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(Kathy Klingsporn, Azria Health Central City's Administrator with her daughter Heather S. and her grandson Shia S.)

(Kathy Klingsporn, Azria Health Central City’s Administrator with her daughter Heather S. and her grandson Shia S.)

November 19, 2020 – Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our frontline healthcare heroes here at Azria Health have continued to provide the best quality of care to our residents. Our caregivers have demonstrated such commitment and dedication to their jobs; we couldn’t be prouder of our team! Much like our caregivers, frontline workers everywhere risked their own health by going to work. While the rest of the world was staying home, they fearlessly continued to do their jobs. We wanted to acknowledge their bravery and show them how much their hard work and effort is valued. So, we created our Letter to a Hero Contest.

“Our caregivers have been so amazing through these challenging times; we are so grateful for everything they have done! This was the perfect opportunity to give back to these incredible individuals and give them the recognition they deserve!” says, Carrie Ramaekers, Vice President of Operations at Azria Health.

(Ella B., 1st Place Winner (girl's bike) in the 12 and under category with her new bike!)

(Ella B., 1st Place Winner (girl’s bike) in the 12 and under category with her new bike!)

In order to be entered into the contest, the contestants had to write a short essay, poem, or draw a picture of what being a frontline worker meant to them. There were three different age groups for the contest, ages twelve and under, thirteen to seventeen, and eighteen and up. The prizes were divided by age group, for a total of nine prizes. For the twelve and under age group, the first-place prize, awarded to top boy and top girl submission, were bikes (one boys bike and one girls bike), and the second-place prize was a $50 VISA Gift Card. The thirteen to seventeen age group had a first-place prize of Apple AirPods Pro, a second-place prize of a $100 VISA Gift Card, and a third-place prize of a $50 VISA Gift Card. The eighteen and up age group had a first-place prize of a $150 VISA Gift Card, a second-place prize of a $100 VISA Gift Card, and a third-place prize of a $50 VISA Gift Card.

The contest was a success! Submissions came in with contestants writing about the heroic actions of a frontline worker in their life. We received phenomenal essays, drawings, and poems that uniquely expressed what being a frontline worker meant to the contestant. While everyone had their own definition of a frontline worker, there was a common theme of bravery and selflessness. The nominees were individuals from a range of industries, such as nurses, administrators, farmers, and maintenance workers.

(Gary Nelson, Azria Health Olathe's Maintenance Director with his daughter Haley C., Activity Director at Azria Health Olathe and 1st Place Winner in our 18 and up category)

(Gary Nelson, Azria Health Olathe’s Maintenance Director with his daughter Haley C., Activity Director at Azria Health Olathe and 1st Place Winner in our 18 and up category)

The nominees were so touched when they read the submissions about them. Katherine Klingsporn, Administrator at Azria Health Central City, had a drawing submitted by her grandson as well as an essay submitted by her daughter. “It touched my heart, the picture my grandson drew of me with the sun behind me saying ‘bright, fun, smile’, he is such a joy in my life. My daughter is the best mother to her two children and her words made me feel wonderful that I raised such a loving caring person.” The Director of Maintenance at Azria Health Olathe, Gary Nelson, was nominated as a hero by his daughter, Haley. When asked about how he felt about being nominated he stated “I [was] honored to be nominated for the hero contest. We have a lot of heroes here, [and] I’m sure we all have a story that could be shared. I am truly blessed that my story was chosen to be heard. Haley is a great writer, and I am proud to have her as one of my daughters. I am also proud to be a part of the Azria Health team, and to be making a difference in people’s lives.”

While this pandemic has been devastating in so many ways, one good thing we can take from it is the example of selflessness and dedication that we have set for the younger generations. The age range of those who entered the contest was so vast, however they were all able to understand and absorb the courageous actions of these frontline workers. Azria Health wants to thank our amazing caregivers and frontline workers everywhere. You are all truly heroes!

Congratulations to the following contest winners!

 


12 and Under Winners

About:

Congratulations to Shia S., 1st Place (Boy’s Bike) Winner in our 12 and Under category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your new bike! Shia nominated his grandmother, Kathy Klingsporn, who is our Administrator at Azria Health Central City. He chose to draw a picture.

