Daniel and Forrest Theiss wanted to fight for their country.
Daniel dreamed of becoming an airborne medic in the U.S. Army. Forrest enlisted with the U.S. Marines.
Instead, the 18-year-old identical twins are fighting for their lives after being diagnosed with a genetic condition – so rare it doesn’t even have a name – that causes blood vessels in their body to rip and shred.
Daniel and Forrest Theiss. Provided
In the past year and a half, the once healthy and active Mason teens have each undergone multiple surgeries to repair aortas shredded like wet tissue paper. Complications during a surgery in January – Daniel’s third major operation – left him a paraplegic.
For the brothers and their parents, Matt and stepmom Kathy, the journey has been both heartbreaking and harrowing, but also inspiring – a lesson about finding joy in adversity and of the transformational power of family and community.
At first glance, it’s hard to tell Daniel and Forrest apart.
Sharing a 98 percent genetic match, both have the same tall, lanky build, aquiline nose and doleful brown eyes. Even their voices – and their infectious sense of humor – are nearly indistinguishable
The differences, they will tell you, are in the details.
Daniel, the older brother by five minutes, is practical and patient. Forrest, the entertainer, embraces the limelight, while Daniel, the quiet artist, prefers to remain behind-the-scenes.
When Matt’s job as a business analyst moved the family from Long Island, N.Y., to Mason the summer before their senior year in 2011, the boys quickly found their groove at Mason High School.
Daniel joined the cross country team. Forrest tried out for the school musical. Despite a bout of pneumonia that fall that sidelined Daniel, there was little sign of what was to come.
Audrey Shooner,center, and Dharma Patel ,left, and Avalon Richard practice during gymnastic’s class at the Mason Community Center. (Tony Tribble for the Enquirer)
Carrie Blackmore Smith reports:
When local governments are forced to cut back on services, community centers and their programs often appear at the top of the list of perks a community can survive without.
Enter Colerain Township, one of the region’s largest communities, where officials have cut some programming this year but managed to scrape together funds to keep their center running. Now they’re searching for a long-term solution to afford the community center. In Cincinnati, three community centers and six pools are on the chopping block, part of the Plan B solution to ease a $35 million budget deficit.
But Springfield Township and others – including on a larger scale, Mason – are bystepping that pressure by turning their centers into self-sustainable operations, an uncommon occurrence in the region.
And they’re not relying on cuts to get there. Instead, they’re adding new features.
Turning the revenue tide
Few local governments want to make their centers solvent; some consider the costs well worth the value and haven’t felt pressure from residents or elected officials to match revenues with costs. Other centers are clearly struggling, but aren’t quite sure how to deal with it.
Ohio Municipal League spokesman Kent Scarrett said he hasn’t noticed a trend of governments trying to balance community center budgets but wasn’t surprised to hear it’s happening in Southwest Ohio.
“It makes sense,” Scarrett said. “Obviously, money is tight … and these services and community activities benefit the social fabric of communities.”
A partnership between the Mason Community Center and TriHealth has created an unusual way to learn how to shop for healthy foods.
Live Well in Mason has prepared a spring break scavenger hunt that takes participants any one of three Kroger stores near Mason and Deerfield Township. There they will be hunting for several healthy food items and answering questions about them.
“There are misconceptions out there about some products that people think are healthier than they really are because of the words (on the packaging),” said Tiffany Wentzel, a coordinator with Live Well in Mason.
“We want to help people become more aware of healthy food items and where to find them at the grocery store.”
Items on the list were selected specifically for the Krogers stores at 9600 S. Mason-Montgomery Road, 4700 Fields-Ertel Road and 7855 Tylersville Road.
Families can pick up the scavenger hunt sheet at the Mason Community Center, 6050 Mason-Montgomery Road beginning March 24. Completed sheets can be returned to any customer service desk at the community center through March 31.
There is no cost to participate and you do not have to be a member of the community center. Any family that completes the sheet correctly will receive a prize.
Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana may have one thing in common and it’s not good, according to results from a Gallup survey released last week.
