2016 Accelerate presenters: Impact and updates

Accelerate presenters shared updates on launching their projects and making a positive impact on the community on Tuesday evening, June 14, 2016, at the Happy Dog Euclid Tavern, 11625 Euclid Avenue. The casual, interactive evening was made possible by Happy Dog co-owner Sean Watterson, who was an Accelerate judge. Eight of the presenters from Accelerate shared steps they had taken to implement their projects since pitching themin February. Here are some of the latest updates from June and later in the year:

Overall winner

Families Building Future Leaders
(Educating for Tomorrow category, presented in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College)

Benjamin ColasBen Colas launched a website and Twitter handle for his project to engage parents in effectively preparing pre-school children for academic success by creating a toolbox of products and ideas to help them learn basic skills such as counting, sorting and letter and shape recognition. After the audience voted him overall Accelerate winner, he assembled enough items (Froot Loops, Skittles, rice, shaving cream and more) to pack and distribute 700 KinderKits in Cleveland and East Cleveland during summer 2016; nearly half of those were distributed with the help of Starting Point to Head Starts, pre-Ks and libraries; he also partnered with several charter shools to distribute kits to their students.

One of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools that piloted the kits administered a pre- and post-test of the targeted skills: letter recognition, number recognition, shape recognition, counting and name writing. Overall, 91% showed an increase in skills, with 23% reporting an increase in three or more categories. Parents who used the kits agreed in a survey that ”Because of the KinderKit, I am more confident in my ability to support my child academically” (4.5 average on a scale with 5 being “strongly agree”). Also as a result of the kits, Ben introduced addition and sounding out consonant-vowel-consonant words to his class in September, and subtraction in October; last year his students were not ready for these skills until spring. Ben is planning to partner with Usborne books on a book drive/crowd sourcing fundraiser to raise money to distribute more kits next year. 

He has also been meeting with school leaders and directors of nonprofit organizations, resulting in an agreement with Open Doors Academy to serve as a fiscal agent as he prepares to raise funds to support kits for distribution in summer 2017. Ben also won an additional $5,000 by becoming the top finalists at Jumpstart Inc.'s Sidewalk to Stage event in June. Ben was one of Crain's Cleveland Business 2016 Twenty in their 20s

Benjamin Colas, Teacher, Alfred A Benesch (CMSD)
Social media: @bencolas


MotherBoard: Connecting Opt-In Moms with Projects that Matter
(Community Change category)

Jessica Leary AllenAfter Accelerate 2016, MotherBoard went into full launch mode forming a small but mighty startup team, building a business plan, launching a blog, securing additional funding, and moving forward with platform and website development. Jessica Allen’s focus remains the same as her pitch: connecting moms who want to opt-in or scale back in their careers with employers. But MotherBoard is also changing the narrative when it comes to working motherhood, eliminating the stereotype of the frazzled mom and replacing it with a community of women who can and do make work and life balance. MotherBoard is launching a weekly job listing in fall 2016, and building a terrific community of bloggers at It's also on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Leary Allen, Development Consultant
Social media: @learyallen |

Good Cause CLE: A Creative Partner in Digital Marketing
(Economic Development Category, presented in partnership with Oswald Companies and Westfield Insurance Foundation)

Pam TurosPam Turos pitched a collaborative effort to connect good causes with money and resources to share their message online. She launched the Good Cause website in June 2016 to coincide wtih the Accelerate update event at Happy Dog Eucilid Tavern. The site provides ways for individuals, writers, nonprofits and businesses to support Cleveland-area nonprofits, learn about local events and get inspired to get involved. By fall 2016, the site had garnered over 6,200 visits, with traffic consistently doubling each month. It has featured more than 100 organizations in some way, including supporting content and publicity for three successful crowd-funding campaigns. More than 30 articles or posts have been published, including some from guest contributors. The "Good Cause Weekly" email has a 36% open rate.