Picture Title:

“My Grandma Inspires Me To Be”

Picture:

(Shia S.'s Winning Drawing)

(Shia S.’s Winning Drawing)

(Ella B. with her new bike!)

(Ella B. with her new bike!)

About:

Congratulations to Ella B., 1st Place (Girl’s Bike) Winner in our 12 and Under category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your new bike! Ella nominated her mother, Katie Brenn, who is an MDS Coordinator at Azria Health Blue Hill. She chose to write a short essay.

Short Essay Title:

“Front-line Inspiration”

Short Essay:

“My mother, Katie Brenn, is the MDS Coordinator at Azria Health Blue Hill, and she is a frontline worker in the healthcare division. I am inspired by my mother because she helps the residents and her coworkers at the nursing home in this global pandemic. She inspires me to be patient in everyday life, to do whatever I can do to help others, no matter what age, and to be the best that I can be. She also inspires me to do things regularly, even if something, like this global crisis, is going on, and you can still have some fun even if you can’t do things that you could regularly do. A frontline worker, in my opinion, means a person who helps other people in times of need. They stay strong, patient, and caring each and every day. They don’t even have to be healthcare workers. They can be restaurant employees, police officers, firefighters, teachers, farmers, and telephone employees. They go to their jobs every single day to produce a better world for their children. ‘It’s not about saving our world, it’s about saving their’s,’ -Dr. Hank Pym, Antman.”

 

(Noah Bear C. with his grandmother, Tammy Cox, DON at Azria Health Montclair)

(Noah Bear C. with his grandmother, Tammy Cox, DON at Azria Health Montclair)

About:

Congratulations to Noah Bear C., 2nd Place Winner in our 12 and Under category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your $50 Gift Card! Noah nominated his grandmother, Tammy Cox, who is our Director of Nursing (DON) at Azria Health Montclair. He chose to write a short essay.

Short Essay Title:

“COVID Free”

Short Essay:

“I’m so proud of my grandma for keeping everything squeaky clean and if she sees someone struggling she will go over there and help and if she sees someone that is lonely because their family can’t come because of COVID-19 she will go over there and talk to them my grandma is saving lives so I think of her as a hero!”

13 to 17 Winners
(Logan C. with Danielle McDaniel, Azria Health's Regional Director of Marketing)

(Logan C. with Danielle McDaniel, Azria Health’s Regional Director of Marketing)

About:

Congratulations to Logan C., 1st Place Winner in our 13 to 17 category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your AirPods Pro!

Logan  nominated our Regional Director of Marketing, Danielle McDaniel.

He chose to write a short essay.

Short Essay Title:

“The Medics Pride”

Short Essay:

“Being a Frontline member or any sort of first responder or medical worker is a huge challenge and requires much courage and bravery. Being a Frontline member means being there to help anyone in need, taking care of the wounded, and even helping people find homes or rehabilitation offices to get better. The people who do these have so much courage that they can do anything, they have seen the worst of all people. Even when seeing this they continue to do their work to help others. No matter the challenge or risk versus reward they are they to help and assist. Their bravery and courage is unmatched by anyone else.”

(Sarai G. with Kate Glass, Azria Health Midtown's ADON)

(Sarai G. with Kate Glass, Azria Health Midtown’s ADON)

About:

Congratulations to Sarai G., 2nd Place Winner in our 13 to 17 category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your $100 gift card!

Sarai nominated Kate Glass, our ADON at Azria Health Midtown.

She chose to write a Poem.

Short Essay Title:

“You Inspire Me”

Short Essay:

“You inspire me to do my best in everything I do the way I watch you do what you need to do with a smile on your face and determination on your mind.

You inspire me to speak up on things whether they’re right or wrong and do everything I can to make it right.

I know that you’re working during these hard times but it’s amazing how you still give your job your heart and time.

The biggest thing that inspires me no matter the situation is you’re always there for your patients and for your co-workers and for your job, you never look back always forward that is why you inspire me.”

(Maddie K. with Carrie Ramaekers, Azria Health's Regional VP of Operations)

(Maddie K. with Carrie Ramaekers, Azria Health’s Regional VP of Operations)

About:

Congratulations to Maddie K., 3rd Place Winner in our 13 to 17 category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your $50 Gift Card!

