Thursday, October 2, 2003

Character sign: helping a friend

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Chad Withers, 16, has taken on the responsibility of wheeling classmate Adam Hortemiller, 16, from classroom to classroom.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
ST. BERNARD - Two years ago, Chad Withers began helping a disabled classmate to and from classes at Roger Bacon High School. What started as a volunteer job has evolved into a friendship that continues long after the last bell rings.

Now, it's second nature for the 16-year-old junior to help his friend, Adam Hortemiller, who uses a wheelchair.

"It's just how I am," the St. Bernard teen said, shrugging with modesty. "If people need help, I help them."

Chad is one of 41 teenagers who will receive the 2003 YMCA Character Awards today. The seventh annual awards banquet begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington. The teens will be honored for demonstrating the core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

Without Chad - and occasionally other students - Adam wouldn't have been able to attend Roger Bacon, said Barbara Kindel, a school guidance counselor who nominated him.

Brandon Adair, 14, Milford
Michael Bennett, 17, Moeller
Jason Bittner, 17, Cincinnati Hills Christian
Eric Blackmon, 17, Harmony Community
Sarah Broome, 17, Ursuline
Jane Dankenbring, 15, Ursuline
Joshua Dennis, 13, St. Frances De Sales
Elyse Dull, 16, Mason
Rachel Ferguson, 13, Norwood
Brittany Gagel, 17, Ursuline
Thanika Gordon, 17, Aiken
Barry Hampton, 17, Shroder Paideia
LaTonya Hill, 13, St. Catharine
Tyra Hills, 12, Rothenberg
Erin Jackson, 14, Walnut Hills
Leah Jones, 18, Winton Woods
Kelly Kampschmidt, 17, McAuley
Brenton Kenkel, 16, St. Xavier
Melvin Lewis Jr., 16, Withrow
Puanani Makia, 16, McAuley
Erin Marksberry, 14, Mount Notre Dame
Amy Michels, 17, McAuley
Melanie Murphy, 16, St. Ursula
Emily Mustard, 17, Ursuline
John F. Nester Jr., 17, LaSalle
Cortnie Owens, 15, Bethel-Tate
Meera Ramamoorthy, 17, Ursuline
Jordan Rankins, 15, Holmes
Jarrod Richardson, 14, Cincinnati Hills Christian
Satin Sanders, 17. Shroder Paideia
Allison Schottenstein, 17, Cincinnati Hills Christian
Jenny Seitz, 17, Lawrenceburg
Steven Selm, 17, LaSalle
Darryl Sloan, 16, Purcell Marian
Meaghan Stakelin, 17,. Ursuline
Sarah Theobald, 13, Wyoming
Brittani Trammer, 15. Holy Cross
Jose' Vinegar, 16, Walnut Hills
Chad Withers, 16, Roger Bacon
Marques Worrell, 16, Norwood
Clare Zlatic, 17, Roger Bacon
Adam, a 16-year-old junior from Springfield Township, cannot walk and has problems with his sight, writing and speaking. His disabilities stem from a brain tumor diagnosed when he was 10.

Chad befriended Adam when the two were freshmen. Guidance counselors asked Chad if he'd volunteer to help Adam, and he agreed.

Until an elevator was installed during their freshman year, Chad helped carry Adam up and down stairs. He carts his textbooks. He helps him take notes and study.

"He's a good guy - a little crazy," Adam said with a smile.

Kindel, one of two Roger Bacon employees who nominated Chad, wrote: "Chad has helped this young man from the start of freshman year and has continued to help every day and for every change of class throughout the day - seven periods."

"Chad has left class many times with Adam and given up part of his lunch to get help on anything he missed or didn't understand," wrote Barbara Brodbeck, his algebra teacher, who also nominated him.

Their friendship extends beyond the school grounds. The two often hang out after school and weekends at Adam's house or the mall.

Chad's presence is reassuring when it comes time for Adam to maneuver through hallways and classes in the school of 776 students.

"Sometimes, his vision changes, and sometimes, he's not feeling as well," said Adam's mother, Lynn Hortemiller. "He knows Chad is always going to be there to make sure he gets where he needs to go and help him with things."

Chad is one of two Roger Bacon students being honored tonight. The other is Clare Zlatic, a 17-year-old senior who participated in the Urban Plunge campaign last year, spending weekends cleaning up Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods.

The YMCA is also honoring five adults: Eileen Cooper Reed, director of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio; Michael Flannery, WCPO's 9 On Your Kid's Side reporter; Mike Martin, football coach at Taft Information Technology High School and a former Bengal; Louise Dieterle Nippert, arts and environmental advocate, and Joe Calloway, executive director of the West End YMCA.


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