Pam was featured on Twitter during March via @InTheCle and has spoken with United Way and Foundation Center Cleveland about the possibility of workshops and other opportunities to help build an audience that will benefit all nonprofits in northeast Ohio. She successfully collaborated with Literary Cleveland – an Accelerate 2015 presenter – to host a sold-out storytelling workshop; future workshops are planned.

Pam Turos, Freelance Writer and Founder, Good Cause Creative, LLC
Social media: @goodcausecle |

Bus Stop Moves: Exercise While You Wait
(Quality of Life Category, presented in partnership with The MetroHealth System)

Allison LukacsyBus Stop Moves started expanding throughout Cleveland after Allison Lukacsy-Love’s pitch to encourage transit riders to exercise while they wait for a bus. The Greater Cleveland Regional Tranist Authority Board of Trustees lauded the project for reviving RTA's “Adopt A Shelter Program,” and agreed to bring printing and installation of the exercise-themed translucent wraps in-house, greatly reducing costs. By October 2016, the Bus Stop Moves graphics had been installed in 13 shelters in six Cleveland neighborhoods, with 20 more planned by mid-2017. Some 3,000 people daily board buses at the 13 shelters, which also feature information about nearby recreational sites and other healthy options in the neighborhood. 
A Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District grant enabled four of the shelter wraps to be themed around how to be a better steward of Lake Erie and keep our Great Lake great. Bus Stop Moves also received a Neighborhood Connections grant of $3,690 to continue the project in North Collinwood in 2016-17. In April 2016, Allison was named a Cleveland Neighborhood Progress "Civic Champion" finalist for her volunteerism and public art contributions to Cleveland. Bus Stop Moves held "Take it to the Streets" launch parties for the new shelters in Fall 2016 in the Slavic Village, Detroit-Shoreway and Kinsman neighborhoods. More than 20 people supported the launches through an IOBY campaign with funds and in-kind donations, resulting in the parties including instructor-led fitness activities and healthy food.

Partnerships have been forged with Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga (HIP-C), the City of Cleveland's Healthy Cleveland Initiative, the Mayor's Office on Sustainability and the American Planning Association's Ohio Chapter. In 2017, Bus Stop Moves will be featured in the City of Cleveland's brochure on free fitness programs. The project was mentioned in an article in The Atlantic's CityLab about how cities are rethinking bus shelters. 

Ali also was selected as a speaker and panelist on Creative Interventions at America Walks' 2017 National Walking Summit to be held in St. Paul, Minn., September 13-15, 2017. The summit explores the benefits of walking and walkability for individuals and communities, and expands the term healthy to include not only physical health, but also social, economic and civic health.

Allison Lukacsy-Love, Creative Workforce Fellow, Community Partnership for Arts & Culture
Social media: @alithearchitect |

Cleveland as a Comedy Hub
(Transformative Arts and Culture category)

Ramon RivasAccidental Comedy Fest attracted artists from all over the country to converge Cleveland for the August 26-28, 2016, festival that Ramon Rivas pitched at Accelerate as way to raise Cleveland’s national profile as a comedy destination. Many were here for the first time. Collectively, they've appeared on Conan, Comedy Central's The Half Hour, @midnight, Adam DeVine's House Party, Bob's Burgers, The Chris Gethard Show, VICE's Flophouse, NBC Seeso's NightTrain, Last Comic Standing, Louie, All That, The Nightly Show, Comedy Bang Bang and more! You can read more about how Ramon is changing the face of comedy in Cleveland by visiting the Accidental ComedyClub. Ramon also was selected as one of 17 rising comedians to get a half-hour show on Comedy Central, which aired on August 26, 2016.


Ramon Rivas II, Curator, Accidental Comedy Club
Social media: @blazerramon | @accidentalcle | |


Passion Grants
(Educating for Tomorrow)
KC McKennaKC McKenna pitched his idea to help young people discover their passions and by pairing them with expert mentors and funding, engage them in experiences that will shape their futures. He is developing an Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship Curriculum for a program that St. Edward's High School plans to launch in Fall 2017. The purpose of the course is for students to study and practice the application of innovation mindsets through the lens of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. The primary focus of the first half of the course will highlighting innovation mindsets as taught through the experiences of thriving Cleveland social enterprises. One social enterprise that best highlights each mindset will be on hand for each session. During the second half of the course, students will work collaboratively to develop a plan for their own social enterprise in preparation for a course-culminating pitch competition.

