Ending Up Helping :: Birthday Girl’s Choice

So I didn’t exactly write a blog a day…and for that I am honestly only mildly disappointed. I learned a lot about many local and national charities and I was able to pass this on to my students! As I mentioned earlier, I had my juniors do a project in which they were required to research one charity and interview someone involved with the organization. Some of my students took this assignment and ran with it! They chose things that meant something to them (Anxiety & Depression Association of America, Huckleberry House, Wounded Warrior, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Stonewall Columbus…I could go on!) and learned how to support these causes and why they are important. Other students…well…they just weren’t inspired. “I chose the Ronald McDonald House because I like McDonald’s.” I guess that’s a start! Oi veh…

One part of this idea that I did take VERY seriously was choosing one philanthropy to donate my own time and/or money to. And I’ve decided…

San Salvador Missions Trip with Rock City Church

Recently I have been searching for a church home. I grew up going to one Lutheran church until 9th grade, when I switched to a different Lutheran church where many of my high school peers attended. When I hit college, I pretty much stopped going to church altogether, other than when I was home on break. I tried different churches on my campus, but none of them were as good as my home church. I felt like my spirit wasn’t being fed, so I just quit trying (I don’t recommend this method, by the way). After college, I went back to that home church. A few years later, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (one branch of the Lutheran churches) voted that if a person was in a committed, monogamous homosexual relationship, they COULD be a pastor! HOLY YAY!!!!! (Literally!). Well, my home church did not feel the YAY as much as I did. They decided to put to a vote whether or not the church would stay part of the ELCA or leave (thus stating that they were against gays being able to be pastors in our church). Guess who could vote? People of a certain age that had tithed a certain number of times. Guess who couldn’t vote? Me. And most of my peers. One of my favorite memories of this time (okay, I wasn’t there for it, but I can imagine what it was like) was when my mom went to a forum to express why voting to leave the ELCA was ludicrous. As she stood up to speak, two elderly women behind her were heard whispering to each other, “Oh, that’s the woman that is friends with those gays.”

BAHAHAHA! Hell yeah she was! God, I miss her.

I digress…needless to say, it was time for me to leave my home church and find a new home. After much searching and wrestling with what’s important to me in a church, I landed in a seat at Rock City Church.  

Rock City Church is a newish church in Columbus, almost 3 years old. They don’t actually have their own building. They use movie theaters (specifically the Lennox and Regal theaters) as their worship halls. I know this sounds kinda weird, but in all actuality, it rocks. They have a full rock band that performs in front of the giant screen while the lyrics are projected behind them. The band is so loud and so rocking that the church offers earplugs for more sensitive listeners. To expand their audience, Rock City live streams the pastor’s message from the main theater in Lennox to another theater down the hall and another theater across the city at the Regal Cinema! The Regal Cinema has their own band, but they get to hear the same message from across the city. How 21st century is that??

The set is a little more elaborate now, this is from their opening day, but you get the idea!

The set is a little more elaborate now, this is from their opening day, but you get the idea!

My favorite part of church is the music. When I can close my eyes, sing along and rock out my worship to Jesus, that’s when I’m most connected. I recently learned that ONE SONG at Rock City can last as long as 15 minutes!! I had NO clue!! It certainly doesn’t feel that long! Every time I leave Rock City, I feel good! The message sticks with me through the week and actually affects my daily living.

You might have seen our pastor Chad in last month’s 614 Magazine!

I realized Rock City was worth a hard look as a possible home church when one week, I “accidentally” planted myself next to this fabulously sweet gay man (who happens to be a teacher as well!) and the next week I saw one of my college sorority sisters sitting alone before the service! Josie and I reconnected and she seemed just as interested as I was. Just like any activity that requires commitment, having a buddy definitely helps. Josie encouraged me to join her for the Rock City Connect classes, where you get to learn more about the church.

Well, one thing led to another, and I had decided that Rock City was the church for me. I don’t think I can ever be 100% sure about a church. The church changes and I change, so who knows how long this will be my home, but for now, it’s the perfect fit.

Getting Involved

Since I had finally found a new church home, I wanted to be involved and stay connected. Here’s where the charity part FINALLY comes into play! It has been 9 long years since I have left the country (Canada doesn’t count). I have been wanting to see more of the world for years, but haven’t made saving money a priority. Well, now I’m going to pay it forward AND see the world all in one swoop.

In just a few short months,  June 7th – June 15th 2014, I will be joining a short-term missions trip to San Salvador, El Salvador with people from Rock City Church and our partner church, the Great Commission Latin America. Because of generous donations, Rock City Church was able to fund and finish construction on a Child Development Center in 2013. At the center, 120 children are provided with healthy meals, medical and dental care, education, Jesus, and hope.

San Sal Promo

Our role during this trip will be to serve the community through working with the children, assisting in the health clinic and possibly some construction work. We will share the love and message of Jesus Christ and build relationships with people that are eager to share their life stories and hear why we have the hope we have.

In order for me to go on this trip, I will need some serious prayer warriors. I am learning to “Pray BIG!” God can handle my big prayers. So I am asking people to pray that I allow God to use me for His will, not my own, on this trip. I’m not sure in what way God will use me on this trip, but I hope not only to be a blessing to those I encounter, but also to be blessed by this new experience.

