Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio Spreads Good Will, Makes Positive Difference in Community

By: Emily Bryant, Analyst

I joined Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio (SHTKIO) in February 2013. I learned about the group through Brian Chulik, my eighth grade science teacher at Rocky River High School, and one of SHTKIO’s founding members. Members of our organization suit up as Marvel, DC, and Disney characters to bring cheer to children who are facing adversity, most often in the form of illness, disabilities, and bullying.

Our group’s mission is as follows:
As “SUPER HEROES TO KIDS IN OHIO”, it is our goal to spread good will by (1) simple acts of kindness, (2) the recognition of individuals who have battled through adversity (3) and to encourage the involvement of ‘community’ to make a positive difference in the lives of others; especially children. We continue to make costumed visits to children’s hospitals, special needs centers, and various charitable events whenever we are needed, all in an attempt to bring a few smiles to kids and people.

Spiderman and Super Girl to the Rescue

Spiderman and Supergirl run the circuit with children at the Murray Ridge Center 500

I had been searching for a non-profit organization that I could be excited about contributing to—one where I could really make a positive difference through active involvement. I feel lucky that BrownFlynn has supported me and my colleagues in our desire to give back to the community by providing us with 40 hours of volunteer paid time off (PTO) each year. This time has enabled me to participate in many special events at schools and hospitals during work hours that I would not have been able to otherwise. While I can’t turn invisible, fly, or breathe underwater, I’ve learned that I can make a difference in the lives of others simply by wearing a costume and being present at an event or in a hospital room.

Through personal experience, I know that it can be very easy to feel alone when you are suffering. Because of this, it can be natural to want to hide pain from others, but one of the greatest things we can do as human beings is to share our experiences and how we’ve persevered over our suffering to bring comfort to others. It can give purpose to the adversity we personally have faced in that we may have felt alone in our experience, but we can help ensure that others never have to. In this way, our suffering can become a source of strength. Through helping to heal others, we ourselves heal. Every day, we influence the lives of those around us. We have the opportunity to tip the scales one way or another and be part of something bigger than ourselves. Because of this, anyone can be a hero.

The Wonder Twins biked 75 miles to raise money for individuals living in Northeast Ohio with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) during its 2014 Pedal to the Point ride.

The Wonder Twins biked 75 miles to raise money for individuals living in Northeast Ohio with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) during the 2014 Pedal to the Point ride.

The relationships our members have formed with one another and the families we visit have been life changing. We celebrate together and we grieve together. It’s an incredible privilege to be part of the lives and journeys of the families we work with, and while the ending isn’t always happy, the impacts the children have on everyone they touch are profound, lasting, and inspirational. Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio is honored to recognize these outstanding children as true heroes. Seeing the children’s faces light up when they see us in costume is one of the best feelings in the world. When we walk into a hospital room, we don’t always know the circumstances, but we can help make kids smile, hold their hand, and give them some encouragement and well-deserved recognition.

Since joining Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, I’ve participated in over 30 events as Valkyrie, Wonder Twin Jayna, Super Girl, Mrs. Fantastic, Aquawoman, and Tinkerbell with the goal of bringing joy and temporary reprieve to children struggling with adversity. My brother has since joined the group as Wonder Twin Zan, my boyfriend as Mr. Fantastic, and my mom as the Fairy Godmother. Participation in Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio has been very transformative in my life. I used to think of myself as just a person in costume, but the insignia we wear and the characters we become have strength that has permeated my life out of costume. I find myself judging behavior on whether or not it is something a hero would do. I know that it is important to be accountable for my actions because to many children I visit, there is no costume. I am an actual super hero. And while it’s a big responsibility, it’s also the coolest thing in the world.

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulder to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” – Bruce Wayne (The Dark Knight Rises)

The Fairy Godmother and Tinkerbell celebrate children who have graduated from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at MetroHealth in Cleveland.

The Fairy Godmother and Tinkerbell celebrate children who have graduated from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MetroHealth in Cleveland.

