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September 15, 2022

Independent Health Foundation Celebrates 30th Anniversary by Amplifying 30 Stories of Community Impact

Lives touched by the foundation will be featured in a new campaign that celebrates the work to improve the health and wellness of Western New York

For 30 years, the Independent Health Foundation has served Western New York by creating, supporting and providing innovative initiatives that enhance the health and wellness of communities across Western New York. From youth fitness opportunities (Soccer for Success, Fitness Challenge for Kids, Kids Run) to community events (Good for the Neighborhood, Growing Up Strong), the Independent Health Foundation has helped people live healthier lives by bringing unique programs to the spaces where they live and work.

independent health foundation logoThe foundation’s commitment is reflected in the lives it has touched — the people who have volunteered for, partnered with, and participated in the Foundation’s programs.

“Our work is possible thanks to volunteers and partners who allow us to grow thoughtfully and boldly,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation. “Our gratitude for our participants is endless – they are the reason we’ve shown up consistently for the last 30 years and the reason we’re looking forward to what’s yet to come as we build a stronger, healthier Western New York.”

To celebrate the people who make the mission possible, the Independent Health Foundation announced a new campaign called 30Faces, 30Years. It will come to life on social media through real-life stories of community impact, using the hashtag #30Faces30Years.

Each day in September, the Foundation will introduce the community to one of its champions – from RedShirt volunteers to community leaders, and from program participants to collaborative partners. 

They are but a small representation of the Independent Health Foundation community, one that is diverse in its demographics and health needs but is united in the goal of creating a strong, vibrant Western New York. 

Full profiles can be found online at

The 30 Faces, 30 Years campaign will feature the following individuals’ stories, listed alphabetically: 

Holly Anderson, owner of Anderson’s Frozen Custard – Partnered with Independent Health Foundation’s Healthy Options through the Taste of Buffalo. “Healthy food options and education encourages our everyday eating choices and habits.”

Stephanie Anzman-Frasca, PhD., University at Buffalo – “Independent Health Foundation’s programs offer accessible, fun, healthy activities. This mission aligns with my research, focusing on making healthy eating easier for families.”

Karen Brim, Independent Health RedShirt volunteer – “I understand that service to others is the rent I pay to live on this earth.”

Nancy Carroll, Independent Health RedShirt volunteer – Puts her bilingual skills to good use in her job at Independent Health and as a volunteer with the Independent Health Foundation’s Good for the Neighborhood program.

Diane Colgan, Sr. Vice President of Marketing for Tops Friendly Markets – “We love hearing the positive comments from families who really appreciate programs like Independent Health Foundation’s First Night Buffalo.”

Hlakee Day, program participant – After he aged out of the Soccer for Success program, he decided to become a Junior Coach Mentor. "One of my goals after high school is to make positive impacts in the community and this is a great start.”

Eric Fields, director Niagara Falls Housing Authority – Partner and host of Good for the Neighborhood. "People genuinely want to get better for themselves and for their families. Being able to witness that firsthand has been a blessing for me.”

Jim and Danielle Fleckenstein, owners, Rolly Pollies – The children’s gym partners with the Fitness for Kids Challenge and Kids Run. “We are passionate about enhancing the lives of the children in our community and partnering with the Independent Health Foundation has helped us to reach even more children.”

La’Shea Green-Thomas, program participant – She has been able to create healthy meals for her family of five thanks to Independent Health Foundation’s Healthy Options at Home, while her children have reaped the benefits of fitness through Soccer for Success.

Savannah Jedd, program participant – A student at Kensington Frederick Law Olmstead School, she was looking to give back to the community and an opportunity with Independent Health Foundation’s Student Peer Advocate Program.

Javett Long, Independent Health RedShirt volunteer – Loves to promote healthy family habits through the annual Independent Health Foundation Kids Run. "My favorite part of the program is seeing how all the kids LOVE being there.”

Kim Marino, Independent Health RedShirt volunteer – “I love all the wonderful people I’ve met in the community – people I otherwise might never have had the privilege to meet.”

