Dawn Imler and Kelley Brumfield Peggy Johns Patty Tobal
Ray Denniston, who is sometimes referred to as a “Ray of Sunshine,” has been a dynamic Steps partner and advocate ever since the Steps to a HealthierNY-Broome County program began 5 years go. While employed as the Food Service Director for the Johnson City School District and serving as a committed member of the program’s consortium—as well as an active member of more than 12 local and state teams, coalitions, and boards—Mr. Denniston has found the time and passion to work to implement policy, systems, and environmental change strategies for improving school nutrition at the state, local and regional level, and for increasing physical activity opportunities in the community.
Mr. Denniston understands the link between hungry children and impaired cognitive function, that when children are hungry, their capacity to learn is diminished. Compelled to address this situation, Mr. Denniston partnered with community organizations and implemented a Back Pack program to feed hungry students after school, on the weekends, and during holiday breaks. He then worked to expand this program by incorporating the Farm to School and Give Me Five (fruit and vegetable servings per day) initiatives, which improved the nutritional value of the school district’s back packs. Additionally, Mr. Denniston helped promote Give Me Five program events by organizing students to participate in TV commercials that promote eating fruits and vegetables. Mr. Denniston was also extremely instrumental in implementing the Rock on Café. This program was a collaborative effort of 15 school districts and 11,000 students who participated in an affordable, healthy daily school lunch program.
Mr. Denniston is also the Chairman of the Walkable Community Committee in the Town of Conklin, New York, and a recipient of the Broome County Steps Walkable Community Award for his promotion and outreach efforts in this community-wide walking campaign. Because of Mr. Denniston’s leadership, Conklin received a half-mile walking and exercise trail and more than $200,000 in funds for a three-phase, walkable community project. This “Ray of Sunshine” goes above and beyond the call of duty …… with a smile on his face.
Woody Hansen is always willing to assist with any activity designed to promote individual, family, and community fitness and wellness. He began working with Steps to a Healthier Cherokee Nation when the program first began in 2004 and has been a proactive Steps advocate ever since. Mr. Hansen is described by Cherokee Nation Steps program staff as a “vivacious, energetic, caring, gentle, sincere man without pretense who is extremely proactive in the community. When Woody is confronted with a problem his response is always ‘what can we do about it?’”
One of Mr. Hansen’s accomplishments on behalf of Steps to a Healthier Cherokee Nation is the grant he obtained to lease land and purchase equipment for a community garden in order to increase access to affordable, fresh produce. Mr. Hansen generously offered his own time and his family’s to implement and manage the garden – a typical, unselfish act by Mr. Hansen. He also gives presentations in the community to groups of all sizes and ages without payment for any expenses he incurs. The many presentations Mr. Hansen gives include information on poison, outdoor safety, reptiles and their role in the environment, diabetes, HIV/AIDS/STDs, and heart health, among other health topics. He is also skilled in acting and storytelling and includes skits and storytelling in many of his presentations. Additionally, Mr. Hansen conducts a Spring roadside community clean-up, and once again, incurs the expense of the clean-up himself.
In May 2007, shortly after Mr. Hansen obtained a grant for the land to be used for the community garden project, he was driving along a local road and saw a snake. Mr. Hansen needed this snake for a presentation on outdoor safety he would be giving soon, so he stopped to get the snake. Unfortunately, a car hit him from behind as he knelt down to pick up the snake and shattered his left leg. As a result of this accident, Mr. Hansen ended up in a wheelchair and on crutches for the ten months that followed.
Being on crutches did not stop Mr. Hansen from completing a 5K walk he had committed to participate in. His commitment and endurance were an inspiration to all who saw him as he completed the walk, crutches and all! Mr. Hansen is a true Steps Hero, who will go to any length to promote fitness and wellness to anyone who will listen, and even to some who aren’t so sure they want to listen. He leads by example, and that speaks for itself.
Steps Program volunteer and advocate Stephanie Heim used her passion for the community to exemplify good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Ms. Heim’s contributions include leading a community youth garden project from conception to completion, developing educational resources on nutrition for community residents, and providing taste-testing classes using fresh fruits and vegetables. Working with key Steps partners, including the Rochester Area Family YMCA and Rochester Public Schools, Ms. Heim also facilitated the preparation and pilot testing of an after-school nutrition education program for middle school students at high risk for obesity and diabetes. Additionally, Ms. Heim implemented various art projects that helped beautify the community garden. Using a strategic approach, she worked with a skilled master gardener to design and create several aspects of the garden, including using the garden as a nutrition education resource.
