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Sitka Health Summit Honors Wellness Champions


SITKA, Oct. 6, 2010 — Community wellness champions from all walks of life were honored Monday night for the work they’ve done making Sitka a healthier place to live. The awards were presented during the fourth annual Sitka Health Summit community dessert and awards ceremony, held Oct. 4 at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The vision for the Sitka Health Summit is for Sitka “to serve our great state as a model for community wellness by creating a healthy community where Sitkans strive for and enjoy a high quality of life.” These awards honor community members who already have been living within this vision. The winners have done work in seven categories — physical activity, nutrition, tobacco prevention and control, injury prevention, holistic health, employee/worksite wellness and general wellness.

Community members were asked to nominate people who made a difference or served as role models in one of the seven community wellness award categories, and an awards committee from the Sitka Health Summit decided on the final recipients. Also, a special award, called the Steve Reifenstuhl Award, was created in 2008 to honor a local athlete for his or her commitment to physical fitness and for being an extraordinarily active community wellness role model.

Community Awards

(presented during the Community Dessert and Awards Ceremony on Oct. 4)

Physical Activity
  • Bill Hughes — An avid biker, snowboarder, heli-skier, athlete, father, husband and grandfather, Bill rides at the top of his group of dedicated hard-core bike riders. Bill, age, 69, is competing this week in the expert division of road biking and mountain biking competition of the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, so his daughter and grandchildren will accept his award for him. This past summer Bill competed in the Alpine Adventure Run, and in past years Bill hiked across Baranof Island, climbed Mount Rainier, biked across the country. For the past 20 years Bill has owned Yellow Jersey Cycling Shop, which has been a place where Sitkans can buy new bikes and keep them repaired (the shop also sponsors local cycling and running teams).
  • Ann Marie LaPalme — Ann Marie helped get the soccer program started at Sitka schools and in the community, spending many hours with clinics, games, open gyms and interacting with other schools. She organizes and trains eight coaches for the different age groups, and she brings in soccer players from England to run soccer camps during the summer. She also brings people down from the Alaska Youth Soccer Association to train coaches. In addition, Ann Marie is a bike commuter, helped start Sitka Trail Works (the group that builds and maintains local trails in Sitka) and oversees local trails and cabins for our community’s greater health.


· Kari Sagel, Kerry McAdams and Elvia Torres — These women work at Blatchley Middle School, and Kari and Kerry noticed children were coming to school hungry and they felt the hunger was the worse they’d seen so they decided to do something about it by distributing granola bars and other healthy breakfast foods. They asked the White E (White Elephant thrift store) for a scholarship to implement a simple breakfast program, and now Elvia makes a hot breakfast and Kari makes big pots of chicken noodle soup once a month, and they provide students with breakfast bars on a daily basis.

· Lori Adams — After visiting the first Sitka Farmers Markets, Lori Adams was inspired to create Down To Earth U-Pick Garden in 2009. Lori grew up on a farm, and loves to share her love of the garden with others. Down To Earth U-Pick Garden provides Sitka residents with a place where they can get fresh-from-the-garden vegetables, and customers come to pick and purchase their own veggies from her yard. Lori inspires others by teaching and showing them what food you can grow in Sitka, so they might one day follow her lead. After initially being told her u-pick garden was against zoning laws, Lori worked with the planning department and Sitka Assembly to get the zoning laws changed so she could make her dream of a garden possible.

Tobacco Prevention and Control

· Andrea Thomas — As the director of the SEARHC Tobacco Program, Andrea is well-known in Sitka for providing tobacco cessation, education and tobacco policy information that promotes clean indoor air. The SEARHC Tobacco Program is a regional effort to provide education about the number of preventable illnesses and premature death caused by tobacco, as well as offering a tobacco-quit program to help clients receive nicotine replacement therapy and support so they can stop using tobacco. The SEARHC Tobacco Program also provides tobacco cessation and education services for Sitka Community Hospital patients under a contract to share resources. In addition to managing her program, Andrea volunteers countless hours of her own time to protect the public from the effects of secondhand smoke.

Injury Prevention and Safety

· U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka —The U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka has been a key player for decades when it comes to injury prevention and safety in our community, as the air station protects our coastline from Cordova south to Dixon Entrance. The Coast Guard works with the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) to provide boating safety programs to commercial fishing crews and pleasure boaters in Sitka and the rest of the state. The Coast Guard teams up with the Rotary Club of Sitka to host the annual Sitka Bike Rodeo, where children can learn the rules of the road, get their bikes checked by a mechanic and learn how to properly wear a bike helmet. The Coast Guard works with schools to teach students about the dangers of cold water and how to survive if they fall in. Finally, the Coast Guard works with Sitka Mountain Rescue to provide support during our region’s search-and-rescue operations.

· Becky Charlton — Becky is a champion from the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) in Sitka schools. For years, she has been bringing marine safety into the classroom, and she continuously is creating educational opportunities for our kids. Her determination to teach, prepare and empower youth to live safely in and around our ocean is a critical element to Sitka’s strength.

Holistic Health

· Mt. Edgecumbe High School Yup’ik Dance Group — Led by coach Rachel Moreno, the Mt. Edgecumbe High School Yup’ik Dance Group provides students with a way to get physical activity while sharing their culture. These students have participated in the Arctic Winter Games twice, performed at the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention since 1990, marched in Alaska Day Parades and perform community service here in Sitka. These students are hard-working, happy to help out and all committed to being drug and alcohol free.

Employee/Worksite Wellness

· Melissa Henshaw, Brenda Calkins and Elisabeth Crane — These co-workers introduced worksite wellness to all city employees, with Melissa and Brenda leading the City of Sitka’s employee wellness program and Elisabeth (who heads the Sitka Community Hospital employee wellness program) serving as a mentor. They have created a variety of wellness campaigns, and currently they are leading a very popular walking program. Their efforts to promote overall health and wellness continue to impact the lives of many of their co-workers and their friends, and they go above and beyond their regular duties for wellness in the worksite.

General Wellness

· New Archangel Dancers — For decades, this Russian dance group has provided women in Sitka with a fun way to get healthy physical activity while also providing an equally important good health-social connection. Dancing throughout each week, these women keep stress levels down and provide highly energetic shows for visitors and locals throughout the year.

· Marcie Paden — Marcie vowed to change her life after a shocking trip to the doctor’s office where she faced her weight on the scales and news that her blood pressure was so high she now needed medication. She quit eating unhealthy snacks and began eating veggies and fruit. She joined an exercise class, slowly added weights, walking, jogging and now tries to run 6-7 miles at least four times a week. She lost a lot of weight, quit smoking, and gained an entirely new life. She recently paddled 165 miles in her kayak, the distance from Hoonah to Sitka.

The Steve Reifenstuhl Award

  • Dave Nevins — Dave is an adventurous, enthusiastic man who also happens to have Type 1 diabetes. He moved to Sitka a few years ago and started the “No Limits” diabetes group to help people with diabetes be physically active and learn that there are no limits to what you can do even if you have diabetes. He’s organized wonderful events, including a summer kayak trip for people with diabetes, No Limits open-water clinics and swims, the recent Sitka Sound Open-Water Swim and hosted Radical Reels (a Banff Mountain Film Festival production). He also co-authored a bike on Idaho trails, where he ran 1,000 miles of trails. He plans to continue creating trips and events to promote “No Limits,” both the group and inspiring concept.


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