BARE IT ALL: Behind the hair, smile, and clothing -> Who am I and what do I want? I’m not talking about the surface level things. I’m asking the bigger question -- who am I? When all is lost, and all is gone – I want to know who I’ll see looking back at me in the mirror. I don’t want to be just successful in the world. I want to fulfill my obligation as a human being. I want to always be known as a person who cares about others. A person who wants to make a difference. When we live a passion-filled life we are living on purpose, and that is the purpose of life. The power of unlimited love, compassion, and care is something I want to provide daily to others. #passion#drive#care#compassion#people#serve#smile#volunteer#donate#charity#giveback#nonprofit#help#makeadifference#empathy#courage
GRAB A TISSUE: There’s nothing like seeing a daughter be reunited with her personal hero - her dad. Students at Liberty Pines Academy in St. Johns County recognized veterans and military members for their sacrifice in their annual Liberty Parade Celebration. Seventh grader Alexis Vasquez stood at the podium and shared what it’s like to have a dad in the U.S. Navy. Moments after she finished her speech, Principal Traci Hemingway surprised her by revealing her dad heard every word she had said. Emotional. Heartwarming reunion. This daughter was able to wrap her arms around the man she admires after not seeing him for quite some time. #military#vet#veteran#service#Navy#hero#dad#daughter#family#florida#school#stjohns#surprise#reunion#emotional#heartwarming#sacrifice#brave#courage
INSPIRING STUDENTS TO DREAM BIG: An international supermodel is spreading a message of inclusion in the fashion industry. Madeline Stuart has become a world-famous model, fashion designer and internet celebrity with a huge Instagram following. @madelinesmodelling_ has Down syndrome and is breaking many boundaries for people with intellectual and developmental differences. Students cheered her on Thursday as she walked a red carpet at @nfsse_jax in Jacksonville. The school focuses on improving the lives of students with intellectual and developmental differences through the achievement of academic, vocational and social skills. In the ceremony, students wrote out questions and Debra Raines, assistant head of the school, read them aloud. Madeline Stuart’s mom helped her explain her journey to becoming famous. With each question, Madeline Stuart and fellow students introduced themselves. She signed autographs and hit the dance floor with students and teachers after the conversation. Madeline Stuart’s visit is what the new public awareness campaign Connectable is all about. The movement is designed to enhance connections within Northeast Florida and people who have IDDs. #supermodel#model#fashion#industry#MadelineStuart#Australia#celebrity#downsyndrome#IDD#school#Jacksonville#nonprofits#organizations#inclusion#diversity#friends#fashionshow
“I am unique. I feel good about being alive and being me. I trust myself and know my inner wisdom is my best guide. I have integrity. I am totally reliable. I do what I say. I choose to be proud of myself. I approve of myself and love myself deeply and completely.” Positive affirmations are so much more than just feel good quotes and positive statements. In short, positive affirmations are statements that are spoken, and often repeated, to encourage and uplift the person speaking them. Just remember you are good enough TODAY – and EVERYDAY!
Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of mentors. I took this picture of #NYC after I packed up my car and drove through New Jersey before I accepted my first job in Bangor, Maine. This new chapter was a fresh start. A chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and pondered. Today, I thought about my time overlooking this beautiful skyline- and I remember making promises to myself. Promise to make my dreams a reality, to never stop following my heart, and to constantly seek guidance from people I respect. Life is all about perspective. Even though I’m a small fish in a big pond, I know one day that will change. Until then, I’ll take baby steps to help those in need. #perspective#miss#NewJersey#skyline#newyork#newyorkcity#dreams#goals#workingwoman#love#happiness#givingback#community#throwbackthursday
HOPE IS SPROUTING: Her Song Jacksonville provides follow-up care for survivors of human trafficking to help them on their journey toward recovery and restoration. Today, marks a very special day as they open their first Phase 3 Transitional Home - Freedom Cottage - the only one of its kind in #Jax!! I was able to take a special tour of this home – the moment I walked inside my blood pressure lowered. It’s calming, soothing, and feels like a sanctuary. Survivors will begin moving into this home in November! Freedom Cottage will provide housing for survivors who are transitioning to independent living. Residents will follow a healthy living plan, receive mental health care, learn life skills such as money management, and participate in an empowering program. The home is the first safe house of its kind in the area and is the foundation piece of Her Song’s three-phase “Breaking Ground” housing plan to provide refuge to survivors. Her Song will continue to work to increase our city's capacity to care for victims through a network of homes to help women move from rescue to recovery to reintegration. The pioneers behind this nonprofit inspire me as I work towards making my dreams blossom in the philanthropy world. #Hope#HerSong#Jacksonville#florida#FreedomCottage#survivors#humantrafficking#journey#recovery#restoration#transitionalhome#home#calm#soothing#sanctuary#independent#empowering#programs#nonprofit#education#dreams#organization#community
A STORY OF THREE: Earlier this month, I introduced you to the Brave like Bronson team, which makes up Bronson, his dad, and a local deputy. Together, these three participated in the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. The race was on October 22nd – and this team was dynamite! Bronson Roth was born with a traumatic brain injury. His love for being outside brought his dad to run his first marathon with his son on the national stage alongside them was Nassau County Deputy, Bill Quick. These three trained for months to prepare for this race. Quick’s expertise in running helped push this father and son duo through this rigorous course. Bronson’s nana gave me a running shirt so I could support the team. I wasn’t able to be there in person, but I was there in spirit. I wore this shirt around town to cheer on this remarkable family! You should check out the “Brave Like Bronson” Facebook page to see pictures and video from that incredible day.