The well-being of people in the states lags behind the national average and are among the lowest in the country.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index said Kentucky residents rated their state next to last at No. 49, Ohio was No. 44 and Indiana was No. 42. The ratings were 62.7, 64.6 and 65.1, respectively for the three states.
At the national level, the average well-being rating was 66.7 last year, up from 66.2 a year earlier. Gallup said that despite improvements in the national economy, the well-being scores in 2012 remained on par with ratings since 2008.
Mason Food Pantry Director Gina Brown. The Enquirer/ Tony Jones
In an affluent community like Mason, many kids spend after-school hours and weekends at dance classes or swim practice.
But such luxuries are an impossibility for a growing number of Mason families, who struggle to pay the bills and can’t afford these extras.
Now, thanks to a $20,000 grant from General Mills, the Mason Food Pantry is hoping to bridge that gap while emphasizing the importance of fitness and nutrition to children in need.
The pantry is one of 25 groups nationally to receive a grant through General Mills’ sales community grant program. Three other local organizations also received grants, including Girls on the Run of Greater Cincinnati, Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses and Life Pantry in Loveland.
Local General Mills sales offices nominate nonprofit organizations that work to alleviate hunger or advance nutrition wellness in their communities, said Tiffani Tekulve, an account manager at GM’s Mason sales office.
The Mason Food Pantry’s new program, Health Over Performance Fit Kids program, meets both of those goals, she said.
The program, which the pantry plans to roll out in the New Year, focuses on fitness assessment, professional development and recognition, said pantry director Gina Brown.
The goal is to minimize comparisons between kids while supporting them as they pursue personal fitness goals for lifelong health, she said.
The Mason Community Center will ring in the New Year with a 10-week weight loss challenge.
The center will launch its Empowered to Lose BIG challenge starting Jan. 5.
The program, which is open to community members and non-members, offers weekly weigh-ins, e-newsletters with tips and advice and healthy eating tips from a nutritionist. Cost for this program is $10. Those who register by Dec. 22 will receive a free T-shirt.
Free how-to clinics will be held every other Wednesday starting on Jan. 16 with a 45-minute session on “Making Successful Changes.” Sessions are offered at 11:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.
Prizes will be awarded for the top men and women finishers in three separate categories: most pounds lost, most percent body weight lost and most “pound reward points.”
For an additional cost, participants can meet up to twice weekly with a certified instructor for 45-minute workout sessions. The classes, which are geared to people of all fitness levels, meet at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays from Jan. 8 through March 14.
Cost for this 10-week series is $120 for premier members; $142 for basic members; $167 for Mason residents and $192 for non-residents.
Register online for the challenge or fitness classes at www.imaginemason.org (activity # 186100) or call 513-229-8555.
Health system TriHealth had a message for 150 employees Wednesday: We really mean it this time.
The 150 workers who didn’t get the required flu shots by the Nov. 16 deadline received termination notices the day before Thanksgiving.
To keep their jobs, they need a flu shot by Dec. 3.
“The flu vaccine still is the best way to protect our employees and our patients against the flu,” spokesman Joe Kelley said.
TriHealth required all 10,800 employees to get flu shots. This is the third year it’s issued terminations for failure to get vaccinations.
TriHealth operates Good Samaritan and Bethesda North hospitals, the Queen City Physicians and Group Health Associates doctors groups (including a location in Mason) and Hospice of Cincinnati.
It has offered the shots for free since Oct. 1 and will continue to offer them through Dec. 3.
Several of the region’s biggest health systems also require flu shots. Insurers and employers often recommend them to fight off the flu, but health systems are increasingly adamant in an effort to protect patients.
Some have gone even further.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in previous years has restricted access to patient rooms for everyone except families during flu season.
One example was the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus.
The program provides a fitness center membership, with customized classes for seniors to improve their strength, flexibility, balance and endurance, along with health education seminars, online support classes and program advisors.
The center will hold a free informational seminar about the program at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Enrollment for the program begins at 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3 at the front entrance desk. The center is at 6050 Mason-Montgomery Road and can be reached at 513-229-8555.