Blurban Living, Issue 2

Vitality in Diversity

A new study released by the Preservation Green Lab, a divison of the National Trust for Historic Preservation finds that neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings give rise to more diverse populations and more new businesses than those made up of newer, larger structures. The study, titled Older, Smaller, Better: Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influences urban vitality, focused on three cities with strong real estate markets and rich urban fabrics: San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D. C. The report empirically weighed the age, diversity of age, and size of buildings against 40 economic, social, cultural, and environmental performance metrics.

The results provide the most complete validation of 1960s urban activist, Jane Jacobs’ hypothesis that “cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.”

The Preservation Green Lab gives seven examples “that demonstrate how the character of buildings and blocks influence urban vitality in some of the nation’s strongest urban real estate markets.”

  1. Older, mixed-use neighborhoods are more walkable.
  2. Young people love old buildings.
    1. These areas are also home to a more diverse assemblage of residents.
  3. Nightlife is most alive on streets with a diverse range of building ages.
  4. Older business districts provide affordable, flexible space for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds.
    1. A mixed-structure neighborhood is significantly more likely to house a higher proportion of new businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses.
  5. The creative economy thrives in older, mixed-use neighborhoods.
    1. Including media production businesses, software publishers, and Jennifer Griffiths.
  6. Older, smaller buildings provide space for a strong local economy.
  7. Older commercial and mixed-use districts contain hidden density.

Sadly, many cities, regions, and states suffer from outdated zoning regulations, overly prescriptive building codes, misdirected development incentives, and limited financing tools that disincentivize the reuse of older structures in urban areas, while incentivizing new development in “greenfields.”

Cleveland Responds

Here in Cleveland, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA) released yesterday its strategic vision for “linking and enhancing development, public spaces, and destinations in Downtown Cleveland.” The plan has the double-purpose of knitting together Downtown’s various neighborhoods (i.e. Warehouse District, Waterfront, Theatre District) to guide future public and private investment decisions and aid the renewal of the Downtown Cleveland Special Improvement District (i.e. all the nice yellow-shirted DCA folks who clean the streets and guide visitors around town).

The Step Up Downtown plan demonstrates our City’s commitment to shaping the 21st century city as they “aim to achieve core values that include a vibrant, inclusive, green, connected, and innocative community.”

I am proud and happy to see our civic leaders’ forward-thinking in creating a vision built on the tenets of a mixed-use, diverse, and resilient community! It is more important than ever for us to appreciate their work and aid in its translation to Cleveland’s neighborhoods, surburbs, and our region at large. 

To read more about the Preservation Green Lab’s study: visit

To read DCA’s strategic vision, Step Up Downtown, visit

Blurban Living, Issue 1

“Walkable” Neighborhoods Lower Risk of Diabetes

According to a pair of studies presented as the American Diabetes Association’s 74th Scientific Sessions earlier this month, living in a neighborhood that is conducive to walking substantially lowers the rate overweight, obesity, and diabetes. Gillian Booth, MD, Endocrinologist and Research Scientist as St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto stated “how we build our cities matters in terms of our overall health. As a society, we have engineered physical activity out of our lives. Every opportunity to walk, to get outside, to go to the corner store or walk our children to school can have a big impact on our risk for diabetes and becoming overweight.”

The studies found people living in neighborhoods with greater walkability saw on average a 13 percent lower development of diabetes over those that were less walkable during a 10-year span. Read more at the ADA Site.

By Jared Robbins, Analyst

(Re)Purposeful Thinking

What drives sustainable businesses today? Purpose. What will drive sustainable businesses tomorrow? Repurpose.

Repurpose means to reuse or alter something to make it more suitable for a different purpose. In a business sense, it means to think of resources that already exist in an alternate state. Repurposing broadens your perspective, provides new opportunities, and like the old saying, turns “one man’s trash into another man’s treasure.”

BrownFlynn took (re)purposeful thinking to heart in our recent office move to Terminal Tower in Downtown Cleveland. We converted a historic space from the Van Sweringen brothers into a modern office that fosters collaboration, innovation and “walking the talk” of sustainability. Our new location enables several employees and clients to travel sustainably, as we are located at the heart of the city with public transportation to the airport and local amenities.

framily open house invitationIMG_1875

“Clearly, we’re committed to the city and want to be part of its vibrancy,” says Principal Margie Flynn. “We’re committed to sustainability and want to make sure we’re walking the talk in what we’re doing. And the essence of sustainability is really historic preservation.” Learn more about our office move in our GreenBiz Shift Happens article, “A sustainable work environment breeds a healthy, happy culture.”