I must admit that I am a little nervous. I feel like this is a quick decision, even though I’ve been thinking and praying about it for almost 2 months now. I trust that this is something God wants me to do and that he will use me to His benefit. I’ve also never been to a Spanish speaking country before! So, I’m learning Spanish! I took French in high school, and I’m finding that background knowledge does help a little! I will be going on this adventure with a brand new group of people. Sure, I’m pretty good at making friends, but it’s still a little nerve racking, even for me!

So as I prepare for this trip over the next 4 months, please pray, send good karma, whatever it is you do! I am so excited for this experience and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, from planning and preparation to the actual trip!

As Jesus once said, “¡Ve!”

(I’m told that means to command someone to “GO!”)

Confession: I had to look up where El Salvador is...

Confession: I had to look up where El Salvador is…


Please watch the video below to see where I will be and to meet Nelson, one of the Salvadorian children benefitting from Rock City’s efforts:


Ending Up Helping :: January 22nd :: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

I know, I know…so much for blogging every day! As it turns out, trying to blog every day during your birthday month is extremely hard! I’ve been super busy and not able to dedicate the proper amount of time to my blog that each post deserves. Even so, I have learned so much about charities, what they do, how they work and why we need to support them.


Yesterday was my birthday, and in honor of that, I am highlighting a charity that DIRECTLY affects the family of one of my bestest friends in the entire world, Kristen.

Picture a typical teenage girl, right around the age of 14. She loves boys, puppies, and sunny days. It’s the day of her favorite cousin’s wedding – a New Year’s Eve wedding! It’s mere hours away from being 2012! She is a junior bridesmaid and gets to get her hair and makeup done along with the rest of the girls! But instead of gabbing and drinking (virgin!) mimosas with her fellow bridesmaids, Kate is sitting, listening to her iPod while an electric vest vibrates her entire torso, shaking her lungs free of thick mucous that could severely inhibit her breathing. She insists that the daily 90 minutes of various treatments really aren’t so bad.

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disease that affective the lungs and digestive system. It is a “life-threatening genetic disease that causes mucus to build up and clog some of the organs in the body, particularly the lungs and pancreas. When mucus clogs the lungs, it can make breathing very difficult. The thick mucus also causes bacteria (or germs) to get stuck in the airways, which causes inflammation (or swelling) and infections that lead to lung damage.

Mucus also can block the digestive tract and pancreas. The mucus stops digestive enzymes from getting to the intestines. The body needs these enzymes to break down food, which provides important nutrients to help people grow and stay healthy. People with cystic fibrosis often need to replace these enzymes with medicine they take with their meals and snacks, which helps them digest food and get proper nutrition.

When it comes to “getting” CF, it is all in your genes. When I asked Kristen about this, she said “It’s a basic Punnett Square!” My verbal response was “Oh yeah! I remember that from high school biology! Totally. Got it.” My inner response was, “Uhhh….I know I remember learning that, buuutttt….what?” So, if you’re like me and don’t exactly remember 10th grade biology, here ya go:

A Basic Punnett Square for CF:

How this can be interpreted (blonde version):

C- normal allele

c- allele with CF mutation

In this example, each child would have:

25% chance of being unaffected with Cystic Fibrosis (CC)

50% chance of being a carrier of Cystic Fibrosis (Cc)

25% chance of being affected with Cystic Fibrosis (cc)

Because of the thick mucous, Kate has to work harder than her field hockey teammates just to be able to breathe, let alone breathe deeply while exercising. But does that stop her? Hell no.

“It’s definitely harder running. My lung capacity is smaller, so running is harder and I cough more when I’m running,” said Kate, who played varsity as a freshman and has started the last two seasons. “It’s harder to breathe, but I don’t notice it unless I am sick or have a lung infection.”

Years ago, the life expectancy for people with CF was only elementary school age. A person with CF can expect to live “into their 30s, 40s and beyond” today, thanks to research funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

The CF Foundation has funded more “research than any other organization, and nearly every CF drug available today was made possible because of Foundation support.” Their “focus is to support the development of new drugs to fight the disease, improve the quality of life for those with CF, and ultimately to find a cure.”

Not only does the CF Foundation fund research, but they also advocate for people living with CF. They work to keep CF funding at the forefront of the government’s mind.

Kristen’s 21-year-old cousin Matthew (older brother to Kate) is currently participating in a 2-year clinical trial, Vertex 809 with Kalydeco, funded by the foundation that is changing the face of this disease. It is the first drug to treat the underlying cause of CF. Matthew’s health improves daily because of the medication.

Wanna contribute to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation??

Donors can feel good about their contribution because of trials like the one Matthew is participating in. Money goes towards the trials that are are directly lengthening and saving people’s lives, NOT into the administrative pockets. Click HERE to donate and HERE to see exactly where each dollar goes.

Every year in Columbus, the local CF Foundation chapter hosts a bevy of fundraising events. One of these events is hosted by Matthew and Kate’s parents, Tom & Marie – the Hennessey Family Fore-Love Golf Outing. Played at Brookside Country Club, “a shotgun start begins a day of great golf, food and entertainment. Raffles, live and silent auction and a fabulous dinner round out the event.” Kristen and her family volunteer at the event in support of Matthew and Kate.

Kristen & Kate "Play today for more Tomorrows"

Kristen & Kate
“Play today for more Tomorrows”

Andrew, Kristen, Kate & Matthew at the Fore Love Dinner

Andrew, Kristen, Kate & Matthew at the Fore Love Dinner

The Fore Love event is just one of many fundraising opportunities available. If you are in or near the Columbus area, you can check out the event calendar HERE!

