Why? Best of 2016!

So, I think a lot of us are feeling like 2016 was long and filled with a lot of negativity. But here’s the thing…like any year, there was both good and bad. And frankly, while I think there’s a lot to learn from some of the not so good things that happened this year, I’d much rather focus on the good for now.

I wanted to share my personal Best of 2016, Cleveland-style:

Best Trend

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People catching on to Cleveland’s fabulousness. The RNC, the NBA Finals, and the World Series shined an almost perpetual spotlight on our town this year. And we shone right back.

Best New Hangout

Cleveland Public Square is back this year and is an absolutely amazing gathering space! From the summer fountains and colorful critters to the Christmas tree and skating rink, it’s all happening in the Square!

Best Perpetual Hangout

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Oh, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, you have my heart. It has been suggested that I live there. I do not. But I would.

Best Sports Moment(s)

It’s honestly a toss-up for me between the Cavs winning the NBA Championship and Game 7 of the World Series, which might not have had the outcome we wanted, but had everything you could ask for in terms of excitement.

Best New Restaurant(s)

So many great additions to our dining scene in 2016! Mabel’s BBQ is everything a Cleveland restaurant should be: hearty, meaty, casual, and unpretentious, with just a bit of “yeah, an Iron Chef cooked this, you gotta a problem with that?” And The Plum Cafe and Kitchen is inventive and delicious and as pretty as it is tasty.

Best New Attraction

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The Rosebrough Tiger Passage at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo opened in June 2016. It is really beautiful and allows for an amazing, up-close experience with the tigers. Our Zoo just keeps getting better and better!

Best Staycation

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We went to Kalahari this past February and had a great time! If you’re looking for somewhere close by to get a splash of summer, I highly recommend it!

Best Vacation

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Obvs.

Best Photo Opp

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I love the script Cleveland signs that popped up around town this year! Instagram away!

Best Birthday Party

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The Cleveland Museum of Art celebrated its centennial year in 2016 with a lot of fanfare, including (my first) Solstice that packed this incredible Cleveland institution.

Best Birthday Party Runners-Up

Jeffrey’s second birthday and my thirty-fifth were both memorable and fun and wonderful!

Best New Business(es)

I love everything about GroundSwell Collective, from the practice space to the instructors to the philosophy to seeing it’s backstory on “Cleveland Hustles.” It’s been an awesome addition to Gordon Square this year! And Merchant’s Mrkt is just a great concept: local small businesses coming together to share space and sell their wares collectively.

Best Volunteer Opportunities

I’ve been honored to work with Playhouse Square Partners, the John Carroll University Cleveland Alumni Chapter, and the Autism Speaks Cleveland Chef Gala Committee this year.

Best Thing I Never Thought I Would Do

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When Be Studios invited me to come in for a pole dancing class, I did what any girl would do: I rounded up some of my favorite ladies, threw on my glitter booties, and went for it! But I think the bigger part of that was feeling that I’ve grown a lot this year in my self-confidence and my ability to show that.

Best Cleveland Day

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It was hot and long and crazy and worth every minute to attend the Cavs Championship Parade. And even more than seeing the players and the trophy, I loved seeing how everyone came together and how happy and kind we all were to each other. And the confetti. The confetti was cool.

Best Jeffrey Day

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Jeffrey’s first day of school was really hard, but also really wonderful. I can’t believe how he’s grown in confidence and independence and how proud I am of him! Every day with him contains wonder and happiness, but this is the biggest stand-out from 2016.

Just the Best

What would make your Best of 2016 List? Take a moment to acknowledge the best of the year almost gone by! Here’s to an even more fabulous 2017!

***Disclosure: I am the vice co-chair of Playhouse Square Partners and the President of the John Carroll Cleveland Alumni Chapter. I have been invited to complimentary events mentioned in this post at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Be Studios. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Blogiversary!

Well, hi there! Today marks six years of Why CLE?! How crazy is that?! I say something similar every year, but I honestly can’t believe how the blog (and all the social media platforms that go along with it) has grown and evolved and lasted.

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I am consistently honored and humbled by you, my readers. Thank you for six years of friendship and support, for giving me the space to grow and change here. From the online friends to those who have turned into some of my closest friends, I value our connections.

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I am also so grateful to the organizations who trust me to write about their events and initiatives. Being able to share your good work and partner with amazing Cleveland institutions is always a thrill.

Cleveland has had an incredible year and this has certainly been a uniquely fun one about which to write. Six years ago, I really felt like I was convincing people of Cleveland’s coolness. Now, I get to simply add my voice to the chorus of those singing Cleveland’s praises. But that doesn’t make the singing any less exciting or fun. To see this incredible renaissance, to be a small part of those on the ground floors of Cleveland hype, is so amazing!