Dr. John Hitt inspired thousands of students to go after their dreams and seize new opportunities. As UCF’s fourth president, he was instrumental in the success of the university as it continues to expand and make impacts in Orlando, the state, and nation. Today, he announced his retirement from his duties as president effective June 30, 2018. An ending of an era, meanwhile he certainly left behind a remarkable legacy. My freshman year at @universityofcentralflorida, I made it my mission that I would have the chance to speak with Dr. Hitt. I wanted to get to know the leader of my college. I was ecstatic when Dr. Hitt’s staff approved my time to enjoy a one-on-one conversation with him in his office. We spoke about my endeavors, academic and personal goals along with politics, leadership, student success, and finding balance in life. In due time, I had the pleasure of getting to know him better and his wife, Martha, after being inducted into the President’s Leadership Council. The council members of PLC serve UCF as official student ambassadors at all times and at special events such as Commencements, Board of Trustees’ meetings, Board of Governors’ meetings and Gubernatorial visits. Dr. Hitt changed the lives of many students - and I was fortunate to be one of them. Thank you for your service!
MISSING MY EXTENDED FAMILY: We all have different stories. Different backgrounds, experiences, and interests. But, when we are together we are one big @cokescholars family! We share so many things in common from our purpose driven lives to wanting to leave a mark in our society. When I’m around this group – my heart is full of pure joy, happiness, and laughter. These men and women are truly leaving marks in their communities. Whether through being a doctor, to leading college lectures, or to finding a new path in their career. We’re all going after our desires – facing our fears --- and doing what we think is best for ourselves and our community. These people spark the fire within my heart to keep working and striving. I’m counting down till I see y’all again. ;) #dreams#goals#ambition#laughter#happiness#CocaColaScholars#purpose#driven#community#society#doctor#student#CEO#leaders#career#path#fear#excitement#satisfied#workingwomen
Day and night I work. No matter if I get to bed late, I force myself to get up early so I can start chipping away at my passion projects. The time is always right to do what is right. What you do in life depends upon what you want. I want to help those who are suffering from eating disorders. I believe what you get from life depends upon how much you want it -how much you are willing to work for it. I’ve never worked so hard in my life to make things happen. Every day, I know I’m getting one step closer to making my vision a reality. I hope people use Sunday as a way to advance their dreams.
