liked it. They were able to take their own pictures. Especially if they’re premature -- the parents don’t want to take them to where there’s a lot of germs around and a lot of kids with colds. So you know, they’ll give me a call and have me come do a visit for them … those kids still receive the joy of Santa Claus, and didn’t have to go to a mall.
>> DAYTON GIFTS: Best ticket gifts for the holidays
As Santa, you have to be holly and jolly all the time. Is there anything you do to get yourself in the spirit before an event?
Yeah I just go ahead and get in a good mood -- I have a set of bells that I ring and give my ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ and that usually gets people in the mood.
Do you think you’ve perfected your “ho, ho, ho”?
Oh yeah, I think I’ve got it down pretty good. A lot of people will say, “let’s see your ho, ho, ho!”
Have you had any children recognize you in public when you’re not in your suit?
Well I drive an RTA bus here in town, and I’ve had people say, “Boy, you’d make a good Santa Claus,” and I say, “Well in fact, that’s what I do.” Last year my picture was on the side of the bus for a promotion they did.
>> DAYTON GIFTS: Give the gift of chocolate this holiday season
What’s the most unsuspected thing a child has asked you for Christmas?
They ask for a lot of different things. I’ve had some of them ask for world peace. I say, “Yeah that would be great for everybody. Santa would surely like that, to see everybody get along and everything.”
I also stress the importance to them of also, Christmas is the day when Jesus was born and that’s the real meaning of Christmas. The real meaning of Christmas is us giving to people -- it’s good to give better than to receive, because giving comes from the heart and shows love.
Is there any one interaction with a child that really sticks out to you?
A lot of them have the Elf on the Shelves and I say, “Remember they let me know what’s going on!”
So I’ll tell them they best be on their best behavior all the time...not only this time of year, but all year round.
How does it feel to have a child look up to you and see the awe in their eyes of being face to face with Santa?
It really is a good feeling because you just say, “My golly, they really do believe.” It’s just a great feeling that’s all.
>> PHOTOS: Breakfast with Santa at Scene75
Why is Dayton special to you?
It’s just a good town. I’ve been a UD Flyer fan ever since I can remember. My sister used to work at the old UD fieldhouse working concessions, so that goes back many years. I’ve been a Flyer fan since almost 5 years old -- since 1957. I currently hold season tickets at the University of Dayton Arena. I’ve held them since 1971. Every year.
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 11:07 AM
— Make no mistake, Caressa Brown has more than the look.
The director of Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI), is on the grind to strengthen Dayton’s fashion industry.
She is the latest Daytonian of the Week.
What do you do and why do you do it?
That’s a loaded question.😂 I am the owner/director of the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC, a volunteer-based community outreach organization that works with area designers in building their brands, establishing their clientele, learning runway production, and editorial shoots. We also develop aspiring models by providing them with world-class runway experience, tearsheet quality images, and put them in front of the world’s top modeling agencies.
In regards to why I do what I do, it’s both simple and complex. I sometimes refer to myself as the supermodel that never was. At the age of 12 back in 1992-93, my self-esteem was beneath the gutter. I was tall, thin awkward, had bucked teeth, 4 eyes, and a 5head. 😂 I was teased mercilessly, and as a way to improve my self-esteem Mom worked 3 jobs and enrolled me in Bette Massie modeling school in Centerville.
After the first session, the instructor called me and my mom in for a meeting and told us that out of all of the models registered in the school, she believed that I had the most potential to actually become a model and waived the remaining tuition. Fast forward 5-6 weeks later. After attending “free” modeling classes, Bette Massie discovered that there was no money on the books for me and called my mom and me in for a meeting. Long story short, the instructor had not received Bette’s approval to waive my tuition, and Bette basically said we either pay or leave the program; we left the program.
However, later that year, I came across a casting call for an agency out of Cleveland that was scouting in Dayton and out of the 100+ models that were in attendance, I was the only one selected and offered a contract with the agency. We signed the contract. Shortly after, my mom was involved in an auto accident, and then later was diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis and could no longer work. So with my mom unable to work, we could not afford to travel to the agency or seek out work as a model.
