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Interview with Cincinnati's All Star Among Us

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photo courtesy of
People's All Star Among Us

This week Major League Baseball and People Magazine will be celebrating 30 people from each Major League city who is an All Star in their community.  These are people who are actually out there doing something in their community, unlike most of us who like to make dirty jokes on the internet.  All of the winners get a trip to this week's All Star game in St. Louis as well as some excellent publicity for their causes.

Cincinnati's representative is Sherri Friedman, who runs Most Valuable Kids, an organization that take ticket donations for just about any event and gives them to kids who can't afford to go to those events on their own.  We have a permanent link to their website in the left sidebar.  Ms. Friedman took some time to answer questions for me before she hopped on the plane to St. Louis. (Please don't hold her upbringing against her, she seems like a really sweet woman.)

RR: Give us some background on yourself.  Where did you grow up?  What did you do before starting the program in Cincinnati?  Do you have another job outside of the charity? 
SF: I grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan.  Prior to starting Most Valuable Kids in Cincinnati (MVK), I worked in public relations in Cincinnati and Chicago.  In addition to co-founding and running MVK, I am a stay-at-home mom of two boys.  I also volunteer at their school and in the community.

RR: Have you been a sports fan your whole life?
SF: Yes, I have always been a big sports fan.  I grew up in Michigan -- my parents doorbell played "Hail to the Victors," their basement was decorated in maize and blue and our family vacations typically centered around bowl games (sorry Buckeyes!).  I have wonderful memories as a child of going to the Tigers games with my family, including the final game of the World Series.  I always enjoyed cheering on the Detroit Pistons in college and after moving to Cincinnati have become true to the Bengals and the Reds.

Sports have always been a huge part of my life and I know how important they are for kids to experience.

RR: Who does Most Valuable Kids help?  How does it work?  What sort of tickets can people donate?
SF: Most Valuable Kids (MVK) is a non-profit agency that distributes unused tickets of sports and cultural events to underprivileged kids in Greater Cincinnati via our website at www.mostvaluablekids.org.  Individuals and corporations can easily donate their tickets at www.mostvaluablekids.org for a tax-deduction.   Most Valuable Kids has more than fifty-five pre-screened charities that benefit under-served kids in the community.  These agencies use the donated tickets as rewards and incentives to the kids in their programs.  Our agencies are responsible for providing the chaperones and the transportation to the various events.  MVK recipient agencies include Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Lighthouse Youth Services, St. Joseph Orphanage, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and more (for a full list of MVK recipient agencies, please visit our web site).

We are able to place just about any tickets to events in Cincinnati - sports and cultural events.  For example, we have sent kids to everything from the Reds games to the Zoo, Disney on Ice, concerts, Kentucky Speedway, Children's Theater and more.

RR: What's the typical turnaround time on tickets?  How far in advance should I donate to make sure the tickets can get used?
 We are fortunate to have Jones the Florist as our sponsor.  Jones provides ticket pick-up and delivery service if tickets are donated at least 72 hours prior to the game.   If you have tickets that you would like to donate but are unable to do so within the required delivery time, we ask that you drop off your tickets at Jones the Florist in Blue Ash or downtown.  This will all be coordinated by an MVK staff member once your tickets have been claimed.  If you have tickets for an event that you know in advance, we typically ask you to mail the tickets directly to the recipient.


RR: How did you decide on Most Valuable Kids as the charity to support?  Was there a specific event that brought it to your attention?
My husband and I went to college with the founder of Most Valuable Kids in Washington, D.C.  We heard about the organization and felt it was needed in Cincinnati.  It's really a win-win-win situation.  Great for the ticket donor, the stadium/attraction and, most importantly, the agencies that serve underprivileged kids. 
 
Whenever my family attends a sports or theater event and we see unused seats, we realize that we have a long way to go in getting the word out about Most Valuable Kids.  It's our goal to fill all of the empty seats in theaters and stadiums in Greater Cincinnati with underserved kids.


RR: Describe the effort that it took to get the program started in Cincinnati.  How did you go about legitimizing and publicizing it in the area?

We had great support from the MVK office in Washington-DC.  We assembled an incredible board of directors that helped us launch MVK to Cincinnati.  Our advisory board consists of several very well-known athletes including Johnny Bench and Tom Jackson.  Additionally, we had incredible support from a local public relations firm in town, Game Day Communications.  They really helped us generate the publicity that we needed to get started.  Basically, we worked very hard establishing relationships with the attractions in town.  We are very appreciative for the support from our MVK Attractions Partners (they are listed on our web site).


RR: Are there other ways that people can get involved with the charity outside of donating tickets?  If so, how?

In addition to donating tickets, we certainly would appreciate people helping us spread the word to their friends, families and colleagues.  The more people are aware of how easy it is to donate their unused tickets, the more smiles we will be able to put on the faces of underprivileged kids.  Of course, we do also accept cash donations on our web site. 

RR: What was the process for you getting picked as the "All Star Among Us" for the Cincinnati Reds?  Who nominated you?  Did you have to interview with anybody?  Was there an obstacle course?
I believe that People Magazine and Major League Baseball selected the three Cincinnati finalists after reviewing all of the nominations.  My husband nominated me for this wonderful honor, hoping that it would help us spread the word about Most Valuable Kids.  I didn't have a formal interview but I was asked to fill out a questionnaire, etc.  

RR: What are you looking forward to most about going to the All Star game in St. Louis?  What events will you be participating in?  Anything else that came in the prize package that will make all of us baseball fans jealous?
I am really looking forward to meeting all of the other nominees.  It is an impressive group of community-minded individuals and I am looking forward to meeting them.  Of course, I am hoping that we will have the opportunity to meet President Obama - he will be there throwing out the first pitch.  However, I am actually the most excited about sharing this once-in-a-lifetime experience with my family while spreading the word about MVK.

We have been invited to participate in a series of events including a press conference, the All Star Parade and a ceremony on the field prior to the All Star Game.   The entire few days of events look incredibly exciting.  It is truly an honor to be representing Cincinnati and the Reds at the All Star Game.

Congratulations to Ms. Friedman on winning the trip!  Now I will go stew in my selfish jealousy.