Throughout the move process, we gave old office furniture to employees to repurpose in their homes. We also donated office supplies to local charities, such as Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio and local schools. By repurposing our office items, we helped eliminate waste and gave back to our community.

Whether your company is creating a waste management plan, moving, or looking for new sustainability projects, below we have highlighted creative ideas to help you repurpose:

  • Create a corporate office supply recycle store, where employees recycle and reuse office supplies and your sustainability department can track savings for not purchasing new office supplies.
  • Consider legacy office furniture or family “hand-me-downs” as a hip new way to style your office or home! Furniture lasts for generations—why not repurpose antique furniture from your previous colleagues or relatives that carries traditions and decades of memories?
  • House Logic provides tips to repurpose take-out containers, utensils and chopsticks.
  • The CHIC Home provides tips to create functional storage out of items you already have: old doors, shoe boxes, egg cartons, and more!

We encourage you to think purposefully and (re)purposefully both at your company and in your personal life, as this mindset empowers you to live sustainably.

By Brittany VanderBeek, Analyst



BrownFlynn through the Eyes of a High School Senior

To start, I want to thank BrownFlynn for such a great opportunity to take a step outside of the classrooms and school hallways. I also want to point out that this is my first time being in any type of office setting, so some observations may appear more obvious to some. Before coming to BrownFlynn, my limited knowledge of the firm included their three practice areas: consulting, communications, and training. However, at that time, I didn’t really understand what those areas actually entailed. That being said, these are the things that I learned and the things that stood out to me most in my time here:

  • Communication: This is an important tool for success in any area of life. I think everyone at BrownFlynn is either very aware of this or, most likely, they are all great by nature. From my limited amount of experience coordinating events at my school, I know how difficult it can be to rely on others. At BrownFlynn, they have to do this all the time, and yet they always seem to keep calm and collected. Everyone knows how to work efficiently and everything is coordinated to maintain a streamlined, smooth working environment.
  • Work Ethic: Whether they’re working on a report, planning a layout, meeting with clients, or doing any of the other countless things that seem to be happening at BrownFlynn, everyone is always focused and giving their best effort. This is just what I picked up from being able to listen in on conversations about upcoming events and tasks, so I can only imagine how much they actually put into action.
  • Atmosphere: Although the BrownFlynn team is always busy at work, they still make coming to work an enjoyable experience. They are always willing to help and support each other. Everyone’s ability to keep themselves and their clients so organized with meetings and deadlines is very impressive.

Though a large part of BrownFlynn’s work is with helping companies manage their sustainability efforts, they also practice sustainability in their own office. They have blue recycling bins at every desk and have worked to reduce their waste. They even make their own sustainability reports available to the public. Implementing these philosophies in their office really demonstrated to me how passionate BrownFlynn is about their policies.

A few of the specific things I participated in while here: I was able to attend a fun networking luncheon, a webinar hosted by BrownFlynn about GRI and SASB, numerous phone conferences, and I had the opportunity to help with some preliminary edits. These are all things that I have never experienced and I know will give me good footing when I begin my own jobs in the future.

By Mia Mastroianni, High School Senior, Laurel School

Gardening: Nourishing the Environment and the Soul

Spring is here and that means it’s time to start planning and preparing my garden. Although I grew up helping my parents garden, that was more out of obligation than desire. When I started my own garden three years ago, I wasn’t sure where to begin. The good news is I didn’t overcomplicate it and I still ended up with a great garden. A few years later, I’m still experimenting and I encourage you to do the same.

Why Garden?

There are so many great reasons to grow a backyard garden. You can shave some cost off of your weekly grocery bill. Fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables taste incredible, far better than their grocery counterparts picked early to keep from spoiling in the shipping process. As backyard gardening and buying local produce becomes more prominent, collectively we can decrease the amount of petroleum required to ship produce from distant locations as well as decrease the resulting GHG emissions. And while all those reasons are sufficient, there is something about gardening that nourishes the soul. So, I encourage you to try a backyard garden experiment – and involve kids too. Teach the next generation that food comes from plants, not grocery stores. Let them share in the awe and satisfaction that comes with growing your own food.