Fast forward several years later to 1998, I attended a modeling convention in Columbus, where I was scouted by the president of Click Models for their Atlanta agency. At the time, I had braces on so they wanted me to travel to Atlanta and start developing me while waiting for my braces to come off. However, I had just started working at General Motors, Truck and Bus in Moraine, just started my freshman year in college at Wright State on academic scholarship, and on top of that I was the caregiver for my mom and without having any additional support. I never made it to Atlanta work with Click.
>> PHOTOS: Art Ball 2018, Dayton’s red carpet night
In 2001, after attending a casting call at a mall in Cincinnati for the world’s top agency at the time, Elite, I was selected as regional semi-finalist in the Elite Model Look Competition, and the Scouting Director for Elite in Chicago offered me a contract. Aside from the fact that my braces were off, nothing had changed in regards to the load I was carrying on this time, I was flunking out of college, battling depression, working 50+ hr/week at GM, and still serving as a caregiver for my mom and I never made it back to Chicago to work with Elite.
I said all of that to say this, I know what it’s like to have a dream and be so close that you can feel, taste, and see it and then have no support to help you obtain it. I do what I do to be the support system for area fashion professionals that I wish I had when I wanted to be a model and as a result of building a nurturing and strong support system for emerging talent we can say that designers have gained firsthand experience working behind the scenes of some of the top design houses for the former Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Their designs have been featured on the covers of Vogue Africa and in the pages of Vogue Italia, and Essence magazines, they have also had their designs featured in music videos, commercial print, and film. Over 70 of our models have been signed to agencies around the globe. They have appeared on Project Runway, in the pages of Vogue, have been signed to some of the world's top modeling agencies including Factor, Red, and Next, and have walked for New York, Paris and Milan Fashion Week for designers like Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu and Versace.
Cats, dogs, neither or something else?
I’m about to lose a bunch of friends with this one; I’m a dog person. 😂 Most of my friends have cats; they’re just too shifty for me. 😂
What do you love about life in Dayton?
I love the fact that Dayton has the small-town feel yet has big city opportunities. If you want a quick getaway, you’re only a few hours away from at least 8 major cities. Also, I’m a true foodie. I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country and eat at some of the finest restaurants and nothing comes close to the amazing local cuisine and eateries in Dayton.
What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
I’m a pretty low-key person and enjoy the simple things so my idea of a perfect date in Dayton would be to take a long walk at one of the Metroparks, lay out a blanket, have a picnic and enjoy the serenity.
Where do you go for a great time?
I’m a big kid at heart, so I love Scene 75, I celebrated my 35th birthday there with a Ghostbusters cake a few years back. Plus I’m super competitive and I can allow my alter-ego to come out and talk trash while doing rapid-fire rounds in Laser Tag, defending the corner in go carts, and just beating the crap out of my friends and hoping that they are still my friends after I beat them. 😂
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?
I was born and raised right here in Dayton, and as my mom always says, “I’m Dayton born, Dayton bred, and when I die, I’m gonna be Dayton dead.” 😂
How did you get involved with your business?
That’s another loaded question. 😂I never planned to start a fashion organization. I was essentially left holding the bags from the failed Dayton Fashion Week in 2012. A lot of people — self-included — were hurt, deceived, ripped off, and taken advantage of...
>> Dayton Fashion Week launched (July 23, 2012)
>> Are size 0 to 4 models too small? (Feb 10, 2012)
Several months after Dayton Fashion Week ended, I was approached by Lisa Grigsby and Billy Pote from Dayton Most Metro. They asked me if I would be interested in creating my own fashion organization, and if I did, they would back me up. After thinking about it and reaching out to a few friends and those who had been burned by Dayton Fashion Week, together we created this grassroots fashion movement called the Dayton Emerging Fashion Week (DE-FI) LLC; a lot of people think that we just renamed the company because 99% of the people who quit DFW after I walked away joined me in creating (DE-FI).