Kevin McCarthy, musician – Combining two of his passions – music and wellness – Kevin McCarthy has performed health-themed shows for the Independent Health Foundation with the Fitness for Kids Challenge, helping to spread the message that "Wellness is Cool."

Michele Mehaffy, Wegmans – As a longtime supporter of the Independent Health Foundation’s annual Kids Run, she appreciates that the event is completely free for families to participate in and attend.

Lamont Mingo, Independent Health RedShirt volunteer – “It's important to get involved and assist communities that sometimes lack resources needed for day-to-day life.”

Thomas Maung, program participant – He is a past participant and junior coach mentor with Soccer for Success. “There are so many traditions, personalities, and appearances and when we’re all together, it's a party of assorted colors.”

Mary Montez, program participant – “I’m older and I want to be healthy and get some more good years out of my life. This is a way to keep an eye on things.” Mary Montez, a West Buffalo participant in Independent Health Foundation’s Good for the Neighborhood

Glorie Ndagano, program participant – A past participant and current coach with Soccer for Success, the program gave him, a refugee from Rwanda, an opportunity to become part of his new Buffalo community. 

Magdalena (Maggie) Nichols, Chief Operating Officer at Jericho Road Community Health Center – Her expertise is in issues of racial equity and social determinants of health, making her a strong advocate for one of the Foundation’s newest programs, “Growing Up Strong.”

Jane Orcholski, Buffalo Public School teacher – She is passionate about using the Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge.  "It's a tremendous way to promote a lifelong love of health and wellness.”

Barbara Piotrowski, Independent Health RedShirt volunteer – She regularly works the registration tables at Good for the Neighborhood events. “It has allowed me the privilege to interact directly with our members and others in our community.”

Beth Podgorny, Independent Health RedShirt volunteer– “My family is fortunate to have the opportunities that we do. I have raised my family in East Buffalo, and we see every day the impact that volunteerism has on all of us."

Phil Schneider, teacher, Dunkirk -- He joined with Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge because he loves seeing students being active. “My favorite part is watching the students receive prizes for their participation.”

Crystal Selk, Executive Director of West Side Community Services – Partner and host of Good for the Neighborhood. "Creating an easy way for people to understand and take control of their health is why I love hosting Independent Health Foundation’s Good for the Neighborhood,"

Lucas Soto, program participant – As part of Independent Health Foundation’s Student Peer Advocate Program, Lucas Soto has learned invaluable life skills. “This program has reinforced what it means to be a leader -- to help those who can't help themselves."

Hein Si Thu, program participant – He started as a player, learning skills and making friends at Independent Health Foundation’s Soccer for Success. Now, he is a junior mentor coach. “My favorite part has been meeting all the amazing coaches and players.”

Mike Tobin, owner Fresh Catch Poke Co. – He saw the Independent Health Foundation’s Healthy Options program as a way to promote healthy eating. “We want to help get healthy food out to as many people in the community as possible.”

Bridget O'Brien Wood, Food Service Director at Buffalo Public Schools – She has collaborated with the Foundation to develop a new School Wellness Policy to create healthy school cultures while gaining support for school gardens, Farm to School programs, and professional development for staff.

Alexander J. Wright, JD -- President and founder of the African Heritage Food Co-Op, he sees the Independent Health Foundation as a key partner to bringing healthy food options into communities.

Leslie Zemsky, Vice President of Larkin Development Group – She loves pairing Independent Health Foundation’s Healthy Options and Food Truck Tuesday. “We want guests to feel comfortable knowing they have healthy and delicious options.


About the Independent Health Foundation

The Independent Health Foundation was founded in 1992 after the original organizers of First Night® Buffalo asked Independent Health to become a sponsor. After the third year of First Night®, which has become one of the Foundation’s signature events as a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration for Western New York, the Independent Health Foundation was founded to produce the event and has continued to do so for the past 30 years.

The Independent Health Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of Western New York residents through awareness, prevention, education and other programs focused on community health priorities. For more information about the Independent Health Foundation’s activities, visit

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