How to Experiment with Gardening

1. Select a Sunny Location: The first thing you want to do is figure out the best location in your yard for a garden. Look for a spot that gets sunlight eight hours a day. There are two locations in my yard that would’ve worked. I chose the one closer to my house and water source. Last year I was fortunate enough to get a rain barrel for Mother’s Day and we connected that to our downspout, collecting rainwater for the garden.

2. Create Your Garden Bed: Choose the kind of garden bed that you want. I was able to salvage a used raised bed structure. You can easily build your own raised bed using wood, rocks or bricks to define the edge of your bed. Don’t forget that vegetables can also be integrated into your landscaping as well. Who says that space is only for flowers? One thing to keep in mind is critters. We have wood stakes around the inside of our garden frame with an attached wire fence. I can step over it at the same time it keeps the rabbits out. To fill a raised garden bed with dirt, we ordered a truckload of organic soil but you can buy bags as well. There are lots of tips around nutrients you can add to your soil, but it’s not necessary. I don’t add anything to my soil and still have a very productive garden. If you are working with an existing space, remove any grass and till the ground to break up hard soil, allowing for easier plant growth.

This is my preferred method for staking tomato plants to support their growth. It’s effective and it looks great too. You can purchase long wood stakes or bamboo rods at your local home improvement store and reuse them year after year.

This is my preferred method for staking tomato plants to support their growth. It’s effective and it looks great too. You can purchase long wood stakes or bamboo rods at your local home improvement store and reuse them year after year.

3. Choose What You Will Grow: This is just an experiment, so select what you will try, get going and see what works. You can switch it next year. Given the limited space in my garden, I had to be selective. I thought about what I would like on hand weekly or what I could freeze or can to use in the winter. I asked some avid gardeners what was easy versus difficult to grow. For me, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, spinach, peppers, carrots and herbs grow without troubles, in Ohio. I’m planning on adding new veggies this year and working some berry bushes into my landscaping. I would not recommend cucumber or other vine-like plants such as cantaloupe or watermelon in a small garden. Vine plants take over your garden and squeeze out other plants. Talk to a gardener about your ideas and get their suggestions.

My kids and I were very proud of our first carrot crop.

My kids and I were very proud of our first carrot crop.

4. Remember Daily Care: In the dead heat of summer, watering your garden daily is critical to the vitality of your plants. It’s best to water in the early morning, before 10 AM. You can water in the evenings as well, but if the water doesn’t dry and sits on the plant leaves that could cause mold problems. Having an herbicide/pesticide-free garden is important to me, but that also means more weeds. The use of mulch or straw and stepping stones helps prohibit weed growth. It takes some weeding by hand too and thankfully my neighbors forgive me for the weeds I don’t get to.

So what are you waiting for? Start your garden experiment this weekend, even if that means a basil plant in the windowsill or one little potted tomato plant on your back deck. Enjoy your experiment!

By Jennifer Andress, Senior Consultant

Sustainability reporting evolving as a management tool

By: Darrell Delamaide

An improved reporting process is helping companies identify gaps in their sustainability practices, which, when closed, can lead to big savings

The latest guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), issued less than a year ago, are turning sustainability reporting into more of a management tool and less of a marketing exercise.

The new version, called G4, introduces a whole set of guidelines on governance and places the emphasis on prioritizing which actions of the organization have a truly significant impact on the environment and society.
The focus is more on ‘how’ the report is produced, rather than on ‘what’ it finally says. In other words, it is designed to engage the organization from the C-suite on down in managing the impact rather than putting out a checklist of indicators.

This was the message in a training session with high-level government officials (including several procurement officers) conducted in Washington on April 23 and 24 by BrownFlynn, a sustainability consulting firm and the first US-certified GRI training partner. This training was conducted in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development at WBCSD’s US offices.

To read the full article in Corporate Secretary magazine please click here.