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IIMM Presents the 6th Annual Good Life Awards


Every year for the past five years, Ideas in Motion Media has held their Annual Good Life Awards. With this year being the sixth time they have honored people and nonprofits in the local communities that have gone above and beyond the call of duty and ventured into a passionate benevolence.

These individuals give without asking anything in return. They are driven by a singular purpose to help others in whatever way they can. Whether it’s using horses to help enrich the lives of the disabled, or to fixing the houses of those that can no longer afford to do so, to simply just doing their taxes, these individuals and companies volunteer their time and energy to better the lives of those around them.

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This year, besides the six winners of the Good Life Awards, there was also a voting contest at the event to choose three of the 14 nonprofits in attendance to receive a year’s worth of content marketing from the Life sites to help get their messages out and help more people.

“Tonight is the best night of my life every year because we get to keep chasing a crazy dream about celebrating good people,” beamed Chris Mahlmann, CEO of Ideas in Motion Media. “A bunch of people come out and we get to expose some good stories from nonprofits that are participating and I get to pick six people who have made a positive impact on my life and other people’s lives through the stories we tell. Every year I get to do this I still can’t believe I get to do it. Just very blessed.”

The winners did not know they were going to win before hand, so it was a true surprise to each as they were called up to the podium to accept their awards. Some cried, some couldn’t even speak, but all were smiling and grateful.

The first winner was Ian Bowen who is the Owner and Head Trainer of Pumps Fitness. “I’m humbled, very thankful, surprised. I’m just very lucky to support a community and supports me that I’m able to help as many people be healthy as I can because I think a lot of us take our health for granted. As knowing what it’s like to have your health compromised I know it’s important. My goal is to help as many people in the region as I can. Changing the lives of people one person at a time.” Next was Patricia Bengert, who taught composition and music for 35 years in high school and 15 years in middle school and hasn’t slowed down yet. She takes children to operas and plays and truly loves what she does. “I love what I do. I couldn’t have lived a better life. I’m so surprised. I’m humbled. I’m very appreciative that maybe people know how much I do love them.”

Mayor of Hobart Brian Snedecor for the last 10 years was astonished to have won. “It shows that positive things yield positive results,” he said, still smiling ear to ear. “Being surrounded with people here that give so much back to the communities, I’m just so honored to be an elected official to be able play a part in this. I’m just totally honored.”

Bill Hanna is the President and CEO of NWI Regional Development Authority and after sharing a long hug with his friend Chris had this to say about winning his award tonight: “It means a lot to me. It’s coming from a guy who I have a lot of respect for and is just changing the community. I feel like I’m here with friends who have helped me. It means more to me than a lot of things, material things. Just with real people doing some really good things.”

“Goodness it means everything because I really try to be a positive light,” said Erin Parker, a High School Journalism Teacher for La Porte County Schools. “So I want my kids to have a good role model and to have someone to care for them. So, to be noticed for that it means a lot because sometimes you don’t know if you’re doing a good job or the right thing, and to have this thing it feels good.”

Lastly, Ideas in Motion Media’s own Stephanie “Mom” Swearington who is the Business and Client Development Specialist said “I’m really taken off guard by all of this but it’s awesome to be a part of a team that’s making a difference in the region. And they did a good job of hiding this award from me.”

Those steel crafted and beautifully constructed awards have been designed by Industrial Revolution’s own Mike Leeson.

After those awards were handed out, the votes were counted quickly to see who had won the free year’s contract with IIMM. The first winner was Hannah’s Hope, and Treasurer Scott Carr said “This is amazing. It’s huge and helped us grow. It’s amazing to be able to work together with the life sites and Hannah’s hope to make it bigger and better and to reach more people. The more people we reach the more kids and families we help.”

Next was Habitat for Humanity. Nicole Batista who is a Fundraising Committee Member said “We’re really excited and we’re struggling to get our message out there and I think this will really help. This will help us get a family who is mushed into a small house a space of their own to celebrate the holidays and we’re just really excited about that.”

Last and winning with the most votes was CASA. Director of Porter County Court Appointed Special Advocates Program Sarah Fink had this to say about winning: “I’m so grateful. Never in a million years would I have thought we would have won this. I mean we need it and I’m so glad that the people here thought to look at us and see what we’re about. I’m really looking forward to Porter County knowing more about what we do and getting more volunteers because we need them.”

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It was an incredible evening and everyone was all smiles as each of the awards was handed out. We reached out to each of the 14 nonprofits to tell us a little bit about themselves.