Not in CBus?? BUMMER! 😉 Click HERE to find your local CF Foundation chapter!

Matthew and Kate refuse to allow their cystic fibrosis hold them back. Matthew is studying Political Science at Ohio State University and has had internships in Washington, DC and Columbus. Kate is finishing her junior year of high school and hopes to play field hockey at Georgetown, following in her mother’s footsteps.

“I have never been held back. I’m definitely a doer, never a quitter…I think (having cystic fibrosis) helps me. It pushes me to persevere a lot more. It’s how I overcome things. I can do this and nothing’s going to hold me back.”

You go, girl!


All information was obtained from www.cff.org and The Upper Arlington News

Find CFF: Columbus Chapter on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CFFCentralOH

PLEASE READ NOW!! :: Ending Up Helping :: January 9th :: The Helsel Family

When I read the following Facebook message, my first thought was, Of course I will make this the focus of tomorrow’s blog! My second thought was, THIS is why I am doing this blog series. This is not about me. This is about going beyond myself by using my writing ability and my reading audience to really help others. Seriously folks, my heart was filled with sadness reading Beth’s words, but I was also filled with hope because I now know that my words are getting through to people, and as a writer, I imagine that is the greatest gift of all.

“Hey Ashley,

This may be a bit weird, because we don’t exactly know each other (despite our Facebook friend status). I’m not sure if you even know who I am, but I used to be friends with Sarah growing up and I know you are good friends with her.

Anyway, I wanted to reach out to you because I’ve noticed your “Ending Up Helping” posts (which I think are wonderful!) and had a suggestion/request.

Yesterday, a family very close to my heart suffered a horrible tragedy. Their house caught on fire and burned to the ground. Not only that but their 23-year-old son, Josh, was trapped inside and did not survive. They also lost their 5 well-loved rescue dogs.

Josh was very close to all of us at my work. It’s a small company (8 employees) and we all very much consider one another family. Josh’s mom and sister work with us, and it’s been an unthinkably difficult situation for all involved. We’ve been working hard to try and help as much as possible, as they’ve lost absolutely everything. They lived in a farm house just southwest of Columbus that was built in the 1880s and had poured years of TLC into restoring it. Because of its age they were unable to insure it.

They have a place to stay for now, but are in desperate need while trying to plan Josh’s memorial service. They have not yet been able to stop and think about their future needs, but we are trying to collect items and save money for them so that it’s there when they need it (which I imagine will be soon).

Our company set up a relief fund and we are reaching out to every resource we can think of. I was wondering if I could ask you the favor of dedicating one of your Ending Up Helping posts to their fund. I’ve included a link with more information. It would be so much appreciated.
Keep up the good work!

Yes, I remember Beth! She was only a grade below me and always a very sweet girl, so the fact that she is part of this effort truly comes as no surprise.

Items Needed:

  • Clothing items
    • Lori wears a size 14 in clothes and 8 in shoes.
    • Ron wears size 36w 32l pants and xl shirts, and size 10.5 shoes.
  • Toiletries
  • Gift cards to stores or restaurants (preferably those with multiple locations such as Walmart or Bob Evans)
  • Winter items like scarves, boots, and gloves are probably helpful, and blankets.

They’re not sure what their long term plan is as far as housing and since they don’t have much storage, household items probably aren’t helpful just yet, but will be soon!

To donate to their fund, please click HERE.

Josh Helsel

Josh Helsel

Josh & his niece, Cora

Josh & his niece, Cora

Please share this post because the more we get the word out, the more we can help the Helsel family begin to rebuild their lives. Nothing will ever replace Ron and Lori’s son Josh. The only thing that will help them to heal is time and we cannot give that to them. But we can give them prayers, support, money and everyday items needed for living.

Even if all you can give to the Helsels is a prayer or good thought their way, please do whatever you can to help this family.

Ending Up Helping :: January 8th :: Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio

No matter how old I get or how many years pass after my mom’s death, the moment I start feeling sick, my mind immediately calls for my mom. I had many stomach illnesses growing up, all of which went undiagnosed. Most of my 5th grade year was spent feeling nauseous, sometimes puking, sometimes not. But guess who was there to hold my hair and wipe my tears EVERY time??


I remember one night, I must’ve been about 7 or 8, walking into my parent’s room in the middle of the night because my stomach hurt. Immediately jumping to the call of duty, Mom took my hand and led me to her bathroom. She poured the familiar looking pink medicine and told me to drink it.

“Mom, this smells funny…I don’t want it.”

“It’s medicine! It’s supposed to smell funny! Just drink it!”

So I did. IT was right at that moment that my dear, sweet mother’s eyes adjusted to the light and she realized she had poured me Calamine lotion and NOT Pepto Bismol.


Mom immediately called Poison Control. They instructed her to make me drink lots and lots of water and that the wrong medicine would come right back up. They were right! Mom sat up with me all night, making sure I was really okay.

Even with a few bumps in the road, I can’t imagine being sick as a child without my mom there to tell me everything would be okay and hold me until I fell asleep.

See?? It would be an easy mistake to make in the middle of the night!

See?? It would be an easy mistake to make in the middle of the night! Right??

Thanks to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, kids all across the city, state, and even neighboring states don’t have to be sick without their moms, dads and family nearby.

Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio


The Ronald McDonald House (RMHC) started in Philadelphia about 38 years ago when a local man’s daughter was going through cancer treatments. He and the little girl’s mom spent day after day, night after night on benches in the hospital. This man was Fred Hill, a player for the Philadelphia Eagles. Fred turned to his manager and expressed that no one should have to have a long-term hospital experience like they did. They were close friends with Ray Kroc, McDonald’s founder, and he was able to turn Fred’s idea into a place of comfort and support in a family’s greatest time of need.

“The first Ronald McDonald House in Columbus opened on 18th Street in March 1982 when an old apartment building was purchased and renovated. The new facility was met with a great deal of excitement from the local community, and especially the new partner Nationwide Children’s Hospital.”

The RMHC of Central Ohio provides a place close to the hospital where families can stay over night, eat a hot, home-cooked meal, and receive support from other families experiencing the same trials. Families are asked to donate $20 per night, but no one is every turned away because they cannot afford the donation.

Wanna contribute to the The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio??

“Each year, nearly 3,000 families stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, spending over 20,000 nights at our home-away-from-home.”

Because of this large number and a small operating staff, The Columbus RMCH could not function daily without volunteers. Volunteering opportunities include:

Special Events Volunteer
Volunteer at any of our special fundraising events throughout the year.


Housewarming Volunteers:
Work with our guests to provide a home-like environment – greet, assist with family needs, answer phones, give tours, assist with checkin/checkout, prepare guest rooms after checkout, clean facility, laundry, restock supplies and staff the front desk.”

Click HERE to apply!

One of the really neat volunteering opportunities involves preparing, making and serving dinner to the families stay at The House. I think it would be so fun and so rewarding to get a group of friends together and cook a meal at The RMCH and then be able to serve the families as well. If you’re interested in this, please click HERE!

Since staying at the RMHC of Central Ohio is like staying at home, the center needs all kinds of household items. Click HERE for their wishlist! Your donations here help keep the RMCH feeling like home.

Sometimes it’s just as easy and rewarding to know your money is going towards keeping a family together during a child’s serious illness. Please click HERE to donate monetarily.

Now that I no longer have my mom around to comfort me when I am sick, I can pay it forward by helping to support an organization that keeps families together when they need each other the most.



The RMHC of Central Ohio has a contest going on through March 16th! They are trying to win $100,000 for the 3rd year in a row by voting for Coach Matta at VoteCoachMatta.com. This contest will allow the RMCH to continue serving families of seriously-ill children!



All information was obtained from www.rmhc-centralohio.org

Find the RMHC of Central Ohio on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RMHCofCentralOhio

Check out the the RMHC of Central Ohio blog HERE!


And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping :: January 7th :: Kaleidoscope Youth Center

Anyone who knows me at all knows that at all times, I have an entourage of gay men around me, and if not, I can get ahold of one in a moment’s notice. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m not sure how or why this close friendship with the gay community intrigues me, but it has and my life is the better for it.

Here’s some of my entourage (with Granny!)

Because so many of my closest friends and family are gay, whenever someone tries to pick on them, say nasty things, or deny them their rights, it hurts me on a very personal level. I have many gay students and I want them to know that people are out there trying to make a brighter future for them.

But until then…

Kaleidoscope Youth Center

“Kaleidoscope Youth Center is the only organization in Ohio solely dedicated to supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their allies. Founded in 1994, Kaleidoscope is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.  The mission of Kaleidoscope Youth Center is to work in partnership with young people in Central Ohio to create safe and empowering environments for LGBTQ youth through advocacy, education and support.”

In world where being gay is not quite universally accepted, kids and teenagers need a place where they can go for support and friendship. Many times, they do not have friends or family they can turn to in times of struggle. Unfortunately, this can lead to the needless stories of suicide that are spread across the internet each year. This is why Kaleidoscope is so very important.

“Our vision is to promote and support self-confident, healthy, productive lives for LGBTQ youth as they transition from adolescence into adulthood…For the past three years, Kaleidoscope has been able to develop additional programs offering self-esteem, health and wellness programs and assistance with Gay Straight Alliances in Columbus City Schools, and Franklin County schools, along with those in contiguous counties. Kaleidoscope Youth Center utilizes proven “youth development” strategies in its after-school program.”

Kaleidoscope is a center where kids can go to hang out with their peers, find information on healthy living, and have a mentor to turn to in times of need. But not only does Kaleidoscope cater to the youth of the city, but they train adults as well. They provide education services to people with a desire to mentor and support gay youths in their lives. The center provides information to questions like:

  • Creating an Inclusive Classroom
  • How Can I Be Supportive of a Transgender Person?
  • Someone Came Out to Me. Now What Do I Do?
  • LGBTQ Books (Non-fiction and Fiction)
  • LGBTQ Films (Documentary and Feature)
  • Inclusive Classroom Activities

Wanna contribute to Kaleidoscope??

Just look for the BIG blue arrow!!

Contributing to the Kaleidoscope Youth Center is easy and absolutely appreciated!

“Our physical space is a safe haven for our youth and we want to make them as comfortable as possible.  We provide games, a free lending library, a fully-stocked kitchen, a cyber center and lots more to make this their “home”.  As anyone with teenagers knows, this can be quite an undertaking!”

Kaleidoscope provides an online “Wishlist” of items needed for the center. I actually prefer the idea of donating a specific item, because then I know exactly how my donation is being used. Click HERE for the Kaleidoscope Wishlist!

Is a monetary donation more what you were thinking?? PERFECT!

