Meet the first half of the Health Hero Challenge 2021 semi-finalists

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Get to know the selected charities, what motivates them to help others and what improvements they would like to see happen locally.


Take a look at the work these local health leaders are doing and the nonprofits they support.

Last week we announced the 10 semi-finalists for this year’s Be Well Philly Health Hero Challenge presented by Independence Blue Cross.

To help you better understand who they are and the charities they champion, we’ll be posting more information on the semi-finalists over the next two weeks. That way you get a glimpse of how they are working to help Philadelphians live healthier lives and can vote to narrow the list down to three finalists. (Reminder: Our 2021 Health Hero will receive a donation of $ 15,000 to the charity of their choice, and the two finalists will each win a donation of $ 2,500 for their selected charities.)

Remember, you can vote once a day, every day, until September 30!

Below, meet five of the 10 Health Hero Challenge semi-finalists (we’ll introduce you to the others next week!):

Who: Armenta Washington, Senior Research Coordinator for the Outreach and Community Engagement Program at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.

Choice of association: Frontline Dads, Inc.. Since 2001, Frontline Dads has empowered African American youth and young adults to become agents of change in their communities and provided them with the educational tools and general resources to do so. They have mentoring programs for at-risk youth and those in the juvenile justice system, as well as parenting workshops and reintegration training support for returning citizens.

What motivates you to try to make Philadelphia a healthier place, and what policy would you institute if you could?
Statistics show that African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed late and die from chronic illness than any other group. Social determinants of health, such as postcode, access to quality health care and education are interrelated and can have a devastating impact on the city’s most vulnerable residents. What motivates me is my ability to recognize these shortcomings and guide individuals through what can be a complicated process.

“Because I believe the future of healthcare is community-based, I would advocate for a policy that guarantees medical screenings for the area’s most underserved zip codes. This could be done using pop-up clinics, trusted community counselors, and community organizations. These types of service delivery models could enable earlier treatment options – dramatically reducing delayed diagnoses and mortality – for community members who often face huge barriers to accessing health services.

Who: Ashley Kulikowski, Founder and CEO of a Non-Profit Organization Fearless movementand a champion of epilepsy and mental health research, therapy and community support.

Choice of association: Fearless movement – an organization that aims to empower all people, especially those with epilepsy and mental health issues, through free art therapy, mentoring and workshops focused on leadership and the fight against l ‘intimidation. Currently, Fearless Movement serves schools, hospitals and community groups in 18 counties in the Tri-State region.

What motivates you to try to make Philadelphia a healthier place, and what policy would you institute if you could?
“My initial motivation was the pain I felt in personal battles with my physical and mental health as a teenager, and how many others can also feel trapped in uncertainty and fear. Growing up I was intimidated by my peers for being overweight, and then shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with epilepsy and suffered from uncontrollable seizures, fear, anxiety. and depression throughout my high school career. Once I learned that my voice has power through the mentorship of teachers, youth group leaders, health professionals and family, I also learned that I was not alone in my fears and my circumstances. If I was not alone, that meant that many others were not only struggling with epilepsy, but everyone was struggling with fear – a universal emotion that cannot be avoided, but to which we must react. My continued motivation lies in the daily work I do – connecting with students and adults through our virtual and in-person epilepsy support groups, free services, mentoring, leadership, esteem. self and artistic empowerment programs – so that others can have a positive quality. of life.

“One policy I would be happy to institute would be that all schools offer free art therapy sessions or classes for every student in need or exhibiting risky behavior. Art has proven itself relieve stress, experience joy and peace in the midst of painful trials, and break communication barriers among those who do not speak or are uncomfortable talking about their feelings. The way we express ourselves is very revealing, and with suicide being the second leading cause of death among our young people, this may be a policy in place not only to improve the health and well-being of our students, but also to save them. life by providing them with the best resources and support possible.

Who: Danyell Brent, agricultural coordinator for Cloud 9 community farms, and founder of Garden of Friends for Peace and Understanding.

Choice of association: Cloud 9 community farms. Founded in 2012, Cloud 9 Community Farms helps Philly neighborhoods and their residents nurture community and increase access to fresh food through the creation of gardens and farms on city rooftops or in urban spaces. They offer a pantry and monthly herbalism workshops in Poplar, a weekly healing garden program in West Philly, and an after school rooftop gardening program in North Philly.

What motivates you to try to make Philadelphia a healthier place, and what policy would you institute if you could?
“My great-great-grandchildren motivate me. I don’t care what people say about me now, but I do care what they say 25 years after I left. Also, people believed in me before I believed in me, which motivated me to get involved in my community. Rania Campbell-Bussière (Executive Director of Cloud 9) trusted me, and it helped me take care of my community, which is hard work.

“In my neighborhood, I think we should open more recreation centers. We need more places for people of all ages to learn in different ways, so that people of all learning styles can benefit from their education. “

Who: John Breen, co-founder of Recovery recovery, and local multi-sport coach and athlete

Choice of association: Recovery recovery – a grassroots organization turned non-profit in 2018 that uses exercise to help people recover from addiction, eating disorders and trauma. Their three divisions – Community, On Campus and Medical – run a combined total of 40 workouts per month for area residents, students and patients of Wedge recovery centerthe location of South Philly.

What motivates you to try to make Philadelphia a healthier place, and what policy would you institute if you could?
“I was born in Philadelphia, graduated from Temple University, coached at UPenn, and have been an active member of the Philadelphia rowing and dragon boat community for over 30 years. . I have watched Philadelphia transform into a premier destination city, while managing the burden of being zero in the national opioid epidemic. I consider the crisis in Kensington to be the most important work that Fitness in Recovery is involved in right now. This commitment is the work of my life, especially because my childhood was characterized by chaos, instability and constant change. The only consistent theme was exercise and how it powerfully affected my mood, especially after being placed at St. Mary’s Home for Children when I was in sixth grade.

“I would institute a zero barrier policy so that anyone in the Philadelphia area with addiction has access to treatment, free of charge and without delay to determine eligibility, coverage or wait for a bed.” In this moment of clarity, when an addict receives the gift of despair, he should have unlimited and immediate access to treatment. “

Who: Kathleen Brown, Associate Professor of Nursing Practice and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania. With a career focused on victimization and sexual assault, Brown has co-created a “Breaking the Cycle” program, which provides halfway houses for sexually trafficked women.

Choice of association: Pennsylvania Prison Society, which has worked to improve incarcerated detention conditions and criminal justice system policies since 1787. They also provide a subsidized bus service to families visiting their incarcerated loved ones throughout Pennsylvania and assist citizens back through mentorship programs.

What motivates you to try to make Philadelphia a healthier place, and what policy would you institute if you could?
“The female population of the Philadelphia prison system has many unmet needs. Two-thirds of incarcerated women come from poor neighborhoods. Many have mental and physical health and substance abuse issues, are charged with non-violent crimes, and have suffered lifelong trauma. If these women were healthy and rehabilitated rather than punished, their lives, the lives of their children and their communities would be better. The great need for changes in health-related behaviors challenged me.

“Policies that address all health issues are needed. Programs designed to adopt healthy behaviors are needed. The most important are policies designed to maintain security while restoring dignity and self-respect. Policies of less punishment and more rewards for behavior change would be ideal. Sharing of medical records between communities and the prison would be useful. Policies that facilitate reintegration are needed. While confined, many lose their homes, jobs and child care. Every woman who returns from prison in her community should improve the health of the neighborhoods in Philly.

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