By Lucy M. Pritchett

Nina Rodahaffer’s Turning Point came when her desire to care for others led her to a nursing career and, a surprise to her, an entrepreneurial adventure.

Her aha moment came over a long weekend when she was caring for her grandmother who had a medical condition that needed daily attention. Nina already had a degree in communication from the University of Louisville and was working as a manager in the restaurant industry, but those four days spent with her grandmother cemented in her mind that she wanted to go into nursing.

“I applied to Bellarmine University, and within a year I had my degree through its accelerated program. After years as a bedside nurse, though, I started having thoughts of wanting to spend more time with the patients, to make connections on a deeper level. I was friends with Cheyenne Mize, who worked in music therapy, and she was having the same thoughts. We wanted to have the time to treat the whole person.

“We wanted to help people make connections with themselves and others. We wanted to help build a healthier individual and in turn build healthier communities. We felt that music was a universal unifier and that led us to found Strive.”

Strive is a nonprofit organization that provides wellness opportunities to the Louisville community. It offers a variety of group music-making activities such as drumming, and also wellness exercise, deep breathing, and guided meditation. It touches all aspects of the individual — body, mind, and spirit, Nina says.

“Music has long been a passion of mine. It’s fun to make connections with people that we are meeting. I always feel better after making music with people. We use smaller percussion instruments: triangles, wood blocks, tambourines, and drums.

“I had no business background whatsoever. I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur, but I’m learning how to run a business and that’s a challenge and a learning process.”

Through a combination of grant money, donations, and private fees, Strive is able to take its programs to community, youth, and senior centers as well as corporate events and retreats.

Afterward, participants respond that their “hearts feel full,” Nina says. Most of the time they don’t know what to expect but find delight that they are able to express themselves through music…to relate to people without words.

One of Strive’s programs is In the Moment — an experience that encourages the audience to collaborate with artists and vice-versa, Nina says. All kinds of artists participate, and the free monthly events take place in Strive’s Courtyard, 805 E. Market St.

“Toward the end of my years as a nurse, I felt I was ready to explode. I knew I had to do something different. You have to take care of yourself first. It’s the only way you can take care of other people. For women, it’s hard to set aside time for self,” Nina says.

“I learned that I can make a change. There was a hump to get over, mainly convincing myself that I could leave a comfortable career for the unknown and give it my all. It made me feel OK about the future. That if I needed to start over I would be OK to do that. I feel like I’m a more resourceful person than I thought I was.”

Photo by Patti Hartog