We launched in July 2013, and invited all of the designers, sponsors, and talent that was burned by DFW to participate free of charge in our event; the businesses who had taken out ads in the Dayton Fashion Week magazine FIQ where all of the images were pixelated and of poor quality, we offered them a do over at our Fashion in the Mystic Garden Launch Party at SunWatch Indian Village, which was a sold-out event with 250+ people in attendance and gave them free ads in our magazine (DE-FI)ance. I went on to get about 5 seasons of behind the scenes experience at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. We now own the rights to the name Dayton Fashion Week branded as Dayton Fashion Week by (DE-FI), and the rest as they say is history.
What should people know about Dayton’s fashion community?
The vast majority of the designers that we work with are self-taught, a few had to leave the city to receive a formal education in fashion. My ultimate goal is to have an accredited fashion design program right here in Dayton; the closest program is at Miami University, who rolled out their program about two years ago, we’ve had the pleasure of partnering with them on several occasions.
Dayton’s fashion community is more than just models, designers and fashion shows. This is a $900 billion dollar a year industry that every major city in Ohio and across the country has embraced. There’s a need for photographers marketers, business managers, investors, writers, social media experts, legal advisors, accountants, hair and makeup artist, boutiques, wardrobe stylist, textile makers, sewist and seamstress, and so much more and (DE-FI) has made a place at the table for them all and we have people traveling from around the country to work with us. Every door that opens for me, I hold it open for the rest of my (DE-FI) family to enter.
Dayton has the eyes of some of the most influential people in fashion watching what’s going on here because we’ve essentially taken every aspect of what makes New York City the fashion capital of the world and we are re-creating it right here in the Gem City, slowly but surely we are establishing a market that allows fashion to be a viable way to make a living in Dayton.
In February of this year, I was invited to New York Fashion Week as a journalist for our magazine (DE-FI)ance as a fashion influencer by one of the most influential fashion producers in the industry. That alone was a game changer for our organization and we’ve been working on revising our strategic plan for the past couple of months to align with this heightened level of exposure that our talent is receiving. Last month we quietly rolled out our sewing and micro-manufacturing team to assist with our designers production of their lines as well as meet the needs of other businesses and boutiques that need sewing assistance.
What is Dayton’s best hidden gem?
Aside from (DE-FI) ;-) I’d have to say SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park is my favorite hidden gem.
What inspires you about Dayton?
There’s no quit in this city. Things don’t always go as planned and we’ve had more than our fair share of bumps and bruises yet we have some of the most persistent, innovative, and empowering people that go hard for not only the city but their causes every day, and thanks to platforms like Dayton.com we have an opportunity to meet those hidden figures.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
Sometimes, I think we play it too safe as a city. We embrace what we understand and all too often recycle the exact same people to do the work leaving a lot of new talent disenfranchised or if they are included, it’s more or less of a symbolic gesture vs. a sincere attempt of embracing diversity of thought and growth. I’d love to see Dayton let down its guard, kick in a few doors and make a place at the table for everyone by creating a blue print as a guide for others to follow. Competition is not a bad thing.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Friday, June 08, 2018 @ 3:25 PM
— While most of his peers were pondering parties and first jobs, then University of Cincinnati student LaVar Glover had his eyes set on an NFL career and registering his 15-year-old brother in high school.
Glover, a Jefferson High School graduate raised partly in Residence Park, said it was helping his younger brother James Phillips get back on track that helped gear him towards a life of service when his 10-year career in professional football ended.
“I felt all those young guys were like my younger brother,” Glover, who operated The Glover Youth Program from 2009 to 2013, said. “If I can motivate him (my brother), I can motivate others.”
>> RELATED: Pro football player Glover aims to inspire youth (June 7, 2010)
Through the nonprofit, Glover provided boys in foster care and/or a juvenile courts system with residential placement, mentoring, life skills development and therapeutic treatment services.