As I reflect on this year, I’ve been feeling more and more called to service. I know that Cleveland is rich with service opportunities. But I’m not exactly sure where to start.

For those of you who have been reading for awhile, you know that I like to give something away on my blogiversary. So, this year, I’m giving away my time. And I’m asking you to help me decide where to give it.

Here’s how:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post telling me about an organization in Cleveland with which you volunteer your time. I really want you to also have an investment in wherever this is.
  • I’ll reach out to you and we’ll schedule a time in 2017 to volunteer at that organization (hopefully together if you’re open to that).
  • You have until December 31, 2016 to leave a comment.
  • The volunteer opportunity must be within the Cleveland area.
  • The volunteer opportunity cannot require special skills (e.g., it can’t require the volunteer to be a nurse or other professional occupation).
  • If for some reason, the volunteer opportunity does not fit with my moral compass, then I will politely decline. I totally respect wherever it is you donate your time, but it’s better for you, me, and the organization if I believe in their mission too.
  • If it’s OK with you and the organization, I will blog/tweet/Facebook/Instagram about the volunteering.

I’m hoping to not only raise awareness about places where you can volunteer, but also find a standing volunteer commitment for myself. I’m really excited to make service a recurring theme in year 7 of Why CLE? and I hope you can help me out with that!

Thank you again for all the wonderful years and here’s to more!

jenclesig_pur

Why? Weekends!

It was a Christmas crazy weekend! The fates conspired to give us festive fetes every day this weekend, so we are officially stuffed with hot chocolate, candy canes, and good cheer!

On Friday, we headed to the Lake Metroparks Farmpark for Country Lights. One of Jeffrey’s favorite phrases is, “There’s so much to see and do!” And that is certainly true at Country Lights!

We started at Santa’s Workshop, where a cadre of volunteer elves help children construct the wooden toy of their choosing.

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Jeffrey made a tractor, which his elf Brian helped him put together, then Jeffrey got to paint and liberally glitter to his heart’s content.

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From there, we headed to the Toy Testing Room with tons of wooden toy fun from car ramps to Christmas trees.

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Then it was on to a horse-drawn wagon ride through the Farmpark to see the beautiful Christmas lights.

We ended our evening with decorating Christmas cookies and a visit to Elfland.

All of these activities, plus Christmas horse shows and a Santa train room, are included with your admission (Christmas cookies to decorate are an additional $3). As members, we paid $11 per ticket and I can honestly say this is one of not only the best Christmas event deals around, but also truly one of the most magical.

Kudos to Andy and his staff at the Farmpark for putting on another wonderful event! Country Lights is sold out for this year, but put it on your must-do list for next year!

Friday night after Country Lights, I dashed up to John Carroll University for a party celebrating the 15th anniversary of my sorority chapter‘s installation.

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As one of the original members of the chapter (along with the ladies in the picture with me), it was great to be able to see how far the chapter has come in that time and to reminisce about our fun college days! Kappa Delta was a huge part of my college and immediately post-graduate life, so it’s always nice to have a chance to reconnect with that.

On Saturday morning, we headed to the Connor Palace Theatre for Tinsel Town, put on by Playhouse Square Partners. This event takes place in the beautiful Connor Palace Theatre lobby, with holiday crafts, toy raffles, and a chance to visit with Santa!

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The craft tables are staffed by Partners members (they put me on cookie decorating this year after an unfortunate incident with a glue gun one year) and the raffle baskets are made with donations from Partners members, too. This is one of my favorite Partners events, not only because I can see Jeffrey enjoy it, but because it provides such a fun and festive morning for families. Kids dress up in their Christmas finery and really seem to have a blast!

Jeffrey was also very proud that he won the candy-filled snowman from the guess-the-number raffle. It’s a major award!

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I’m pretty excited too…those are Dove chocolates in there!

From there, it was off to our niece Leila’s sixth birthday party: a swimming party at the Wadsworth YMCA. I was really impressed with their kids swimming area, which has water slides, a current pool, waterfalls, and more. Jeffrey had a great time and kept showing off his new swimming skills from his more advanced lessons at Goldfish Swim School.

Sunday morning, we went to the John Carroll Alumni Breakfast with Santa. This event combines so many aspects of the John Carroll experience: faith (the event begins with Mass), service (attendees donate toys to Bellefaire JCB), and fun (brunch and a chance for photos with Santa and Christmas crafts).