Maddie nominated our Regional Vice President of Operations, Carrie Ramaekers, as well as Pam Ramaekers who works for Prairie Village Assisted Living.

She chose to write a short essay.

Short Essay Title:

“My Healthcare Inspirations”

Short Essay:

“I am inspired by my mom Carrie Ramaekers who works extremely hard to make sure everything is running as smooth as possible in every Azria building. She works endless hours, day and night to Make sure everything is going well with her staff and residents. Her leadership skills and compassion inspire me. Pam Ramaekers takes care of the residents at her building and makes sure they are comfortable and transported safely in every situation. Her selflessness and patience inspire me.”

18 and Up Winners

About:

Congratulations to Haley C., 1st Place Winner in our 18 and Up category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your $150 Gift Card!

Haley (who is also our Activity Director here at Azria Health Olathe) nominated Gary Nelson, our Maintenance Director.

She chose to write a short essay.

Short Essay Title:

“My Dad: Hero to Me, Hero to All”

Short Essay:

“The person who I think of when I hear the phrase, “Healthcare Hero” is my dad: Gary Nelson. There are so many wonderful people that work in healthcare from nurses, to housekeeping, dietary to administration. It takes a myriad of people from all departments to come together to run a nursing home as wonderful as Azria Health of Olathe. My dad, Gary, is new at Azria, so it is likely that you haven’t heard his story. Once you hear how my dad got into healthcare you will understand why he is the first person I think of when I hear the word “Hero”.

From the time I was born, all through my childhood I remember my dad working blue collar jobs. He worked as a roofer, Chimney installation, painting, siding and all types of construction when I was little. My dad started working for R&B Manufacturing Company when I was in elementary school. There he welded metal lumber beds. He was a skilled welder. I remember “Bring your Daughter to Work Day”, I would accompany him to the jobsite where he would put special protective gear on me like leather gloves, face shield, and coat. He would teach me to tack weld. I felt so special and important alongside my dad. My dad didn’t finish school though he did receive an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps. He chose this job, because it allowed him the flexibility needed to be able to miss work in the summer when we were out of school, or to take time off when one of us kids were home sick from school. He always put us first.

In 2008, during the recession, my dad was laid off from R&B Manufacturing Co. Though he was an employee there for over 10 years. When he lost his job, he felt a little helpless and unsure of what to do next. It was then, that my Maternal Grandmother, Barbara was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. She lived in Huntington Beach, California. She was still working full time at Disneyland when she received her diagnosis. She quit her job and began treatments for her cancer. She quickly found that her disease process was aggressive, and she became weaker each month that passed by. She was unmarried and though she had 12 children, none of them lived nearby to be able to check in on her or take care of her.

My mother worked full time at a corporation that did not allow her much time to be out of the state. My dad felt that because he lost his job, God was telling him to move to California to take care of his mother-in-law. I was a freshman in college, studying at Dallas Baptist University when I heard my dad would be setting out for the west coast. My dad moved in with my grandma into her home and drove her to and from appointments, helped her with her medications, and kept her from falling.

After my grandmother had parts of her colon resected, my father changed her surgical wounds and bandaged her. He bathed her and dressed her. As her cancer worsened, he fed her and played her favorite music and read her the Bible verses that brought her the most comfort. My grandmother became so ill in her home, that she was vomiting in her bed almost every night. It was then that my father decided she needed to go to the hospital. Her treatments were not working, and her children determined it was time to sell her home and car and all of her possessions and move her in a long-term care facility in Anaheim. My aunt and uncles told my mom, “Ok, she’s in a nursing home now, Gary can go home back to Kansas now. By this time, he has been gone over a year.” My dad refused to return home. The journey for him wasn’t over until my Grandma Barbara was at peace. He took personal responsibility for her. He felt that moving her into a nursing home was him being a failure in some way.

He stayed by her bedside when she got into the nursing home, feeding her, watching her favorite game shows, rubbing lotion on her hands and feet every night. The staff at the nursing home in California would say, I hope that my son loves me that much someday. My dad would just smile, and my grandmother, would say, “NO, SON-IN-LAW”.