“I felt like I had always been a humble kid, that come from humble beginnings. Growing up with lack of resources and growing up poor makes you appreciate what you've got,” Glover said. “I was always comfortable in my own skin because I didn’t have much.”
During his career in football, Glover, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers before being signed by the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions.
Following a three-year stint in the NFL, he played seven years in the Arena and Canadian Football Leagues.
Dayton called him home when his football days were done.
“I wanted to be around my family,” he said.
He said he was nurtured in the community he grew up in, recalling Little League and going to the Wesley Community Center.
“I was familiar with the community. I had a community network,” he said. “Dayton was good to me.”
We caught up with LaVar Glover when he was honored as the Daytonian of the Week from April 18-25.
What do you do, and how did you get involved in Community Action Partnership?
I am the Director of Self-Sufficiency and I facilitate and coordinate “Getting Ahead In a Just-Gettin’-By World” workshops in Montgomery, Greene, Preble and Darke counties.
[The workshop] is about building resources for a better life for those living in poverty or unstable situations. In Getting Ahead, we study poverty and near poverty through the lens of economic class to better understand how our society and the economy work. In groups of 12-14 people, we investigate the impact that poverty and low wages have on our community and what it takes to move from a just getting-by world. The idea of “Getting Ahead” means action and movement- getting ahead of where we are now, toward a brighter future.
I first learned of CAP through my wife (Ivy), who previously worked for CAP in the Marketing Department.
Becoming the Director of Self-Sufficiency was a great fit for me. I genuinely care about helping others, I am a coach at heart, and I grew up in poverty.
What superpower would you love to have?
I would love to be able to fly like Superman.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
Dayton is small but impactful.
What do you wish people knew about CAP?
I wish people knew all of our services and the many counties we serve. CAP is an organization that helps people become more stable with a variety of programs. Our newest programs are the Legal Clinic, Transportation Services, and Getting Ahead. We also have free Tax Services and Computer Classes, to name a few.
What is the most important thing you learned from your NFL career?
Make every day count.
What advice do you give to student athletes hoping to make sports a career?
Be humble. Be coach-able and work beyond your limits in the classroom and on the field. Prepare for adversity and fall in love with the process of being the best person you can be.
What is the last book you read?
“The Magic of Thinking Big” by David J. Schwartz.
Where do you go for a great time?
Great times for me are spent with my family at our golf courses and bowling alleys.
What would you change about Dayton?
I would like to rehab all of the abandoned buildings (downtown) and homes throughout the community. Also, I would like to change the negative stigma Dayton sometimes carry throughout the community. I’m ready for Dayton Public Schools to be recognized as a great school district again.
What should people know about Dayton?
Dayton is on the move with re-developing the downtown areas. Dayton has beautiful real estate and is prime for business opportunities. Dayton has many resources for people in need.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 1:37 PM
— As of this morning, Tom Helbig is cruising on his bicycle through reportedly, 68 degree and sunny Portland, Maine, en route to Canada, craving a Dayton craft beer and some Taqueria Mixteca.
His East Coast cycling trip began in February in Key West, Florida and will wrap at the end of June when he returns to Dayton to resume organizing and planning Tomfoolery Outdoors adventures — the Dayton business Helbig founded in May 2014 based on the principles of his life’s mantra, “Live Active, Laugh More, Inspire All.”
Helbig’s childhood was spent camping near his home in the Cleveland area, boating on Lake Erie, trips to Ohio state parks and making cherished memories outdoors with his family. The Bowling Green State University grad moved to Dayton in 1998 and after nine years of dedicated work with the Special Olympics of Miami County, got heavily involved with FiveRivers MetroParks in 2007 as an outdoor program event planner.
“I took my experiences between those two jobs and my own personal interests and thought I could start my own company, put my own spin on it and also allow more time for adventures,” Helbig said.