My favorite part about this year’s event is that we went with friends that I met on day one of my freshman year, as we all lived on the same floor of Dolan Hall. I’ve stayed friends with these ladies for all these years and through a lot of life changes.

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It was so special to be at John Carroll not only with them, but with our kids too! This really felt like what the holidays are about!

What a festive and exhausting weekend! How was yours?

***Disclosure: I am the vice co-chair of Playhouse Square Partners and the president of the John Carroll University Cleveland Alumni Chapter. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? The Gift of Membership!

Last year, we used Christmas gift money to purchase memberships to several of our favorite Cleveland attractions. Memberships are a great way to not only save money, but gain special access to events and more.

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So, in case you’re in the market for a holiday gift that lasts all year, here are some of our favorites:

Cleveland Botanical Garden

What you get (at any level):

  • Free general admission to the Cleveland Botanical Garden
  • Reciprocal admission to the Holden Arboretum
  • Discounts on admission to Western Reserve Historical Society and Cleveland Museum of Natural History
  • Invitations to special events
  • 10% discount at the Garden Store and Tree House Store
  • Borrowing privileges in the Eleanor Squire Library
  • Members magazine and e-newsletter

How to purchase a gift membership: Click here

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

What you get (at any level):

  • Free admission to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, including The Rain Forest
  • 10% discount at Zoo shops
  • Discounted admission at more than 130 zoos nationwide
  • Higher levels of membership include invitations to special events and free guest admission
  • Members magazine

How to purchase a gift membership: Click here

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

What you get (at any level):

  • Free general admission and planetarium tickets
  • Free admission to Association of Science and Technology Center Museums
  • Invitations to members-only events
  • Members magazine
  • Guest passes (number varies)
  • Parking passes (number varies) and discounted parking once parking passes are used
  • Discounts at Museum store, Museum rental, and gift memberships

How to purchase a gift membership: Click here

Lake Metroparks Farmpark

What you get (at any level):

  • Free general admission
  • Discounts on Parks Plus programs led by Farmpark staff
  • 10% discount at the gift shop
  • Priority access to Vintage Ohio, Halloween Hayrides, and Country Lights tickets
  • 10% discount on birthday parties
  • 50% discount on children’s wagon rentals
  • Member magazine

How to purchase a gift membership: Click here

Greater Cleveland Aquarium

What you get (at any level):

  • Free general admission
  • Free parking
  • $5 discount on guest admission
  • Express entry
  • Invitations to and discounts on special events
  • 10% discount at the gift shop
  • 10% discount at the Nautica Queen
  • 20% discount at the Nautica Cafe

How to purchase a gift membership: Click here

These are the current memberships we have and love! I think they make great gift ideas, but I’m always open to new suggestions, too. What memberships do you have and love?

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Why? #HolidaysWithHeinens!

Last night, I kicked off the holiday season at Heinen’s in Brecksville. And while it’s a bit early for holiday cheer and carols, listening to Bing Crosby while sipping wine felt like just the warm hug I needed.

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Have yourself a merry little Pinot. Let your Prosecco be light.
The evening’s event brought together bloggers and other social media folk for some nibbles, fellowship, and some good work, too. Heinen’s tasked us each with creating a basket to be auctioned to support Achievement Centers for Children. But rather than simply making a basket, there was a challenge element too.

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Each of us received a Heinen’s gift card of various denominations and had 15 minutes to go through the store and create a basket coming in under our gift card amount. I had a $15 gift card, so it was a real challenge, but I came in at $14.95 (hooray for using my iPhone calculator while shopping) and think I created a pretty nice basket, too.

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I decided to construct a “take care of yourself at the holidays” basket, with hot tea, sparkling cider, lip balm, a scented candle, a candy bar, and cake mix. Heinen’s offers such a great selection of grocery essentials, as well as specialty items, treats, and tons of organic and non-GMO options. My fellow attendees made baskets themed on baking, breakfast, baseball, and chocolate and each one was packed with awesome choices!

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Not only were we able to get creative and explore Heinen’s selection of merchandise, all of these baskets will benefit Achievement Centers for Children! Cheers to that!

As I mentioned, we also got to enjoy some nibbles, including cheese, grilled vegetables, BBQ meatballs, and to-die-for sweets.

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Heinen’s prepared foods are second-to-none (I legit had some of their chicken pot pie for lunch yesterday too). And the cheese selection…Heinen’s employs a cheesemonger who discovers the tastiest cheeses, including ones air-shipped from Italy and France for ultimate cheesy goodness.