“Growing up can be difficult – growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can be overwhelming. It is important that those of us who have been there, or know people who have been there, support this generation as we want them to grow into healthy adults with strong self-images. Your gifts help Kaleidoscope Youth Center create and manage empowering programs by and for LGBTQ youth and allies. Support from individual donors is critical. We count on donations from individuals for a substantial portion of our annual budget. “

Click HERE to donate!!

And of course, volunteering is always an option at Kaleidoscope! 

“Volunteers are the backbone of this organization. We could not be where we are today without our dedicated and committed volunteers. Kaleidoscope Youth Center requires over 100 hours of volunteer support each month just to keep our doors open to continue to provide our services to LGBTQ youth.”

Volunteer activities range from Youth Center Volunteers, Special Events Volunteers, Fundraising Volunteers, and Office/Administrative Volunteers!  Please click HERE to apply an get involved!

I sometimes feel as though I live in a beautiful, happy and gay little bubble here in Columbus. I forget that in other places, and heck, even in Columbus, there are still gay people feeling oppression and completely different from everyone around them. We need to show the gay youth that there is a place and a purpose for them in our world. Thanks to organizations like Kaleidoscope, it just keeps getting better.


All information was obtained from www.kycohio.org

Find Kaleidoscope on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KYCOhio


And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping :: January 6th :: Happy Anniversary!

Hoooollllly crap. This blog turned a year old today!!! Where has time gone?!? I looked back on my first post on Ending Up Here and sure enough, I am still standing in stilettos. Okay, fine. I’m actually not wearing shoes, but it’s a snow day here in Columbus! Gimme a break!

A year ago today, I was recovering from a year of an on-again, off-again relationship. It felt like things just kept going wrong in my life. I had graduated college with a degree I never intended to use. I worked for 9 months in a job that sent me home crying every night. My mom was sick (again) with cancer. My mom died from cancer. My dad almost died from an infected colon. My best friends were either moving on, moving away, or both.

I just couldn’t understand why God kept throwing challenge after challenge my way. The first few had made me strong enough! I didn’t need anymore strength tests! What was He trying to prove?? I kept asking, why do I keep ending up here – crying, alone in my bed, with an empty box of Merlot?! Why can’t I end up like the happy people? Why can’t I have a strong, reliable man in my life, be smiling because of all of life’s fortunes and drinking celebratory champagne?

Well folks, that’s just not how life works. Perhaps that is one of the lessons God is trying to teach me. Sure, people look happy, and they might really BE happy, but no one’s life is perfect and I certainly shouldn’t expect mine to be either. This past year has been about taking the good with the bad, and not just focusing in on the bad. Yes, I have had some rough times. But I have had a job to pay my bills, a roof over my head, an amazing family that loves and supports me, and a group of badass friends that inspire me daily.

In the past year, I have:

run a half marathon,

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

become a calendar girl model,

Amanda & I worked our butts off to win this calendar girl competition!

Amanda & I worked our butts off to win this calendar girl competition!

received my masters in education,

About to click "Submit" for my final assignment!

About to click “Submit” for my final assignment!

experimented (and failed) with burlesque dancing,

{No image necessary!}

seen one of my bestest friends celebrate 5 years of being cancer free,

We've got Goose, Iceman (me!), Maverick, Charlie and...Evel Knievel! It was a Top Gun themed celebration!

We’ve got Goose, Iceman (me!), Maverick, Charlie and…Evel Knievel! It was a Top Gun themed celebration!

become a founding member of Columbus’ Alternative Fashion Mob,


watched my brother (whom I only met in 2009) marry one of my best friends,

David, Kelli and I

found out I get to be an auntie to yet another best friend’s baby this May,

rediscovered that I am an independent, self-sufficient woman,

photo 1 (1)

and had a kickass time doing it.

Just a FEW of the people that made this past year so memorable!

Had I stayed in bed with my snotty tissues and empty wine glasses, I would not have had the opportunity to experience all of these wonderful moments.

So instead of focusing on one specific charity today, I am focusing on continuing another year of positive thinking. Yes, donating time and money to a charity is an amazing and selfless thing to do, but why do we do it? Because we have hope for a brighter future in some way. Without hope, donating anything is meaningless. So today, I am focusing on contributing another year of hope to those around me. I want to be a reminder, through my words and my actions, that “ending up here” may be the best place to be.


And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping :: January 5th :: CAPA Ohio

Just about every girl starts developing plans for her dream wedding right around the age of 5. I think I started planning mine before I even realized that there was supposed to be another person involved. All I heard was “party” and “pretty dress.” Any mention of a “groom” went in one ear and out the other.

My dream wedding plans have evolved over the years. At first, I want to be married in the church my family attended until I was 14. We switched churches, so I decided I should like to be married at my favorite place on Earth…Disney World. In all honesty though, that was my mom’s dream wedding for me. At that point, my dream wedding was on the Florida beach. This was my plan for a long time until I started accumulating amazing friends in Columbus, Ohio. I started realizing that it is more important for all of my friends and family to be at my wedding rather than on the beach. Onto Plan C (or D?). Where in Columbus, Ohio could I have my future fabulous wedding…?? Ah ha! My favorite place in the city would do just fine.

The Ohio Theatre!

My mom and I (and occasionally Dad) spent countless evenings at the Ohio Theatre seeing musicals (Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line, Wicked, Rent, Cats, Les Misérables, The Lion King, Chicago…I could go on!) and even The Nutcracker annually for quite a few years. When I was in high school, some friends introduced me to the Summer Movie Series at the Ohio Theatre. Each summer, old(er) movies are played on a giant projection screen in the theatre!