As a teenager, I spent my weekends volunteering with children with life-threatening illnesses in the pediatric oncology unit. Many kids faced the mirror and saw the reflection of their opposite: a sad, lonely child with sunken eyes, and an intravenous line hooked into their arm. Every child had a different story, however, they all traded their days on the playground for endless days of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was in their sterile white wall hospital rooms that I realized that I wanted to tell their stories – and give them the stage to explain their experiences. Kids like Addy and Ben inspired me to become a journalist. It’s an honor when I get to tell their stories. In my eyes, these children are my heroes. When their circumstances knocks them down - they get back up and keep fighting. I’m honored to have received an #Emmy nomination for telling their stories. These faces are what inspire me each day. #children#kids#hospital#doctors#nurses#illness#health#medical#medicine#chemotherapy#cancer#tumor#radiation#treatment#procedures#honor#storytelling#journalist#reporter#news
Jacqueline and I felt fortunate to gear up in appropriate clothing so we could watch physicians operate on patients at @mayoclinic in Rochester, Minnesota. We both had smiles on our faces knowing patients were willing to welcome us into their lives. Many have a long road to recovery, meanwhile they were gracious enough to share their medical journey with us. Breast cancer surgeon Dr. James Jakub allowed us into his operating room where a patient was having a nipple sparing mastectomy. He was efficient, effective with communicating his thoughts to his team and made every step of the procedure appear effortless. After her specimen was removed, Dr. Hans Sviggum took us down the hall to pathology where the tumor was closely examined. The pathologists allowed us to touch the specimen. The tumor felt like a hard marble that was the size of my index finger. Within minutes, Dr. Jakub received a call from the pathologist saying the cancer was embedded deeper into the lymph nodes – and that promoted Dr. Jakub to remove more breast tissue. Once complete, Dr. Jakub handed his OR to the plastic surgeon who came in and completed the breast reconstructive surgery. I was impressed with the multiple layers of people working in congruent with one another to help patients during stressful times. #health#healthcare#medicine#medical#hospital#MayoClinic#Mayo#Rochester#Minnesota#breastcancer#cancer#tumor#procedure#operatingroom#mastectomy#specimen#pathologist#tissue#patient#surgeons#doctors#nurses
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay 2017. I’m lucky to celebrate this day because technically that shouldn’t be the case. I count my blessings every time I’m able to walk a flight of stairs, eat a meal, and breathe without being in pain. For 10 years, I suffered from three different eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. I was depressed, suicidal, and dependent on drugs. When I gave up on myself – my body kept fighting along with my support team of family, friends, and doctors. It took me about a decade to develop a healthy relationship with food. Recovery from an eating disorder is not a linear process. It wasn’t until I realized I couldn’t live a duel life that included my eating disorders and wanting to pursue my dreams. I had to pick one. You get two choices with eating disorders: live or die. I chose to live and go after my aspirations. Recovery helped me learn to appreciate being imperfectly perfect. It took time to let food stay in my body and understand the feeling of fullness. In order to heal, I had to listen to her needs, wants, and desires. Recovery isn’t an easy process, however, I believe getting your life back is worth the roller coaster ride. I hope today is a reminder to *never give up on yourself – even when you want to quit.
Happiness is actually found in the simple things. I received this adorable note on my desk from sweet Eliya. Joy comes from places you least expect it. Thank you for making my day with your handwritten note – and beautiful picture!
PURE JOY: Hundreds of hours of writing, reviewing, and tweaking has lead us to our 4th draft! I'd call my team at crazy hours telling them my ideas, sending lengthy emails, and frequent texts. Through it all, together we created a remarkable script! These words will hopefully educate people about eating disorders - and those suffering will learn the resources available to them to recover. Today, we are sharing this script with those in the medical and education fields for review!! I'm overwhelmed with joy, happiness. We’re creating an educational film along with a curriculum on eating disorders so teachers can open the discussion about mental health. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet they are treatable. Most public health textbooks don’t go into depth about this debilitating mental illness. After students watch this film, teachers facilitate a guided discussion to help erase the stigma attached to this mental illness. Right now, we’re working on raising the money needed to shoot this educational film, so we can provide this material *free to school districts.