Another contribution Ms. Heim made to the Steps to a HealthierMN-Rochester program was obtaining a grant for start-up costs for developing the community garden and working with young people to complete it. She also generated additional funds, which made the project sustainable. Additionally, Ms. Heim developed nutrition education resources, which she made available at the local YMCA. For her taste-testing classes, she bought fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market. Ms. Heim’s passion for good nutrition was highlighted in a “motivational moment” one day when a parent thanked her for “instilling in their children a positive attitude about fruits and veggies.”
For the past 3 years, Dawn Imler, a physical education teacher, and Kelley Brumfield, one of her seventh grade students, have worked together to encourage healthy habits and exercise among Cleveland’s young people by helping facilitate and then participating in a marathon program. This running program teaches young people to set and achieve goals, increasing their self-confidence as well as their fitness and endurance, in a collaborative effort between the Cleveland Steps Program, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.
Ms. Imler volunteers her time to marathon efforts by driving student runners to the local YMCA, teaching them to use athletic equipment and supplemental activities in their marathon training, pushing them to achieve their athletic capacity, designing and expanding the 10K marathon training program to include more training modules and an official medal for the marathon winner, and leading by example through her repeated completion of the marathon each year.
Kelley Brumfield is one of the students Ms. Imler has inspired to train and run the half marathon (13.1 miles). Kelley’s involvement has paved the way for incorporating longer distances and expanding training and conditioning activities in the marathon program while she serves as a mentor to other students. Ms. Imler says Kelley is a “role model for all Cleveland students, an exceptional young female who epitomizes strength, courage, and at a young age…… wisdom.”
Without Ms. Imler’s enthusiasm and support, Kelley would have never known what it feels like to cross a finish line on the streets of downtown Cleveland in front of hundreds of cheering spectators. Ms. Imler, in her humble way, denies that she’s anyone’s ‘hero,’ asserting that she is “just an average person who cares about the future of her kids.”
Peggy Johns has been involved with Florida/Pinellas County Steps Program since its inception. She assisted with the initial grant application and with the development of the school program as the District Manager of the Pinellas County Schools’ Wellness Policy and Administration Guidelines. Ms. Johns also leads a campaign to secure a nurse for every school in the county. Additionally, she has successfully advocated for the inclusion of health education in the curricula for all Florida high school students. As the chairman of the Family Life Education Committee, she also oversees mental health, drug use prevention, and human sexuality speakers/programs for the school district.
Ms. Johns is the co-author and editor of What Every High School Student Needs to Know About AIDS booklets. And most importantly, Ms. Johns partnered with local governmental agencies and the University of South Florida to modify the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Data from these elementary, middle, and high school expanded instruments drive the school district’s health program and grant applications.
In 1988, Ms. Johns was recognized as the Health Teacher of the Year by Florida Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance, and Sport. In 2005, she was recognized as the Health Coordinator of the Year by the Florida School Health Association. In addition, she is Board Member of the Teen Health Alliance, and for six years has served on the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board’s Teen Sexuality Task Force. Ms. Johns has also been appointed to serve on the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council for Pinellas County, and to present to the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness. She is a true community collaborator for health promotion.
A true community collaborator for health promotion, Ms. Johns’ tireless work as an advocate, leader, mentor, and advisor can be seen in schools, in the community, and throughout the state of Florida. Thanks in large part to her work, their Steps school program has received national recognition. Everyone recognizes a hero in the work of Peggy Johns.
Patty Tobal embodies the spirit of the Steps program through her altruistic dedication to improving her fellow county residents’ health. She supports enhanced access to physical activity venues and better nutrition by emphasizing environmental changes in her community. As the chair of the Healthier Hopwood, a health coalition group, Ms. Tobal promoted walking routes and advocated for the completion of new sidewalks on both sides of the Historic National Road. Endorsing the Steps initiatives, she encouraged local businesses to promote healthier food choices and increase physical activity in Hopwood. Because of Ms. Tobal’s work, neighborhood grocery stores and restaurants implemented changes that support healthier lifestyles.
A true leader, Ms. Tobal’s actions were not limited to her neighborhood. She was instrumental in developing a county-wide Health Ministry Project. In her own church, she started a health ministry team. Ms. Tobal then recruited other congregations to follow her initiative and establish health ministries in their respective churches.
As a retired nurse, Ms. Tobal managed a nursing program providing intensive case management and home visits for pregnant women and their children. She also worked on tracking and patient reminder software and an evidence-based diabetes education program for local physicians.
Leading an initiative to test and reduce secondhand smoke in homes or promoting the use of a one-mile stretch of new sidewalks, Ms. Tobal is always concerned with improving the health of her neighbors in the community. Her compassion and dedication have inspired many in Fayette County.
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