Because I was spending more and more time at the theatre, I decided to research its history. As it turns out, the Ohio Theatre was almost demolished in 1969! I might not have even had a dream wedding location if it weren’t for CAPA Ohio.

Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA)

The Ohio Theatre was built in 1928 as a magnificent movie house! Just think about going to the movies during the Roaring 20s! Now, we have sterile, yet comfy movie theatre. Back then, going to the movie was an event! Not only did the Ohio show movies, but “During the heyday of vaudeville, many top performers crossed the Ohio’s stage, including Milton Berle, Ray Bolger, Cab Calloway, Buddy Ebsen, Martha Raye, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Kate Smith, and a young emcee with a violin named Jack Benny.” 

As if I needed any more reasons to love this theatre, the owner, Thomas W. Lamb, chose Anne Dornan, one of the first women to graduate from the Columbia School of Architecture, to furnish and decorate the place! She searched far and wide, even traveling on African safari to find art and furnishings for the theatre. “Approximately $1,000,000 was spent on art and furnishings — more than the cost of the building itself!” 

In the 1960s, people began moving away from the city and into the suburbs. The lack of traffic around the theatre caused it’s almost-demise and the Ohio Theatre was set for demolition.

CAPA was initially created for the sole purpose of saving the Ohio Theatre. The “Save the Ohio” campaign attracted the attention of many locals and some 2-million dollars was raised to save the theatre. “The newly formed Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA) subsequently purchased and renovated the Ohio Theatre…”

Once the Ohio Theatre was saved, CAPA realized there was potential for even more work do be done. 

“CAPA also owns and operates Columbus’ Palace Theatre (1926) and Southern Theatre (1896). The 925-seat Southern Theatre was CAPA’s second major theatre rehabilitation project and reopened in 1998 following a dramatic $10 million renovation…In August 2009, Broadway Across America and CAPA expanded their agreement, increasing CAPA’s responsibilities to include marketing, event management, ticketing, sponsorship, and public relations for all Broadway productions in Columbus. For 40 years, CAPA has brought the best performing artists from all over the world to the communities it serves.”

If you have seen a stage production at one of Columbus’ beautiful theaters, there is a strong chance you have CAPA to thank! The CAPA Summer Movie Series is still one of my favorite Columbus activities! Tickets are not expensive, I get to see movies on the big screen that I may not have seen before, and, as organist Clark Wilson rattles off before each show, I get to “Sit back and relax in the air conditioned splendor of this magnificent old electric pleasure dome!”

Brenton, Rachel & Emily at the CAPA Summer Movie Series 2012

My friends Brenton, Emily & Rachel at the CAPA Summer Movie Series 2012

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering at one of the CAPA theatre is definitely on my bucket list. You only have to be available 2 nights a month, and you get to experience the show and the theatre for free! Volunteering involves ushering for one of numerous shows at the theatre. The only tiny catch is that you have to be able to stand for the entire show, so I should probably do this while I’m still able! If you’re interested in becoming a theatre volunteer, please click HERE!

Donating to CAPA

CAPA makes donating financially definitely worth your while. No matter how much you can offer, you get the benefits of:

  • Exclusive pre-sale for CAPA presentations (ticket limit per show based on donor level)
  • Discounts and special offers on select shows
  • Preferred seating
  • Dine Originals “Out on the Town” discount card

WHAAA?!?! Talk about some serious perks!! Not only do you get these sweet perks, but “Your support allows CAPA to continue to bring the finest of the world’s performing arts to central Ohio stages, helps maintain our historic theatres, and supports shared services and collaborations impacting the cultural vitality of our community.” One of the things that makes CBus such a wonderful place to live is our vibrant art scene. YOU can help to keep it that way!  If you’re interested in donating to CAPA, please click HERE!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Ohio Theatre seats 2,779 people, so you’ll be sure to get an invitation to my wedding someday (hopefully!) soon!


All information was obtained from www.capa.com

Find CAPA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/capacolumbus


And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping :: January 4th :: The Dick & Jane Project

A typical day in my high school English class:

“Alright guys, here’s what I need from you. Please write…”

{insert guttural groan of disgust}

“…would you just hear me out before you start groaning at me?? Please write 2 paragraphs about {insert awesome free writing prompt here}.

“Miss A…how many sentences is that?”

“5-8 sentences per paragraph, so 10-16 sentences total.”

“Ohmigod Miss A, that’s just doin’ too much!”

 …and these are 11th and 12th graders complaining about writing TWO paragraph. TWO! Paragraphs! Not two pages. Ugh. Because of student responses like this, I am consistently looking for ways to get students excited about writing.

Enter in…

 The Dick & Jane Project

It’s a simple and badass idea. Teenagers write lyrics and local, professional musicians write the music. Created by Ben Shinabery, Cory Roth and Andy Gallagher, the organization aims to show middle school kids that they have a voice and what they say matters.

 “The Dick & Jane Project provides students with the support they deserve and the confidence they need. We view their writing as legitimate works of art, regarding their lyrics with the same esteem that they hold for their favorite recording artists.”

Whether the individual student is a struggling or advanced writer, there is a place for them in the program. Emerging writers are able to focus on expressing themselves without the obstacles of proper grammar, punctuation or spelling (although these things are important elsewhere 😉 ). Proficient and advanced writers can challenge themselves to express themselves in a way beyond simple, structured sentences and paragraphs.