Many firefighters who risked their lives during Hurricane Irma lost everything as they were helping others. A local rookie firefighter who has been on the force for about 8 months had six inches of water throughout her home. Dani McMillon told us many sentimental items rest on the curb, waiting to be thrown out after they were saturated by sewage and storm water. Her girls’ room, now bare as the carpet, their clothes and toys have all been disposed of. They have several large fans blowing at full force to dry out these now exposed walls. McMillon was with her firefighter crew during Irma responding to trauma alerts while her home was taking on water. This home has been in the family for generations, so many memories have happened within these walls, but this house doesn’t resemble a home anymore. This mother is getting through this emotional battle with the support of her JFRD family. Please take a moment and think about how YOU can help a family in need this weekend. Many people are suffering -- and we can ALL do something to help those around us! #hurricane#hurricaneIrma#damage#flooding#afterIrma#storm#weather#jacksonville#florida#JFRD#firefighter#water#home#house#family#help#support#community#friends#hugs#suffering#tragedy#triumph#volunteer#neighbor#love#care#support
TEAM BRONSON!! The Nassau County community is rallying behind a Yulee boy and his running team that will participate in a Washington D.C. marathon. Bronson Roth loves being outside and he has brought together a Nassau County deputy and his family to participate in several local races. Bronson was born with a traumatic brain injury and his family was told he’d never walk or talk. The doctors were correct, but Bronson is known to many as a miracle boy. He is wheelchair-bound and nonverbal, yet he’s inspiring thousands of people through his own story. Bronson’s father, Brent Roth, and Nassau County Deputy Bill Quick, are hitting the pavement with purpose as they train with Bronson for the upcoming 42nd Marine Corps Marathon that will be held in Washington, D.C. on October 22. Roth has completed many races with his son, but this upcoming run will be Brent Roth’s first marathon. For Quick, he’s always had a passion for running; he’s pushed Bronson in several 5Ks, half-marathons, full marathons and two 55K relay races. This race next month will be the most memorable race for Team Bronson! #teambronson#community#support#love#unconditional#WashingtonDC#marathon#athlete#run#sport#races#family#friends#deputy#injury#medical#doctors#wheelchairbound#purpose#runners#train#team#cheer#BraveLikeBronson
Mayor milestones for a St. Augustine teenager who was in a coma for weeks. In February, I told you about Tyler Clevinger, he suffered a serious head injury in a skateboarding accident. Against all odds – this local teen is proving doctors wrong, showing everyone, he’s a fighter. A trick at a skate park almost cost him his life; Tyler cracked his head open in a fall, he spent weeks in the ICU on ventilators. Now, Tyler is using his pain to inspire others to protect themselves. He wasn’t wearing his helmet during the time of the accident. His goal is to ensure every skateboarder thinks about safety first.
Many first responders who were helping people during Hurricane Irma also received the call about their homes being destroyed. Several JFRD firefighters had damage caused by wind, storm surge, and/or flooding. Andrew Sneed tells me flood waters filled his house; some areas he had standing water of about 6 feet. For days, he’s been cleaning up with the aid of his firefighter and church family who ripped this home down to the frame. His personal items rest on the curb, waiting to be thrown out. Sneed says his family is irreplaceable and some cherished items that have sentimental value – but everything else is just stuff. He reminded everyone that stuff is something you *CAN replace. Stuff doesn’t bring you happiness – and it can’t bring you joy. Family and relationships with people fills your heart with excitement, love, and positivity. He says his home can be fixed, it’ll just take a little elbow grease and hard work. Through this tragedy, Sneed explains a community has united together to help one another. To watch Sneed’s story head to @actionnewsjax.com.
Smart girls read! I always read in between meetings, appointments, and carry a book everywhere I go. This book by @nelygalan called “Self Made” touched me profoundly and came at the perfect time. I’m working on several ‘passion projects’ – that fit my calling and my purpose in life. To do these items, I’m taking risks, going against the norm, and outside my comfort zone. Through it all, I know it’s the right direction – because my heart feels lighter and happier. I feel more confident each time I achieve another little success. Galan’s words showed me if I believe something is important enough, even if the odds are against me, I should still do it! And that’s what I’m doing. She shows women why its important to roll up their sleeves and work hard at building their own empire – and dream life. Her words are empowering and she gives you the insight needed to become self-reliant, and rich in every way of your life. She reminds me why the biggest risk is not taking any risk… and how the world is always changing and you can either be on the outside looking in – or be in the middle a part of the change. This book is energizing, captivating, and resourceful. Galan’s book should be a must read for EVERY woman! We all need to lean in and get the backbone needed to build the life we dream of.
I’m a lucky gal! These two are dynamic storytellers who understand how to tell a story that moves you, gives you goosebumps, or provokes an emotion. Rob Nesbitt and John Blunda are from my sister-station in Maine who came to Jacksonville to provide coverage on Hurricane Irma. Storytelling is both an art and a science. These men understand what it takes to tell an exceptional story. Hands down! They recognize the importance behind natural sound, lighting, and capturing moments on camera. Together, these two are unstoppable; they told deserving stories that touched the lives of many people in the River City. There’s nothing like catching up with these two fine men. Already missing my Maine friends… come back!