The realization that he could make his enthusiasm for adventures a lifestyle didn’t come without sacrifice. Through careful planning and living simply, Helbig has been able to run a successful outdoors events company and inspire people in Dayton to jump into adventures they thought were unrealistic — all while fitting in personal, month-long adventures throughout the year. “It’s (Tomfoolery Outdoors) a community of people who want to make the world a better place and play outside,” Helbig said.
“I had this epiphany that I was having conversations with friends about event ideas, T-shirt concepts, maybe guided trips that I could offer and I thought well, I’m doing a lot of talking ... and I decided I wanted to take those campfire discussions and turn them into action,” Helbig said.
Get to know Tom Helbig, our Daytonian of the Week:
How do you make this lifestyle possible?
“All my adventures are human powered. I find free places to camp, people host me in their homes, I partner with certain organizations along the way. It’s just being creative, living simply, not caring about glamorous material things and using the income I do bring in from Tomfoolery Outdoors events.”
Do you think Dayton has a big taste for adventure?
“When I moved to the Dayton area in 1998, at that time, being honest, I was not excited about moving. Then things started to change. I got involved with the outdoor amenities that were available, a guy took me fly fishing, then I started spending time on our rivers paddling and fishing, exploring the bike trails. I just really started to become part of the community, and I was loving it.
Loving it to the point now where, even though I’m off on some of these longer adventures, I’m one of the biggest advocates for what Dayton has to offer. I’m really proud to say when I’m on my adventures, that I’m from Dayton, Ohio.”
Do you think some people hesitate before setting off on an adventure?
“I actually hear that a lot and it makes me sad when I hear somebody that isn’t pursuing something that they always wanted to do ... ‘Oh I wish I could do x, y and z,’ — that’s troubling to me and when I hear those things I start to ask a lot of questions of, Well, why not?’ And you’ll hear excuse after excuse of why they haven't pursued something that would make their life that much better. I ask a lot of questions that hopefully stimulate some thought and even offer some suggestions as to how they can do it. Then, if I’m able to stay in touch with those people, I’m going to be their biggest cheerleader. I’m going to hold them accountable and try and get them to do those things they’ve always wanted to do.”
“Live Active, Laugh More, Inspire All.” Why is that Tomfoolery Outdoor’s mission statement?
“In my mid-30s, so right before I started Tomfoolery Outdoor’s, I was feeling really out of balance with my work and life. Just spending too many hours at work behind a desk, and I just felt a need for something different and better. So I thought, OK, how am I going to live the rest of my life. I boiled it down to those three principles, how I wanted to guide the rest of my life ... Over about a six-month process, that led me to founding Tom Foolery Outdoors. So that is not a marketing slogan. It’s how I live my life and I want the company to behave in our community.
What are some of your favorite Dayton spots for day-trip outdoor adventures?
“For favorite spots in the Dayton-area for a hike, you can’t beat the Twin Valley Trail over in Germantown. I love to fly fish on the Great Miami River, mountain biking at MoMBA or John Bryan State Park and paddling on any of the local rivers.”
What is your favorite place to eat in Dayton?
“I love going to the 2nd Street Market, Fusian, Arepas, Mudlick Tap House, Taqueria Mixteca and Trolley Stop. I am excited to be back in Dayton, I’ve been gone for three months now, and I’m looking forward to seeing friends and when I get back, I’ll be in the heart of my Tomfoolery Outdoors events season. And one of the things I’m going to focus on when I return from this journey is, I want to make sure that my lifestyle and brand is more than just long adventures. Those adventures are getting people’s attention, which is awesome and I’m very grateful for that. But within that, I want people to get the message that you can get adventure in your daily life by appreciating those things we have right here locally.”
For all the details on this season’s Tomfoolery Outdoors adventures and the charities involved with each event, visit tomfooleryoutdoors.com.
Published: Friday, August 12, 2016 @ 2:56 PM
Updated: Friday, August 12, 2016 @ 2:55 PM
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