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Sitka Health Summit Honors Wellness Champions


SITKA, Oct. 11, 2012 — Community wellness champions from all walks of life were honored Wednesday night for the work they’ve done making Sitka a healthier place to live. The awards were presented during the sixth annual Sitka Health Summit wellness award celebration, which was held Wednesday night at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi.

The Sitka Health Summit continues with a planning day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 12, at Sweetland Hall (on the Sheldon Jackson Campus) where Sitka residents will decide their community health priorities for 2012-13, and enjoy a lunch of fish tacos in honor of one of this year’s projects. This event is free and open to the public. Past projects include the Sitka Farmers Market, Bicycle Friendly Community and more.

Earlier this week, the Sitka Health Summit hosted the second annual Sitka Community Health Fair on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Sweetland Hall. The summit also hosted a lunch-and-learn on “Exercise is Medicine” with Dr. Don Lehmann on Monday, Oct. 8, at Kettleson Memorial Library. More information about the Sitka Health Summit is available at http://www.sitkahealthsummit.com/

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 six categories — physical activity, nutrition, tobacco prevention and control, injury prevention, holistic health and general wellness.

Community members were asked to nominate people who made a difference or served as role models in one of the six community wellness award categories, and an awards committee from the Sitka Health Summit decided on the final recipients. In addition to the six categories, 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.

2012 Sitka Health Summit Community Wellness Champion Award Winners

General Wellness

  • Baranof Barracuda Swim Club — The Baranof Barracuda Swim Club is a  year-round competitive swim team that offers children and adults the opportunity for physical fitness, the ability to learn fundamental life skills, while also volunteering their time at the local recycling center.
  • Peter Williams — Peter Williams is the kind of role model that you’ll see biking around with a helmet one moment then working on a culturally relevant piece of art work the next.  He has been an inspiration to many.
  • Mary Kambak — Mary Kambak is an immunization champion. She uses her expertise to ensure that Sitkans are appropriately immunized and has volunteered countless hours to organizing and staffing community immunizations clinics.

Holistic Health

  • Grace Brooks — Grace Brooks is a tireless cheerleader for fitness and health. You’ll see her walking and biking throughout town and volunteering countless hours at the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center.
  • Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood — ANS/ANB is among the nation’s oldest indigenous civil rights organizations and model for healthy stewardship of the rich cultural heritage of our Native peoples. The organizations celebrated their 100th year of Grand Camp last week in Sitka.
Tobacco Prevention and Control
  • Dan Etulain — Dan Etulain has volunteered on the local tobacco prevention and control coalition for many years. He uses his expertise in media to spread the message about the dangers of tobacco.
Safety/Injury Prevention
  • Challenge Day Organizers at Sitka High School and PJ Ford Slack — P.J. Ford Slack and the Challenge Day Organizers at Sitka High made this emotionally enriching and challenging start to the last school year possible. Challenge Day united members of the school and community to address issues of violence, bullying, and drug and alcohol misuse.


  • Tracy Gagnon and Sitka Conservation Society’s Fish-To-Schools Program — Tracy Gagnon  and the  Sitka Conservation Society’s Fish-To-Schools Program interweaves a Fish-to-Plate Curriculum, hands-on learning, tours of the local fish processors and fish options for lunch at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and Blatchley Middle School, which improves the health our children. The program since has expanded to Pacific and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools. This was a 2010 Sitka Health Summit project.
  • Linda Behnken — Linda Behnken is a passionate advocate for healthy fish and healthy oceans. She works hard on a state and national level to ensure that our ocean produces healthy fish for all of us.

Physical Activity

  • Jake Denherder — Jake Denherder has adopted a healthy lifestyle and has made physical activity a priority in his daily life. In the process he has inspired countless others to follow his lead.
  • Sitka Contra Dance Organizers — Contra Dance Organizers are a dedicated group of Sitkans who host monthly fun and energetic folk dances that all ages enjoy. This fall and winter activity gets many Sitkans out and moving.
Steve Reifenstuhl Award
  • Dan Evans — Dan Evans is always on the move. He is a tireless adventurer who shares his many exploits with us through his stunning photography.
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