Features

OhioHealth Fore Hope

Volunteering: Good for the soul

Volunteering is not only good for the community — it’s good for you, too. In fact, studies show the act of volunteering boosts physical and mental health and may even help you live longer. 

Get golfers back onto the links

Golfers living with the effects of a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or other neurological conditions can get back into the game, thanks to OhioHealth Fore Hope. The golf therapy program provides physical, cognitive, and social benefits, but it requires a helping hand, since balance is often an issue. Volunteers tee up golf balls, position putters, and perform other simple tasks that make a big difference. 

Russ Spreckelmeier

All in the family

Russ Spreckelmeier won his first rodeo prize money at age 11, riding a steer. It was $8, which was both not very much and just enough. “Man, I knew it, then. I knew, this is what I’m gonna do. In all honesty, it felt like a natural talent.”

“Rodeo was really popular in California at the time. They had some real stock out there,” the senior Spreckelmeier says. “When I came back to Ohio, they were just playing around with Wild West shows and such.”

Bird

Taking refuge

A full-figured pig named Baby lounges, unruffled, in a puddle of mud at Sunrise Sanctuary in Marysville. A lone duck waddles past, oblivious to the prodigious porker to its left.

“Our babies are all unique and special souls that are loving, thoughtful, and funny individuals,” says Sandy Horvath, the animals’ primary caretaker. “They’re not just numbers. They are special beings deserving of our love and respect.”

All around Ohio, animal sanctuaries provide respite and relief for misfit animals, whether they’ve been abused or neglected or simply moved on to greener pastures after their working days ended.

Paula Schleis and Stephen Yoder

Streaming consciousness

A week after Paula Schleis retired from the Akron Beacon Journal, she received a text message from her nephew: 

"I know what you’re going to do in retirement — do a podcast with me."

Schleis texted back: "What’s a podcast?"

After several brainstorming sessions, Schleis and her nephew, Stephen Yoder, created Ohio Mysteries, a podcast that explores unsolved crimes, local legends, and interesting stories with an Ohio connection. They use Facebook and Instagram to interact with a growing community of armchair detectives — some of whom occasionally provide additional details or a family connection to that week’s episode.

Charles Hall

He who smelted it

Thompson, Ohio, native Charles Hall discovered by experimentation the process that reduces aluminum from its ore to the malleable metal that swaddles your candy or can be put to use in any of thousands of ways. It all started in Ohio in February 135 years ago.

In fact, a 6-pound, 9-inch pyramid of aluminum was set atop the Washington Monument in 1884 just for that purpose. The cost of that pyramid is unknown, but had it been constructed two years later, its cost would have been far less: Reducing aluminum’s ore to a metal was labor-intensive and expensive before a 23-year-old Hall — working in a shed in his parents’ Oberlin backyard — happened upon what is now called the Hall method for reducing globs of ore to metal by applying electric current.

Mimi's Donuts

Donut paradise

In the kitchen of Jupiter Coffee and Donuts in Fairfield, Ohio, co-owner Cindy Wallis proudly shows off a feathery circle of sweetness — warm, luscious, and oozing with classic glazed-donut flavor. 

“Donuts sell here. They just sell,” says Terri Niederman, owner of the Donut Spot, also in Fairfield. “It’s unbelievable.”

Nine shops, in cooperation with the Butler County Convention and Visitors Bureau, launched the trail in 2016 to boost sales and draw visitors. Participants secure a Donut Trail Passport and have it stamped at each location. A completed passport earns the bearer a souvenir T-shirt.

Golden retriever

Hero dogs

Golden retrievers are beautiful and affectionate dogs. They’re great with children and get along with other dogs and, usually, cats. Those characteristics make them among the most popular dog breeds.

In Ohio, 102 golden retrievers were enrolled in the study. Among them is Montana, now 9, who lives in Oberlin with his owners, Kim and Scott Faulks, members of Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative. 

Montana was a full brother to Ryder, the Faulks’ first golden retriever. “Ryder gave us three wonderful years,” says Kim Faulk. “He was never upset or angry, always loving and trusting.”

The Faulks were devastated when Ryder died of cancer at only 3 years old. Ryder is the reason that Montana is a “Hero,” which is what GRLS participants are called.

Gold pan

Glacial gold

Most folks familiar with Ohio’s geography know that glaciers covered two-thirds of the state, sparing only the southeastern portion from the cold crush of a Pleistocene winter. 

The glaciers also left a little prize that they picked up on the slow slog south: gold.

Yes, there is gold in Ohio. You can find it in perhaps most any stream that flows over glaciated Ohio, but the vast majority of the fine flecks of the yellow metal occur where the glaciers advanced their farthest and fell apart — melted — dropping what they had carried along.

Saw-whet owl

Give a hoot

Nocturnal, secretive, and steeped in folklore, owls are cryptic wild critters that give up the details of their lives only grudgingly. Blake Mathys, a member of Marysville-based Union Rural Electric Cooperative, hopes to shine a little light on the subject this winter.

“My main reason for developing the project is that, for a number of reasons, owl sightings often don’t get reported, even by citizen-scientists and serious birders,” Mathys says. “I want to provide a secure outlet to get a better idea of the true numbers of owls in our state during the winter months.”

Wild boars

Wild hogs

Lon Swihart cares for 120 hogs on a bucolic farm in rural Preble County. Hog farming is part of the landscape and cultural fabric here in towns like Eaton and West Alexandria.

Today, many of the pork producers are larger, corporate-owned operations where the pigs are kept indoors and escape is impossible, so many of the fences have disappeared. Swihart’s farm has a 4-foot-high cement wall and double fencing. But, it turns out, the best fences are made from love and happiness.

“My hogs don’t want to go anywhere — they are happy here,” Swihart says. He can count the times on one hand over the decades that a hog has gotten loose, and each time it has come back. His hogs prefer life on the farm over a life on the lam.