My grandmother passed away within 30 days of moving into the nursing home. She went to be with the LORD and we all cried. After her funeral when it was time to pack our things and return to Kansas. My dad felt a sadness the rest of us didn’t share. He not only missed her, he missed the sense of purpose that he had over the last thirteen months taking care of her. What was he going to focus on now? What direction did God want him taking? He prayed about this decision, and it came to him one evening. He had no medical training or experience. He had no formal education and knew nothing about college. Despite all of this, he decided that he would become a Certified Nurses Assistant. He took the class and aced the test and began working in a nursing home immediately.

By this time the recession was over, he could have easily gone back to welding making $30.00/hour. Instead, he chose a career that allowed him to work with seniors in the last chapter of their lives. He forged a bond as a caregiver with every single person he interacted with. My dad treated each and every elder as if it was his mother in law he was caring for.

He used to share stories with me about residents he had that did not have family. He became their family. He would hold their hands and tell them that everything would be ok. He created a horseshoe game for a gentlemen that was feeling depressed because he lost his wife a few months earlier. They used to play it together in the courtyard. He softened a tough older gentleman who refused to wear incontinent products by telling a little white-lie that he used them too, to help him not feel undignified or embarrassed. He helped make a handicapped accessible sewing table for a lady that loved to quilt. He held a parade for a resident who was a former Marine in the halls of the home because he wanted to honor his brother in arms.

Time and time again, my dad amazes me at his capacity for love. Every time he pulls over to help change a tire for stranger, or give his last $5 to the waitress, or share his story with an old friend that’s having a hard time, I am reminded why he is my hero.

My dad was given the opportunity to switch from CNA to maintenance technician 8 years ago. He accepted this opportunity because he felt it was an opportunity to combine the two things he loved most: taking care of elders and fixing things that are broken. The fact that he has his CNA only ever elevates him in his career. When he passes by a call light he always stops in to see what the residents needs and never responds, oh you’re aid will be coming. He just rolls up his sleeve and provides the care necessary to that person. When the building works short, he stays for breakfast and lunch to help serve plates and assist residents with eating.

There isn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for someone. He is my hero. And I hope now after hearing his story, you’ll agree that he truly is one of a kind. The example he set for me has forever changed my life. It is what has brought me into healthcare as a social worker. I try to make a difference every day in the lives of my residents. Just like he did with my grandmother and every other elder he serves.”

About:

Congratulations to Heather S., 2nd Place Winner in our 18 and Up category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your $100 Gift Card!

Heather Stevens nominated her mother, Kathy Klingsporn, who is our Administrator at Azria Health Central City.

She chose to write a short essay.

Short Essay Title:

“Inspired”

Short Essay:

“I am inspired by my mother who has served the elderly at the same home since I can remember starting as a cook in the kitchen to working in the business office and now the administrator. She has always inspired me to care for others above and beyond the calls of duty. She is always there when her family at work and/or her family at home needs her. She pushes others to do their best, leads by example and is constantly thinking outside the box when it comes to keeping smiles and laughter flowing throughout her building and home! She puts endless hours and pours her heart into her work all because she loves what she does and has so much passion for caring for others. She is humble and never asked or expects anything in return. I nominate her because she has not only been a hero for all the wonderful people, she has cared for, but she has also inspired others around her to give the very best in all that they do.”

(Kendra K. with her father, Randy Bander, who is a farmer)

(Kendra K. with her father, Randy Bander, who is a farmer)

About:

Congratulations to Kendra K., 3rd Place Winner in our 18 and Up category of our Letter To A Hero Contest! We hope you enjoy your $50 Gift Card!

Kendra nominated her father, Randy Bender, who is a farmer.

She chose to write a short essay.

Short Essay Title:

“The Forgotten Farmer”

Short Essay:

“My dad is a farmer. He works hard absolutely every day of his life. He gets up at the wee hours of the morning before the sun is even up and he stays up later before the sun is even set. He never knows if his field will be prosperous and every day is a gamble. Between weather and prices, one never knows if the crop that they raise will be worth anything. It takes a special person with special patience to sit and wait and irrigate in hopes that the wind, rain or tornado don’t take the crop they have invested hard work, time and money into. I believe that farmers are forgotten heroes or even the fact that people don’t even know where their food comes from. It is not the grocery store or the restaurant, but the farmers who pride for this nation. These men and women slave away each and every day to raise their crop and livestock so that the rest of the world can reap the benefits without little reward to the farmer.”