Magic Valley Honors Its 2019 ‘Health Heroes’
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Several people were honored Wednesday afternoon as this year’s Magic Valley Health Heroes.
About 20 nominations were submitted to South Central Public Health District (SCPHD), but of that number only four were selected.
“You know that you rose to the top because there were a lot of great applicants,” Tracy Haskin, the Minidoka representative for the SCPHD board of directors, told the winners before the presentations.
The awards are given annually to individuals, groups or businesses that have contributed to the health and well-being of residents in south-central Idaho.
The consensus after talking with most of the winners this year was that they didn't expect recognition.
“It was unexpected,” said Michael Howell, who was nominated and won in the adult volunteer category. “Overwhelmed is a good word. It’s been a privilege to start a group that helps the community.”
Howell, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an ATV accident in 2008, has been the force behind starting the Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group, which meets several times during the year at the College of Southern Idaho.
Howell has spent much of his time and own money getting the group off the ground. He’s visited with politicians, health professionals, religious leaders and news media to help spread the word. He is quick to shrug off most of the credit, however, saying that many people have stepped forward to help the cause.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “This award should be given to everyone who helps out.”
The other winners are:
Preston Gonzales, a student at Kimberly High School, who won in the youth under 18 category. For his senior project, Gonzales chose vaping – that is, to try to get the district administration to put vaping on its drug policy.
He succeeded. As part of his project he was able to get new “No Smoking or Vaping” signs for the school district. His work stood out and he was invited by the American Cancer Society to speak with Idaho legislators in Boise about the problem of e-cigarette use among teens.
Gonzales said he was surprised to learn he was nominated for an award because he didn’t know such awards existed.
“This project has turned out a lot bigger than I thought it would," he said.
His mom, who was at the awards ceremony, said she is “very proud” of her son who has devoted a lot of time to the project.
Guillermo Garcia, a police officer who works with the Jerome School District, was honored in the adult professional category. He raised money to install radar speed signs outside the high school and “Stop the Bleed” kits for all district buildings.
He noticed a problem with speeding and wanted to do something to help cut down on it near the school. The kits are to be used in the event of critical emergencies until professional help can arrive.
“It was unexpected,” he said of the award, noting a lot of time and effort went i to the project with many helping hands on board. “I think it’s a great way to recognize a program and not necessarily the person. This has been a team effort.”
Mandi Thompson accepted an award for the Twin Falls Youth Council, which every year chooses a community service or awareness project to work on. This year the council chose to focus on suicide prevention by joining the “Be the 1 To” movement, attending community events to hand out mental health posters, and in other ways better educate people about teen suicide prevention.
Suzanne Hawkins, council liaison for whom Thompson was filling in, said as students started studying about suicide awareness and trying to find a group to partner with they learned there wasn’t a lot of prevention groups specifically for teens. Instead of trying to raise money, they decided to raise awareness.
“It’s a chance to bring awareness to a problem that we don’t have answers for,” she said, explaining the community’s response has been “overwhelming.”
The Color Run on Saturday is the council’s big event for the year. Though money is raised through donations and early ticket sales, funds will go toward items that the council will use to help bring further awareness to suicide prevention.
The event begins with a rally at 9:30 a.m. Saturday; the two-mile run starts at 10:30 a.m. – but participants don't have to run, Hawkins said. They can take their time walking along the trail as they encounter markers that represent the 12 steps to suicide prevention awareness.