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A Night at the Circus: The Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition Host Volunteer Appreciation Awards


If you were cruising by Zao Island Wednesday night, you might have noticed a few people who appeared to belong to a circus.

No, the circus wasn’t in town; it was the Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition for Porter County 16th Annual Appreciation Event, an event dedicated to thanking their volunteers for all that they have done to end smoking in Porter County.

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“This is our annual appreciation event which is our way to thank our volunteers and show our appreciation for what they do,” said Ryan Singh, Program Coordinator for Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition. “Without all of our volunteers we would not be as successful as we are today.”

Volunteers and their families enjoyed a number of fun events courtesy of the Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition. Children and families got their faces painted, spent quality time with friends and dedicated community leaders, and enjoyed an array of activities you can only find at Zao Island. And as the awards ceremony began, volunteers and their families watched as Todd Willis, Porter Starke’s Director of Prevention and Education and Vice Chair of the Tobacco Coalition, handed out awards to the hard-working volunteers, all the while dressed as a circus ring leader.

Other than the organization’s creative sense of circus style, the Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition has many achievements to be proud of. It works with its volunteers to spread awareness about the harms of smoking and tobacco use

“We work in Porter County as a part of the Indiana Prevention and Cessation Agency to prevent tobacco use, and to help people quit smoking,” said Natalie Rivich Program Director at Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition. “We are recognizing our top acts, people who have worked on advocacy issues, spoken with lawmakers, and educated people about the importance of our cause.”

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Many of the volunteers are involved in healthcare as the issue is constantly presenting itself in their field. One of the honorees, Dr. Kamaljeet Girn, Chief Medical Officer at Northshore Health Centers, was awarded the Tobacco Education and Prevention’s Top Act in Cessation Award.

“Part of our practice is that we address smoking and how it’s linked to many different diseases,” said Dr. Girn. “Smoking is in the top 4 causes of death in the US, therefore, it’s natural that any patient who comes through the office, we address smoking and even refer them to the quit line that is provided through the Tobacco Coalition.”

Although the healthcare is a key field when it comes to spreading awareness, and stopping smoking altogether, volunteers from other fields joined in the initiative.

“I got involved with the organization about a year ago they approached me when they were considering passing an ordinance in Portage, a smoke free ordinance that would ban smoking in public places,” said Portage City Councilman Collin Czilli, who received the Top Act in Second Hand Smoke Award. “I work with the organization to help support them in any way I can to end smoking.”

Other honorees from the ceremony were Erin Wilson of HealthLinc Community Health Center, who received the Tobacco Education and Prevention’s Top Act in Cessation, Joy Lundstrom, who received the Top Act in Prevention, Don Spears of Ivy Tech Community College, who received the Top Act in Advocacy, and Denise Carpenter, who received the Volunteer of the Year award.

The volunteers were applauded for their hard work, and dedication and invited to enjoy pizza, and drinks with their families. The Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition for Porter County offered up a fun night for its advocates, and hopes to continue to spread the word to put an end to smoking.

For more information on the Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition for Porter County please visit, www.valpo.edu/tepc.

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