Mental Health Awareness and a Million Pounds

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

By the time Josie finished her run, it was time to get our team of kids and grandkids together to make our trip to Paul Brown Stadium to see the long-awaited Garth Brooks concert. It had been postponed due to COVID last year, and we were ready! After a storm, Garth took the stage. With incredible energy, he put on an incredible 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 mental health. access to behavioral health services for children and their families. 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 suicide and had nowhere to go for help. Sharing personal stories helps break the stigma around mental illness.

I returned to Government House just in time to welcome a special needs class from Hilliard City Schools who came for a walk and bake cookies. We took a quick tour of the house and pointed out some of the fun Ohio things there. The students loved the photos and the giant globe in the Governor’s office. It was such a beautiful day so we went out into the gardens and did an abbreviated tour of our Peter Rabbit storybook trail. We worked our way back into the house to make our cookies. Kathy had made cookie dough with colorful M&Ms, and I had made the Teddy Bear chocolate cookie dough. Kathy’s team sat around the kitchen table and took out the cookies on cookie sheets while my group rolled the chocolate dough into little balls to make teddy bears and other fun creatures . I loved watching them play with the dough. We all went back to the gardens and sat under our umbrellas at the tables to wait for the cookies to bake. We talked about all the upcoming milkweed plants and the butterflies that will soon be visiting us. The children told me that they also raised monarch butterflies in their school. We enjoyed eating our hot cookies. Then we finished the tour while the kids fed the goldfish in our little ponds. They were thrilled to see the hungry fish grabbing the food pellets!

Tuesday morning I drove to Cincinnati to Deer Park Branch Library. We celebrated the millionth book sent to children in Hamilton County since we opened the Dolly Parton/Ohio Imagination Library there to all children 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 has written and illustrated many children’s books, including several at the Imagination Library. I first read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to children. Loren read his book “Otis the Tractor”, which the kids loved. Then we read together “Somebody Builds the Dream”, a book he illustrated and which I love. It’s full of amazing designs that really spark the imagination and help kids see how they can help build a dream.

From there I joined Mike on my way to our grandson Michael’s graduation. It was a beautiful week full of beautiful things with and for the children!

For my birthday on Friday, my daughter Anna made me a German chocolate cake. She used a box mix and made a homemade coconut pecan filling. I remember that my mother often made this cake for birthdays!

German chocolate cake filling

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup of sugar

3 egg yolks

1 stick of butter

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


1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cup shredded coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

Beat until cool and spreadable. Makes enough to cover the top of three 8-inch layers.

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