GFA 2018 Winners

Meet the Winners

John Dingell Outstanding Public Official Award Winner – Senator Debbie Stabenow

Senator Debbie Stabenow is our Senior Senator and a prominent national leader who is recognized for her ability to reach across the aisle to get things done for our state.

Senator Stabenow has led efforts to address child hunger and child health throughout her career. As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she fought for passage of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act in 2010. This new law modernized school meal standards and established the Community Eligibility Provision, which Michigan piloted, to give schools with high percentages of low-income children the opportunity to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students.

As Chair of the Agriculture Committee, she wrote the current Farm Bill, which expanded opportunities for local, healthy food efforts like farmers markets and community gardens. The Farm Bill continued to emphasize the importance of nutrition education and established new programs to enhance the availability of healthy foods in “food deserts” and to make healthy eating more affordable for low-income families.

After completing the Farm Bill, Senator Stabenow led a series of Agriculture Committee hearings with retired U.S. military leaders, pediatricians, school leaders and parents to call attention to the threat that childhood obesity poses to our national security.

A long-time champion for School-Based Health Centers throughout her career, she is the author of the Hallways to Health Act to increase children’s access to physical and behavioral health care during the school day. And her bipartisan legislation to extend funding for community health centers and for the Children’s Health Insurance Program was recently signed into law.

Senator Stabenow is Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Co-Chair of the bipartisan Great Lakes Task Force, and a senior member of the Finance Committee, the Energy Committee and the Budget Committee.

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People's Choice Award Winner – Sandra Kopach

Sandi had struggled with her weight as long as she could remember. Her employer started participating in the Lakeland Health Wellness You Program and she decided to get on board. After some testing, Sandi was told she was diabetic. It was then she decided she had the power to changer her lifestyle.

She started watching what she ate and educating herself on food labels. With support from her friends and family, Sandi felt she was on track to sustain her new food choices.

Sandi started walking more and eventually completed her first 5K. By eating healthier and being more active, Sandi was able to cut her A1C in half and lose 100 pounds.

Sandi encourages everyone to find their path to wellness.

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Director’s Champion for Health Award Winner – Ty Schmidt

A Canadian import from friendly Manitoba now a proud Michigander, Ty came to beautiful Traverse City in 2006 by way of Tucson, AZ. Ty along with his wife, Johanna, a Leelanau County native, founded Norte in 2013 to advocate for more happy, healthy, strong communities. A physical therapist by training and recovering Cat 2 road/ elite mountain bike racer, Ty now works fulltime at the Norte Clubhouse and rides at a kid pace with his two boys, Carter and Jameson. Under Ty’s leadership and creative ideas, Norte has exploded from one single bike train to being the driving force behind everything biking, walking, advocacy for all, and neighborly living.

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Conquering Obesity Award Winner – Sharon Edgar

Sharon began gaining weight in her preteen years. She also became a caregiver for her mother who was incapacitated with severe arthritis. She spent a lot of time caring for others and not herself.

Her weight started to climb and at her heaviest, she weighed in at 288lbs. One day at her vacation home in Ludington her walk from the beach was more strenuous than it should have been. That day, she decided to stop gaining weight.

She became more aware of what she was eating. “When I got down to 250lbs, I thought, what if I try for 200?” she recollected, “then I was out of the plus size section and able to buy new clothes. I decided to work at getting down to 150lbs.” Sharon signed up to walk in a 5K event. She fell in love with cycling, and bikes the trails daily. In the winter she walks the trails. Her advice is “If you find the physical activity that feeds your soul, stick with it and over time it will be something you crave and need. In just a matter of years, with determination and support, she is down to her ideal weight.

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Veteran of the Year Award Winner – Kate Melcher

Kate Melcher began her career in a research and speechwriting position with the Supreme Court of the United States. She went on to serve in senior staff positions in the US Senate, in line company leadership, as an AH-64D Apache Longbow pilot, and as an Army Legislative Liaison Officer for the US Army National Guard. Ms. Melcher is a seasoned military, non-profit, and private sector professional, with a passion for public service. Today, she continues her service to her military family as she leads the Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran Program at the University of Michigan. In this capacity, she oversees all aspects of the program, including building and maintaining relationships with National Guard leadership, working with community and private sector partners, and supporting the volunteer corps. She also serves as Executive Director Emeritus of Fisher House Michigan. In this role, she and the FHM Board of Directors are responsible for raising funds and awareness to bring the first Fisher House to Michigan.

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Charles T. Kuntzleman Accepting the Challenge Award Winner – Ethan Whitcomb

Ethan Whitcomb came into the world early, without the radius in his right arm, without a thumb, and without one kidney. While some are born and carry on in life thinking about what they don’t have, Ethan decided to focus on what he does have; he has one kidney, he has one thumb, he has a left arm that works well…and he has a deep love for baseball. No matter the day, he could be found practicing and playing on the ballfields in South Lyon. From this, Ethan learned how to tune into his body to better understand the movement, physical strength and fitness required to play. When he threw a no hitter against Northville, their legendary rivals, it was clear his focus and pitching prowess was special, especially when the college scholarship offers started rolling in.

With determination, the support of his family, friends and community, this left-handed pitcher is managing a busy academic and athletic schedule at Madonna University.

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Active Senior of the Year Award Winner – Fred Winter

Fred Winter joined the Navy in 1933. He served on the battleship Mississippi for four years. Four years later he was called back to duty at the age of twenty-six, and he was ranked as a Yeoman Second Class. In 1945, he landed on the island of Okinawa and was tasked with securing areas behind the front line so that a naval operations center could be built. Winter left the Navy with the rank of Chief Yeoman in 1975. He was awarded a Master of Education degree from Creighton University in 1953 and he taught courses at Holland High School until 1984. Today, Winter is a health nut and sticks to a strict workout regimen. He looks forward to participating in the 2018 National Senior Olympics, where he will run the 100 meter, compete in discus, shop-put, javelin, and hammer throw.

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Vern Seefeldt Lifetime Achievement Winner – Al Kaline

Al Kaline is known as Mr. Tiger for a reason. For more than 50 years Al Kaline has personified the Detroit Tigers in a rare and spectacular way. From superstar ballplayer to television broadcaster to front office executive, Kaline has been a humble and integral part of the Tigers fabric since 1953.

His 22 seasons with a lifetime .297 batting average, 399 home runs and 3007 hits enabled him to be only the tenth player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility at the time. He finished second in MVP Award voting twice, once in 1955 and again in 1963. In his 1968 World Series appearance, Kaline hit .379 with two home runs and eight RBIs. He earned 10 Gold Gloves during his career.

This gentle ambassador of Tiger baseball came to Detroit from Baltimore, married his high school sweetheart and together, they raised their family in Detroit. His lifetime of humble devotion to the game has set an example for fans that is unparalleled. Kaline was born to play ball, he shares, “I owe everything to baseball, without it, I’d probably be a bum.”

His professionalism and devotion to the game and to Detroit were an example for fans during his playing career, and continues to this day.

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Extraordinary Organization of the Year Award Winner – 906 Adventure Team


Active Communities Award Winner – Dearborn


Healthy Workplace Award Winner (Small/Medium) – Marsh and McLennan Group

Healthy Workplace Award Winner (Large) – Michigan State University Federal Credit Union

Healthy Workplace Award Winner (Very Large) – Henry Ford Health System

View photos from the Governor's Fitness Award Gala

View photos from the Legislative Reception


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