KC McKenna, Vice President of Marketing & Admission, St. Edward High School

Sanctuary: Animals and Addicts
(Community Change)
Amelia SawyerAmelia Sawyer pitched about a creating place where heroin addicts could find solace and purpose, beating addiction while rehabilitating animals that have been abused or abandoned. After Accelerate, she wrote that event gave her the confidence to write about and share her idea more broadly.

Amelia Sawyer, Chief Marketing Officer, Team Sawyer LLC
Social media: @chefswidow

Re-establish Little League in the Lee-Harvard community
(Quality of Life)

Wendell FieldsWendell Fields pitched about re-establishing the B-Buzz Little League Baseball that in the 1960s and 1970s was a lifeline for many African-American males. After Accelerate, he began registering students to play in the League’s opening day on May 28, 2016, and launched a new website. The championship game, awards and old-timer's softball game were held for July 23, 2016. By fall 2016 the league was in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) certification ... and looking ahead to summer 2017!
Wendell H Fields, B Buzz Baseball League Chairman
Social media: @bbuzzbaseball | B Buzz Foundation


STEMpower: Empowering STEM-based careers
(Educating for Tomorrow)
Jackie AdamsThe STEMpower pitch by Jackie Adams centered on expanding mindsets by creating a platform to spread awareness on key topics. After proposing to launch a scholarship competition at Case Western Reserve University to raise awareness about the struggles of women in engineering culture, she began working with SPARC [conversations], a student group that hosts a speaker series at CWRU. Emma Headley, an executive team member of SPARC (Society, Politics, Art, Research, and Culture) and Jackie co-launched a series of talks about minorities (including women) in STEM-based (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers, with winners receiving monetary awards. The first annual SPARC [conversations] conference was held on January 17, 2017, and the series is now ongoing. 

Jackie Adams
Social media: @SPARC_CWRU | | YouTube: SPARC conversations 

The Midnight Society
(Transformative Arts and Culture)

Adam KernAdam Kern pitched his idea to create an immersive, site-specific theatrical event using storytelling through dance and music, based on the Cleveland torso murders. The performance, co-created with Beth McGee, "Shadow of the Run" enables the audience to;find and explore secret rooms while avoiding the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run. He received an audience favorite vote and award from SEA Change at a pre-Accelerate pitch practice session. In July 2016 he staged a reading, and has since added production designer Ben Needham and the project will be directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, directors of Marvel's Avengers Infinity War and Captain America Civil War. Red Bicycle Media will be creating a handful of teaser promos for the promotional campaign.

Adam Kern, Actor / Producer
Social media:@adamthekern


I Am Hollywood
(Transformative Arts and Culture)

Michaels and PlassAlex P. Michaels pitched about unlocking imagination and creativity among youth by having them create stories and make movies with their smartphones. He had also pitched at Accelerate 2015 with a project to create a cinema industry in Northeast Ohio with a crime/sci-fi story. Since then, he has established himself as the "Cleveland Cinema Czar" and is working with investors and business sponsors on building a cinema industry based on the Hollywood studio system. He is also working on his first Screen Actors Guild production with Robyn Cohen, who acted opposite Bill Murray in "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," and Soraya Padaro, who has acted onstage and on MundoFox's TV series "El Capo III." Alex's production of "Out of Darkness: Cleveland" is a reboot of his TV series set and shot in Cleveland. He has cast a number of local actors in the series, including Sofia Plass, his Accelerate 2016 co-presenter. The series kicked off with a fictional presidential candidate (

Alex P. Michaels, Studio Chief, Prelude2Cinema LLC
and Sofia Plass, Actress, Student
Social media: @prelude2cinema | | | @Agent_Sofia