Meet Emily – The Next Jack Hanna

Meet Emily. Emily is an all-around rock star. She is an excellent student and is involved in more extracurricular activities than most kids her age. She plays electric guitar, practices taekwondo, rides horses, plays various sports, is a member of 4-H, and in all of her spare time, works at The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (The Zoo). Did we mention Emily is a rock star?

A junior at Buckeye Valley, Emily places a high priority on her school work. She excels in her academics which her mom attributes to her extreme work ethic and dedication to her studies. Emily knows that to be accepted into a zoology program in college, she must put in the work to get good grades in high school first. Emily’s passion for animals and desire to be a zookeeper someday is what inspired Emily to apply to work at The Zoo.

Becoming a Zoo Aide is no easy task. Emily had to compete against 200 other applicants, go through an extensive interview process, and explain to The Zoo why they should hire her over someone else. To prepare herself for this experience, Emily participated in a job readiness training. During this training she learned about what she should wear to an interview, practiced how to communicate with coworkers, and participated in mock interviews. This 8-week course proved to be very useful in preparing for her interview with The Zoo.

When it came time for Emily’s big interview with The Zoo, her job coach accompanied her. However, Emily was so prepared from her job readiness course that she never needed to lean on her coach for support. They asked Emily why they should hire her and she confidently answered, “I am a hard worker and passionate about animals.” Emily interviewed so well that they offered her one of the positions in the Zoo Rides Department on the spot. We asked her what it felt like to hear she had gotten the job and she exclaimed, “It was awesome!”

Emily has worked as a Zoo Aide since 2016 and Rides Operator since the Spring of 2018. Some of her responsibilities include educating guests about animals, operating rides, and driving the train around The Zoo. In recognition of her excellent work as a Zoo Aide, Emily has received her fair share of Zoo Cash which is awarded by coworkers and visitors when they see a Zoo employee doing a good deed. It’s safe to say that Emily loves her job. Like most people who frequent The Zoo, Emily has her favorite exhibits and animals too. She enjoys the manatees, Asia Quest, kangaroos, giraffe feeding, and monitoring the polar bears on The Zoo’s tablet. “I have always wanted to work at The Zoo. This was a good way to get my foot in the door.”

We asked Emily what advice she would give to someone applying for a job and she said, “Practice before you go in for your interview. Don’t give up on what you’re trying to achieve.” Wise words from such a young professional!

In her free time, Emily enjoys playing video games, watching movies and writing letters to her favorite celebrities. Emily has written to Adam Sandler, Tia Torres (Pit Bulls & Parolees), Dr. Pol (Nat Geo Wild), Duck Dynasty, and Colleen Ballinger (YouTube celebrity). She has received an autographed picture or personalized note from all of these celebrities. The next star she plans to write is Kelly Clarkson.

We know that whatever Emily sets her mind to, she can achieve. Keep up the great work Emily!

Hugs for Hudson

Hudson is a sweet, charismatic, musical and above all, strong 10 year old. Just before starting Kindergarten, Hudson was diagnosed with Juvenile Batten’s Disease (JBD). There are currently 14 different forms of JBD, each varying greatly from person to person. Similarly, the symptoms experienced by each person are unique. Approximately two to four out of every 100,000 children in the United States have JBD. While JBD is a very rare, Hudson and his family remain positive and focused on the future.

When it comes to musical instruments, Hudson has played just about all of them. From guitar, to piano, to drums, Hudson loves them all. “Anything that stimulates his senses,” explained his mom.  In addition to his fascination with instruments, Hudson likes to read, travel, and try new foods. Unlike most 10 year old boys, Hudson loves vegetables. “We have learned to cook some of the strangest vegetables,” shared his mom. “We have made everything from broccoli to rutabagas and he likes them all!” Hudson has also been a joyful participant of Special Olympics and even qualified to go to State Games.

For Hudson, one of the symptoms he has experienced with JBD is blindness. While you might think losing his sight over time would be a frustration, “he has never complained about his vision,” shared his mom. “Hudson is so resilient and adapts to everything.” A fun fact about Hudson is he can tell you the name of any state or country just by feeling its shape.