Heinen’s outshines other grocery stores in selection, quality, and service (the folks at my Heinen’s all know us by name), but they also give back to the community, such as through the baskets we made last night, their Teaming up for Education program, and other initiatives. For your holiday baking, cooking, and entertaining, you can’t do better than celebrating your #HolidaysWithHeinens!

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Heinen’s Holiday Event, where we were provided with food and beverage, as well as a gift bag to take home. As always, all opinions (and slightly irrational love for a grocery store) are 100% my own.***

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Why? Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland!

Last week, I met up with some fellow John Carroll Cleveland Alumni Chapter members to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland. Our group volunteered to prepare dinner for the families in the house. As we had to cook for between 75-100 people, we decided to make pasta, salad, garlic bread, and cookies, which are all easily scalable for that amount of people.

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As we got started in the kitchen, we discovered that one of our volunteers is a graduate of the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking. We quickly let her take charge!

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From making the sauce to baking cookies to preparing the salad, there were lots of tasks to not only keep us busy, but get us working and talking together too!

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Our volunteers didn’t all know each other from the start, so it was nice to have ways to make connections while we worked.

While our sauce was simmering, we were able to get a tour of the house.

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We saw the history of the house, which opened in 1979, as well as the beautiful grounds which make this house known as the “Garden House” among other Ronald McDonald Houses.

Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland can accommodate 55 families per night, with the only requirement being that the family has a child under 21 receiving treatment at a nearby hospital. The house offers not only rooms to stay in, but playrooms, gardens, kitchen facilities (with guaranteed dinner nightly), computers, a library, and more. What really impressed me was how much of the services provided at the House are done through volunteers. From cleaning to gardening to preparing meals to staffing the front desk, there are a myriad of volunteers who help keep the House running.

If you’re interested in helping out at this special place that provides respite and support for families during what is surely a stressful time in their lives, click here to learn more about individual and group volunteer opportunities.

We had a very valuable and enriching experience making dinner at Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland! The John Carroll Cleveland Alumni Chapter will be returning to the House in December and throughout 2017, so if you’re an alumni interested in serving, watch your email for more details!

***Disclosure: I am the President of the John Carroll Cleveland Alumni Chapter. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Jump Back Ball Tickets!

You might have heard that tickets for one of Cleveland’s hottest parties, Playhouse Square Partners Jump Back Ball, went on sale last week. Partners hosted a festive ticket sales party to not only give people a chance to get their tickets, but also get excited for this year’s theme.

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Roaring Back to the 20’s is sure to be glamorous and fun! I loved my feather headband for the night and have already started searching Rent the Runway for the perfect dress.

Tickets are now on sale online at the following price points:

  • $250 for VIP (which includes a cocktail reception in the George Gund Foundation Lobby and a seated dinner in the Allen Theatre Lobby before joining the general admission party)
  • $155 for General Admission (buffet dinner in the State Theatre, plus two bands and unlimited drinks) for Partners members at the $100+ donation level
  • $180 for General Admission for Partners members at the $50 donation level and general public

From the food to the music to the amazing silent auction and raffle items all in the loveliest theaters around, Jump Back Ball is always a party not-to-be-missed. And what’s even better is that proceeds from the evening benefit Playhouse Square’s not-for-profit mission.

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Stay tuned here for more information about the preparations for Jump Back Ball and click here if you’re interested in helping Partners plan this amazing party!

***Disclosure: I was asked by Playhouse Square to help promote Jump Back Ball. In exchange, I will receive one complimentary VIP ticket when I purchase one VIP ticket. I am also the vice co-chair of Playhouse Square Partners. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? First Tee of Cleveland Thanksgiving Breakfast Giveaway!

I have to admit, when I first heard about an event called “Thanksgiving Breakfast,” I was intrigued. Usually my Thanksgiving breakfast involves taste-testing whatever I happen to be making for dinner and saving room for plenty of turkey later.

But in the case of The First Tee of Cleveland, their Thanksgiving Breakfast on Tuesday, November 8 is a chance to thank community supporters and celebrate the achievements of program participants with speakers, networking, and breakfast at First Energy Stadium.

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The Thanksgiving Breakfast includes:

  • Address by guest speaker Michael F. Roizen, M.D., Chair, Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute; Chief Wellness Officer, Cleveland Clinic
  • The Del de Windt Leadership Award for Civic Engagement presented to Senator George V. Voinovich (posthumously)
  • Special Guest Appearance by professional football great Earnest Byner, author of “Everybody Fumbles” and friend of The First Tee of Cleveland who lives the Core Values
  • The Doris Evans, M.D., Merit Scholarship Award recipient:  Patrick McKee
  • Special Participant Perspectives Presentation
  • Delicious breakfast stations to be enjoyed after the formal presentation

The First Tee of Cleveland is a chapter of The First Tee, a national initiative begun in 1997, which builds character, instills life skills, and promotes healthy choices for young people through the game of golf. I visited The First Tee of Cleveland this summer (read about it here) and was so impressed with the organization and the good that they do for Cleveland youth.