“We deliver meals to those in need. That could be anything from someone recovering from surgery at home to a senior that may be homebound,” said Jodie Fella, Business Development Manager of Meals on Wheels. “ValpoLife has been great in terms in seeing the positive side of our business. ValpoLife encourages the community to see the positive side of what we do to help those that can’t help themselves.”

Lisa Mathis is the Development Office of Housing Opportunities said “We provide housing for the homeless, we help families keep their homes and their approaching sustainable lifestyles. Valpolife has been incredible for all of our events that we’ve had as well as donors wanting to learn more about us and volunteers for people to fulfill their philanthropic needs and desires. They’ve been a great partner to help us get the word out more.”

Sarah Fink of CASA who won the year’s contract said of her nonprofit, “We represent children that have come through the court system and have bene removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. The judge has to decide what to do with them and appoint CASAs for the children. Our goal is to get those kids to a safe, permanent, nurturing home as soon as possible by giving them a neutral, fact based voice in court.”

“We give people a hand up by providing home ownership,“ said Kelly Longhi, Director of Habitat for Humanity for Porter County. “We work through them by partnering with them through the process so by the time we give them the keys they have learned how to become a homeowner. These are probably people who otherwise would have never owned a home. We also help build wheelchair ramps and exterior home repair. I love Valpolife because they’re so immersed in the community and they really help spread the word because most people don’t realize that we’re here in Porter County.”

Michelle Shirk is the Development Director for La Porte County YMCA said “We do a lot of different things but all our programs focus on healthy living, youth development and social responsibility. So we like to say we provide services to people from 6 weeks old to adulthood at 11 different sites around La Porte County.”

“We’re a nonprofit that raises money for a variety of other nonprofits and those nonprofits serve over 27,000 people in La Porte co,” said David Sisk, Manager of United Way for La Porte County. “So we do a lot of campaigns fundraising and events to raise money to help people in La Porte co. I would say we fight for the health, financial stability and wellbeing of the people of La Porte co and we stand up for the underdog when life happens. We have discount prescription cards, 211, and do peoples taxes for free if you make under $64k a year (myfreetaxes.com).”

Heather Compton is the President of Rebuilding Together, Duneland said “We rebuild homes for those who are financially unable to do that themselves. We try to help people stay in their homes. If they need to make it handicap accessible, or to be able to age in their home as they get older. You guys have covered our annual work day event for the last several years and that helps us because we normally do 10 houses and we just can’t cover all 10 houses and you help us get that out there.” Director of Services for NWI Cancer Kids Foundation Nicole Yarrow said of her organization, “We support local families in six counties in the area. We are here for financial and emotional support when their kids are diagnosed with cancer. We’re very family oriented. We depend on our communities for a lot of fundraising.”

“We raise money for kids in NWI with special needs and help them on their developmental milestones,” said Mike Martinez, Co-Founder of Hannah’s Hope.

Kaci Ensign is the Development Director for Opportunity Enterprises said, “We serve people with disabilities allowing them to maximize their self-sufficiency and enrich their quality of life.”

Aly Olson is a Therapeutic Horseback Rider Instructor had this to say: “Our mission at Reins is to improve the lives in adults and children with disabilities through equine assisted therapy. We host therapeutic riding lessons as our main program. And we work on social, emotional physical cognitive help.”

Five Hundred Turkeys President and Founder Jennifer Bolton said “We raise enough food and funds to feed 500 or more families for thanksgiving. Last night we managed to make food for 1500 families.”

After all was said and done, these awards really are just to signify the hard work and selfless dedication that these individuals do every day to help better their communities and those around them. The Life sites and the staff want to send congratulations to those that won and our warmest thanks to those that continue to fight the good fight.

Sponsors for the 6th Annual Good Life Awards are NIPSCO, Greater La Porte Economic Development Corporation, Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City, Regional Federal Credit Union, Northshore Health Centers, Realty Executives Premier, Boulder Bay Realty Group, General Insurance Services, Steindler Signs and Graphix, Industrial Revolution Restaurant, 1st Source Bank, Sage-Popovich Inc, McShane’s Business Products and Solutions, Century 21 Alliance, Breast Care Center of Northwest Indiana and Sand Creek Country Club for providing the wonderful venue to have our event.

The Nonprofits who were celebrated tonight are PATH – A Positive Approach to Teen Health, Girls on the Run, La Porte County YMCA, 500 Turkeys, NWI Meals on Wheels, Hannah’s Hope, Rebuilding Together Duneland, Habitat For Humanity of Porter County, United Way of La Porte County, Opportunity Enterprises, Reins of Life, Inc., Nick - Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids, Housing Opportunities.

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