“In either case, transforming their words into professional recordings allows the students to hear their writing through a medium that was previously unattainable: the radio. When they hear their songs and see the reaction from the community, they realize their true potential and are inspired to want to write more.”

The members of The Dick & Jane Project start by helping students to understand that no matter their writing level, they can be a successful songwriter. After a prewriting sessions, students and musicians work together to brainstorm ideas, the musicians provide feedback on the kids’ lyrics and the students give the musicians ideas towards what the song should sound like.

 “At the end of the workshop, the songs are professionally recorded and mastered before they are made available to the public via: radio airtime on WCBE 90.5 (with more stations coming soon), a CD, and digital downloads for iTunes via Bandcamp. Additionally, the participating bands play a live performance of the songs for the students and community.”

After researching The Dick & Jane Project, I have been truly inspired. This is an amazing project  with the ultimate end goal of helping kids realize their potential as writers. Many students don’t know that what they have to say matters. Whether it’s because they’re not heard at home or not excelling is school and thus looked over (this is a whole other troubling issue), becoming a professionally recorded songwriter can be an imperative outlet for any student.

I promised to focus on the organization in my post, and I think I’ve done that…but I have to mention the involvement of my kinda sorta cousin Andy Dodson (our parents were legit BFFs growing up – basically siblings. And if they WERE siblings, we’d be cousins). Andy is a founding member and I’m on the governance committee of The Dick & Jane Project. Whether it is this group, playing in local band, owning a Columbus recording studio, working behind the scenes at Independents’ Day or doing good for some other local CBus organization, Andy doesn’t have enough hands for everything he is involved in. In all honestly, it is partly his passion that inspired me to get more involved myself! Finding out that The Dick & Jane Project was yet another philanthropy he was involved in did not come as a surprise.

Wanna contribute to the The Dick & Jane Project??

“An easy and effective way for someone to participate with the project is to listen to the songs, become inspired by them, and share them with family and friends. Every song we release can be listened to for free anytime on our song page. Buying music is the most straightforward way to donate to the project.  100% of the proceeds from CD sales go toward facilitating future workshops.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  You get to listen to awesome, catchy, and impactful music.  In return, we’ll facilitate the production of more awesome, catchy, and impactful music. Giving to The Dick & Jane Project is an empowering way to give back to the community by supporting young writers in their quest to inspire the world through their personal expression. We offer unique incentives for individual and group donations, from listening to a professionally recorded song you helped fund to getting to watch, in real time, a song get created.”

Well, that’s pretty bangarang, being able to see a live performance of one of the songs created my the kids and musicians! Although they do not have volunteer opportunities listed, they do say that you can email them with your interest and they will find a place for you! Are you in the education field?? Contact The Dick & Jane Project to come to your building and go through their workshops with your students! Although the project mainly focuses on middle schoolers, I will definitely be looking into the possibility of these folks coming to Downtown High School.

As one of the students says at the end of their informational video,

 “Music can touch people’s hearts. A lot of people will not admit to that or not say so, but music can have a large impact on the behavior of people – and that’s important.”

 From the mouths of babes, folks.


All information was obtained from www.thedickandjaneproject.org

Find D & J on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dick-and-Jane-Project/181523561881904


And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping :: January 3rd :: Local Matters

When it comes time for grocery shopping, I honestly don’t think much about where my food comes from, how it’s grown, or really even how to cook it. Give me a recipe for dessert, and I’m golden…but the main course on the other hand…better leave that up to one of my other skilled chef friends! Sure, I try to buy local if it’s an option, I’ve considered “Hmm…hope there aren’t any harmful pesticides on these apples!” and I’ve even cooked a few successful, edible meals for those brave enough to try my cooking. But that’s about where my food knowledge ends.

Until now.

Local Matters

Local Matters is an organization focused on providing us Columbus folks access to locally grown, affordable and healthy food. They also educate people on how to grow their own fruits and vegetables and how to prepare them for delicious meals. As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to not have to watch what I ate or even think about what was going into my body (Oh how I miss my high metabolism paired with 2 hours of hardcore rowing each day!). And that is why Local Matters also helps educate young people about what is going into their bellies – so that when they are older they will have they knowledge to be healthy adults. The organization also works with the head honchos to make sure that our city has policies that allow support for a sustainable food system.

Local Matters’ Vision:

As a community collaborator, Local Matters is transforming the food system through education and increased access to healthful, affordable and sustainable food; while inspiring individuals to consider the role of food in their lives.

Food Matters is a branch of Local Matters that aims to educate children on “an understanding of what healthful food is, where it comes from, how it grows, and how to prepare it.” Kids of all ages are able to leave the course with a knowledge of food, how food is connected to being healthy, and “a language to talk about food.”

Cooking Matters targets the end of child hunger and obesity by educating adults and families on how to purchase and prepare healthy meals at home. By teaming up with the national nonprofit Share Our Strength, volunteer culinary and nutrition experts local community organizations, everyone is able to work together to ensure that children and families are healthy and strong.

Growing Matters educates communities on how to create and maintain successful food-production gardens. “By building strong relationships and providing mutual support, individuals and communities are able to provide their own food supply, and to preserve and prepare delicious meals.”

Because Local Matters has so many branches of their organization, your opportunities to volunteer are endless! Each of the sections listed above has its own team of volunteers, so if you’re good with kids, an artist in the kitchen, or possess two green thumbs, perhaps one of those teams is the right place for you! Other opportunities include things like photographing events and just being a spare set of hands! Check out all the opportunities and sign up HERE!