Tickets for the Thanksgiving Breakfast are $125 and proceeds benefit the First Tee of Cleveland’s not-for-profit mission. Tickets can be purchased online. Or you can enter to win two tickets right here!

Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, or all four entries, just leave a separate comment here for each):

1.Leave a comment here telling me your favorite breakfast food.

2. Visit First Tee of Cleveland and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both pages.

3. Follow @FirstTeeCLE and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

4. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment here letting me know you tweeted:

I want to give thanks at the @FirstTeeCLE Thanksgiving Breakfast with @WhyCLE: https://whycle.com/2016/10/28/why-first-tee-of-cleveland-thanksgiving-breakfast-giveaway #giveaway

You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment here each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Tuesday, November 1 at 11:59pm and the winner will be notified the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the First Tee of Cleveland Thanksgiving Breakfast. In exchange, I will receive two complimentary tickets for myself and two tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

jenclesig_pur

Why? Entertaining by Design Giveaway!

Can you believe it’s almost the holidays?! If you’re like me, you start to think about decorating your home for this festive season and maybe even changing up some of your typical decorations. Which makes Entertaining by Design a perfectly-timed event.

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On Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5, the Ohio Design Centre will be filled with 30+ spectacular themed tabletop, dining and entertaining vignettes created by Cleveland’s most talented interior designers. Having attended this event in the past, I can tell you that these designs truly are spectacular and inspired and you will leave with some amazing ideas. You also get to vote for your favorite designs!

Tickets to check out these gorgeous tablescapes are $10 at the door. There’s also a kickoff Patron Party & Gala on Friday, November 4 that is sure to be a great time! All proceeds from the Patron Party and the general Entertaining by Desgin event benefit Malachi House and their mission of serving the terminally ill.

You can enter to win two general admission tickets to check out Entertaining by Design and get inspiration for your holiday entertaining. Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, or all four entries, just leave a separate comment for each):

1.Leave a comment telling me what upcoming event for which Entertaining by Design will provide you inspiration.

2. Visit Ohio Design Centre and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both pages.

3. Follow @ohdesigncentre and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

4. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment here letting me know you tweeted:

I want to attend Entertaining by Design at @ohdesigncentre thanks to @WhyCLE: https://whycle.com/2016/10/20/why-entertaining-by-design-giveaway-3 #giveaway

You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment here each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Monday, October 24 at 11:59pm and the winner will be notified the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Entertaining by Design. In exchange, I will receive two tickets to give away. I declined my own two complimentary tickets due to scheduling conflicts. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? EDWINS Run for Re-Entry Giveaway!

By now, you’ve heard of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, a fine-dining French restaurant staffed by formerly incarcerated men and women.

Not only does EDWINS put out delicious food, but they make a huge impact on our community by providing a fair and equal second chance to everyone. In fact, EDWINS founder Brandon Chrostowski was honored as one of CNN’s heroes!

On Sunday, October 23, EDWINS is hosting the first Run for Re-Entry. This 5K takes place in the Buckeye neighborhood, which is home to the new EDWINS Second Chance Life Skill Center.

At the finish line, there will be live music, as well as food and beverage provided by EDWINS.

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You can run or walk the 5K. Registration for the race is $25 for pre-registration and $15 for Buckeye neighborhood residents. Registration for the walk is $15 for pre-registration. Registration includes a t-shirt, as well as food and beverage. You can register online.

Or you can enter to win a free race registration right here! Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, four, or all five entries, just leave a separate comment here for each):

1.Leave a comment here telling me why you want to participate in the EDWINS Run for Re-Entry.

2. Visit EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both pages.

3. Follow @edwinscle and @whycle on Instagram and leave comment here letting me know you’re following both.

4. Follow @EdwinsCLE and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

5. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment here letting me know you tweeted:

I want to run the @EdwinsCLE Run for Re-Entry thanks to @WhyCLE: https://whycle.com/2016/10/14/why-edwins-run-for-re-entry-giveaway #giveaway

You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Tuesday, October 18 at 11:59pm and the winner will be notified the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the EDWINS Run for Re-Entry. In exchange, I will receive one complimentary race entry to give away. I declined my own complimentary race entry due to scheduling conflicts. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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