We asked his parents what they have learned from Hudson and they said, “Hudson has taught us how to be parents of a child with a disability. He has shown us that we don’t need to sweat the small stuff.” A few years ago, Hudson and his family did not have much hope for the current treatments available for JBD. They were all too aware of the symptoms Hudson would soon experience and the devastatingly short life expectancy that comes with JBD. But recently, their hope has flourished with new clinical trials that seem promising. To advance these important research efforts and clinical trials, Hudson’s family established the Hugs for Hudson Research Fund at the Beyond Batten Disease Foundation (

Some of the treatments now in sight are thought to be able to slow the progression of this disease and extend life. In partnership with other families who have a child with JBD, Hudson’s family joined the “Be Project.” The Be Project is a campaign to raise $6 million in 24 months to fund this new treatment. Since 2016, these families have raised $5 million. With only a few months left, they are actively working to raise the last $1 million needed towards their goal. As a part of this campaign, there is a “Be The Change” call to action encouraging participation in their text to donate initiative. By texting HUGS to 501501, a $10 donation will be added to the next phone bill to support continued research for Hudson and all of the other children impacted by Batten disease.

As a special part of their fundraising efforts, Hudson’s family has teamed up with the Columbus Blue Jackets for a night of hockey and philanthropy. On October 20, for every CBJ ticket purchased, $10-$20 will go back to support Hugs for Hudson. For more information regarding this event, visit:

Hudson and his family have found great support from families all over the world and through their support administrator at the County Board. Together, Hudson’s family continues to persevere and live life to the fullest.

As we left Hudson’s home, his mom said, “I can’t wait for you to come and do a follow up story next year! We have so much hope for the impact this treatment could have on Hudson’s quality of life.”  We are excited to follow up with Hudson too! Stay tuned for more Hugs from Hudson in 2019!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of NDEAM is to provide education about disability employment issues and to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”

The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“Americans of all abilities must have access to good, safe jobs,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions. Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition and drives innovation.”

Reflecting this year’s theme, throughout the month, DCBDD will be highlighting stories of successful employment and employment resources.  “DCBDD is proud to be a part of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” said Superintendent Kristine Hodge. “We want to spread the important message that providing inclusive gainful employment opportunities is beneficial to both the employee and the business.”

Proposed 0.4 Mil Continuous Levy Request on November Ballot

DCBDD has proposed a new 0.4 mil continuous levy for the November 6, 2018 ballot. DCBDD currently serves around 2,500 people from birth throughout their lifespan. Over the past 5 years, DCBDD has seen enrollment grow by an average of 3% each year. This significant growth is projected to continue. DCBDD has proposed a 0.4 mil continuous to support and sustain this growth. The facts and information below explain the reason for the new request.

About the 0.4 Mil Continuous Request

  • It will generate $3,131,579 per year to support the continued growth and demand for services (based on 2017 assessed values)
  • The cost to the taxpayer is $14 per year (based on a home valuation of $100,000)
  • If the 0.4 mil levy passes, DCBDD will allow its existing 0.56 mil levy to expire

Why is DCBDD requesting this levy?

  • 79% of the people served by the board are children
  • The cost to serve a child on average is $2,101 compared to the average cost to serve an adult which is $16,293
  • In the next 5 years, 159 children will transition to adults increasing services by nearly $8.5 million
  • The 0.4 mil continuous levy provides a long-term and stable funding source for DCBDD
  • The 0.4 mil levy supports DCBDD in preparing for future growth and demand for services

What existing levies does DCBDD have currently and what are the plans should the 0.4 mil levy pass?

  • Currently, DCBDD has a 0.56 mil levy and 2.1 mil levy which are both up for renewal in 2020
  • Should the 0.4 mil continuous levy pass, DCBDD will allow the 0.56 mil levy to expire resulting in a tax decrease for taxpayers

More Information

Download Fact Sheet

If you have questions or comments about the upcoming levy, please contact 740-201-5810 or send us an email.

Early Intervention ROI

DCBDD is now accepting informal Requests of Interests (ROI) for our Early Intervention Core Team Primary Service Providers. Interested applicants must apply by October 8, 2018. Click here to learn more or to apply