If your free time is limited and donating money is more appropriate for you, here’s where your money goes:

$25 feeds one Food Matters class fresh & healthy snacks.

$50 provides six weeks of take-home groceries for one low-income family participating in Cooking Matters.

$100 puts one child through 8 weeks of our Food Matters summer camp.

$250 helps one family start growing fresh fruits and vegetables in their yard.

$500​ provides seeds and plants for a school garden.

If Local Matters speaks to you and you would like to donate financially, please do so HERE!

Being educated and aware of what goes into our bodies is imperative for healthy living. Local Matters seeks to provide that education! After my research of the organization, I think it’s safe to say that there might be a Barbie Dream Garden in the house’s future!


All information was obtained from www.local-matters.org

Find Local Matters on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LocalMattersOrg

See? I baked this delicious pumpkin pie from scratch! From an actual pumpkin for Thanksgiving in Chicago with Tim!

See? I baked this delicious pumpkin pie from scratch! From an actual pumpkin for Thanksgiving in Chicago with Tim! Now if I could just learn to GROW the pumpkin…


And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

Ending Up Helping

Before ANYTHING else, Happy New Year from Dewey & me!

Dewey New Years Day

Not only is January 1st the first day of a new year, but it is the first day of JanuAshley! I have this little habit of celebrating my birthday (January 21st!) as much as possible each year. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love receiving awesome gifts from my friends and family (gift giving and receiving is one of my major love languages), but I love celebrating my birthday because it brings friends old and new around. Having a birthday party, dinner, karaoke session, striptease lesson (27th birthday. It was a freaking riot!), movie night, etc. gives my friends and I a reason to spend time together. But yes, it became blatantly apparent last year that my birthday was definitely celebrated to the extreme, thus January being deemed JanuAshley.

This year, I want to do something a little bit different. Yes, I will still celebrate the day of my birth probably a little too much, but I want to do something outside of myself. I have been very blessed to have lived almost 29 years on this beautiful earth, and I want to find a way to pay it forward.

The wise sage Britney Spears once said, “Why don’t ya do somethin’?!”

So I am going to do something.

For each day of the month, I will highlight a different charity, some national, some local, that does good and deserves our attention. I am not asking people to spend money. I will find ways that people can support these charities other than financially. I will also research and report on questions like:

How do I know if this is actually a legit charity?

Where does my money go once it is donated?

What does it mean that my donation is “tax deductible?”

At the end of the month, I will choose one charity that speaks to me the most and donate either time or money, maybe both! I have some other ideas that will hopefully pan out over the next few weeks, but this is my scaffolding!

If there are any worthwhile charities that you think I should highlight, please let me know!! I would love to hear your personal stories and why you think it is so wonderful!

 And now, on with the philanthropies!

The Mid-Ohio Food Bank


I am beginning with The Mid-Ohio Food Bank because for three years in a row, it has been voted the #1 Local Nonprofit Organization by readers of Columbus Underground, a local media enterprise focused on why Columbus is so freaking amazing.

The Mid-Ohio Food Bank opened in April 1980 and seeks to obtain and distribute food to hungry people across central and eastern Ohio. Their mission is important yet simple: “To end hunger one nourishing meal at a time and co-create a sustainable community where everyone thrives.” Since their opening, The Mid-Ohio Food Bank’s operations have flourished and they are now able to feed some 250,000 hungry Ohioans, consisting of children, the working poor, the newly unemployed, seniors, families and veterans.

After the food is received by the food bank, it is sorted, boxed, and stored in the warehouse, which can hold up to 5 millions pounds of food!!! Partnering food pantries, shelters, etc. can then use an online service to order the food they require.

Where they get their food:

Where does my money go??

You can feel confident that 95 cents for every dollar you donate to The Mid-Ohio Food Bank goes straight towards purchasing food. AAAAND!! Every dollar that you donate buys $11 in groceries or FOUR meals! So you don’t actually have to donate a lot of money to make a difference to someone. If you would rather donate time instead of money, there are numerous opportunities on the foodbank’s website; everything from sorting at the warehouse to volunteering at partnering pantries to inspecting damaged food from grocery stores that may still be safe and edible. Got a green thumb?? I certainly don’t, but if you do, you can help maintain the foodbank’s community garden! Produce from the garden can be distributed to partner agencies!

Many years ago (okay, not that many), I went with some of my fellow middle schoolers and we helped sort food at the warehouse. It was a day filled with teamwork and fun and I left feeling like I had done something good for people that need a little bit of help.

And most importantly of all, why should you give to The Mid-Ohio Food Bank? Because hunger is something that is happening in Columbus, Ohio and can be helped. I am fortunate enough to have had a delicious New Years Day lunch with my family consisting of pork, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, peas, gravy and sauerkraut (we’re German! It’s for good luck in the new year!). I blessed to be able to decide what I am going to eat for breakfast tomorrow. A pang of hunger in my stomach results in a handful of veggies in my hand. Because I am so fortunate, and hopefully you are too, we must help those who are not. There are people supporting a family, working 2 jobs and still just barely making ends meet. Will they choose to pay the rent…or to buy groceries? A student goes to school without breakfast everyday and consistently fails his 2nd period class. There is a connection there.

How can I help? I don’t exactly know, but I can provide a strong pair of arms, a fresh set of ideas and a heart that does not feel settled by doing nothing. What about you?


All information was obtained from www.midohiofoodbank.org

Find The Mid-Ohio Foodbank on Facebook at www.facebook.com/midohiofoodbank