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Mental health awareness and one million books


We started last weekend by watching our grandson Grady play Little League, followed by granddaughters Josie and Rebecca run in their track meet.

By the time Josie finished her race, it was time to gather our crew, comprised of kids and grandkids, to make our trip to Paul Brown Stadium to see the long-awaited Garth Brooks concert. It had been postponed because of COVID last year, and we were ready! After a storm rolled through, Garth took the stage. With incredible energy, he put on an amazing show. Trisha Yearwood even joined him at the end for a duet — what a treat!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and on Monday morning I accompanied Mike to Dayton Children’s Hospital where he announced the Pediatric Behavioral Health Initiative, an $84 million investment to increase access to behavioral health services for kids and their families. One part of the initiative is to help build a new mental health building at Dayton Children’s. We listened to a local father tell the story of his daughter, a student athlete, who attempted to take her own life and had nowhere to go to get help. Sharing personal stories helps break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

I returned to the Governor’s Residence just in time to greet a special needs class from Hilliard City Schools who came to take a tour and make some cookies. We did a quick tour of the house and pointed out some of the fun Ohio things there. The students loved the pictures and the giant globe in the Governor’s study. It was such a beautiful day so we went out into the gardens and did an abbreviated tour of our Peter Rabbit Story Book Trail. We worked our way back into the house to make our cookies. Kathy had prepared cookie dough with colorful M&Ms, and I had made the Chocolate Teddy Bear cookie dough. Kathy’s team sat around the kitchen table and scooped out the cookies onto cookie sheets while my group rolled the chocolate dough into little balls to make the teddy bears and other fun creatures. I loved watching them play with the dough. We all went back into the gardens and sat under our umbrellas at the tables to wait as the cookies baked. We talked about all the milkweed plants coming up and the butterflies that will soon be coming to visit. The kids told me they raise monarchs in their school, too. We enjoyed eating our warm cookies. Then we finished the visit as the kids fed the goldfish in our little ponds. They were delighted to watch the hungry fish grab the pellets of food!

On Tuesday morning I headed to Cincinnati to Deer Park Branch Library. We celebrated the one millionth book mailed out to kids in Hamilton County since we opened the Dolly Parton/Ohio Imagination Library there to all kids in October 2019! After the celebration, we went to the head start class at John P. Parker Elementary School to read a book to the children. I was joined by Loren Long. Loren is from Cincinnati and he has written and illustrated many children’s books, including several in the Imagination Library. First I read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to the kids. Loren read his “Otis the Tractor” book, which the kids loved. Then together we read “Someone Builds the Dream,” a book he illustrated that I love. It’s full of incredible drawings that really spark imagination and help kids see how they can help build a dream.

From there I joined Mike to travel to our grandson Michael’s graduation. It was a great week full of great things with and for kids!

For my birthday on Friday, my daughter Anna made me a German Chocolate Cake. She used a box mix and made homemade coconut and pecan topping. I remember my mom often making this cake for birthdays!

Filling for German Chocolate Cake

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 stick butter

Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat.


1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cup flaked coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

Beat until cool and of spreading consistency. Makes enough to cover tops of 3- 8” layers.

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Fran DeWine

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.