8 Things We Learned in 48 Hours

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 1.38.40 PMA group of Banyanites recently joined with friends to enter the 48 Hour Film Project in St. Louis. Here’s some insights from the making of their award-winning* film:

  1. Assemble – Can I really get along with this guy? You’re going to spending a lot of time together over the next couple days.  Temperament and stress-management skills should not be overlooked – or undervalued.
  1. Story – Video is a means of telling a story, no matter how little time you have to tell it. Things didn’t come together for us until we started asking some big questions of our characters: what do they want and what’s stopping them from having it?
  1. Sleep – Simply put, to succeed you need to be awake.
  1. Eat – All of these basics seem to slip the mind, but that film’s not going to make itself if you’ve passed out from exhaustion.
  1. Be Unexpected – Every team had to use a certain character, but we were the only ones to kill the guy off in the Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 1.39.17 PMintroductory title sequence. With the time crunch, you can be tempted to go with your first ideas for everything, but it’s your later ideas that will help make it stand out.
  1. Have Back-Up Plans for your Back-Up Plans – Having drawn Road Movie, we needed some outside scenes. But not only was there threat of rain, a triathlon training ended up happening right where we needed to be.
  1. Wear Sunscreen – I guess our whole health consciousness-thing doesn’t ever turn off. But we were one of the only teams without sunburns!
  1. Enjoy the Madness – There are few things that can really give you a great burst of creative energy like gathering together a group of smart people and tackling a problem with an intense deadline. It may be madness, but you can also enjoy every minute of it.

*Award-winning = Audience Favorite Award, the Best Of screening, and Best Use of Genre (road trip).


Nice to Meet You, Magic

Thanks to Banyan’s passion for wellness, I often have the opportunity to meet some pretty incredible people. And sometimes, those incredible people all show up in the same place.

People like…

Not to mention a major chunk of our nation’s top business leadership, and a lot of other folks all of whom are focused on wellness.  The American Cancer Society (ACS) brought us all together as part of their annual Corporate Impact Conference, to talk about what we can do and what we should do to help America stay healthy.

What a great event.

Banyan also endorses corporate wellness programs. My colleague Jared Gordon created Banyan’s own corporate wellness effort and we’re all involved.  We walk during meetings now, even when it is St. Louis or Atlanta “hot.”

Banyan’s wellness program inspired our interest in this ACS event.  We worked hard to get the attention of ACS to let us help with marketing and outreach for the conference. This year, I had the best job in the world– I got to emcee along with Dave Minifie from Centene (that’s how I met Magic).

Meeting this icon of basketball success may not mean a lot to you, but I’m from Indiana and I feel like I’ve known Magic for a long, long time.  I watched him win at basketball, against HIV… I wondered if he would live up to his image.  Well, he did not disappoint.  Somehow, Magic managed to hold a one-on-one conversation with 300 of us in the Washington University auditorium for a full hour.  He said, “Our legacy is all about how we touch our communities and others less fortunate.” Imagine the presentation…

Picture a man, almost 7 feet tall, reaching you with his smile, explaining how he met his life, “head on.”  He talked about the schools he attended, basketball, HIV, his family and business, the black and brown community he hopes to help.  He claims to be the best-prepared man in any room he enters because he is all about the “win.”

By the way, Magic followed Norm Stewart at the conference.  The former University of Missouri player and coach boasts a lifetime record of 731/375 over 43 years.  Late in his career, Norm contracted colon cancer. Over time, he won that battle but he didn’t walk away from what he experienced. He inspired the Coaches vs Cancer program and has raised over $100 million.  Can you imagine?

ACS ConferenceThe last speaker of the event was the Chief Medical Officer of Express Scripts, Dr. Steve Miller, who shared some of the vast achievements of science in its work to prevent cancer.  He called out the National Institutes of Health and other corporations who have changed the entire cancer landscape and illustrated the amazing progress man has made against this disease.

His final message: the importance of prevention. Don’t smoke, eat healthy, watch portions, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, limit drinking.

Speaker after speaker engaged the audience. There were breakout sessions where folks rolled up their sleeves and collaborated about their successes and their disappointments with employee wellness programs and corporate responsibility initiatives.

It seems that there is no real proven textbook to inform their work, so they are writing the rules from their own experiences.

And so can you. It doesn’t take much to inspire a little change for good.

Exercising for Charity: The 2014 Wellness Challenge

WellnessCollageMore is at stake than waistlines, exercise minutes, and eternal bragging rights this year in the Banyan Wellness Challenge.  The biggest winner hopes to be families in need, as the challenge raises money for local Atlanta and St. Louis food banks.

With family members joining the fray, our 15- week challenge boasts:

  • 28 participants
  • Collective goal of 116,400 minutes of exercise

Challengers are awarded a point for every minute of exercise achieved (so long as it’s done for at least 10 minutes) with double points given for high-intensity workouts, such as running.

LevelsNearly 26% of challengers are going for a new level this year, Prestige, which demands 400 points a week to stay on track. Nearly a third are taking advantage of another new feature, plus programs, which slowly advance participants to the next highest level throughout the course of the challenge.

Challengers are organized into support groups that meet weekly, share encouragement and support, and often exercise together.


ActivityIn their first week, participants:

  • Rallied 9,299 points
  • Surpassed their first collective goal of 7,650 points
  • Walked more than they ran
  • Ran more than they strength-trained
  • And strength-trained more than other activities, like biking or swimming

The challengers will need to achieve their full 116,400 points by the end of the challenge to see the greatest donation possible to charity. Smaller donations will be given based on small goals along the way, and some participants are also donating for individual milestones.

Change for good, all the way around.


Value in Lessons Learned

There is a specific personality trait that runs through my family.  My grandmother used to call it being “bullheaded.” Now, we refer to it as being stubborn or headstrong. It often got us into more trouble than it should. But, it also taught us the value in learning things by making mistakes and the satisfaction of success.

159276704I often have the privilege of speaking with community members and organizations that are on the front lines of public health. Every day they are implementing programs, interventions, and activities that make the lives of their community members better. They are eager to share their success—even those on the smallest scale. And we celebrate each and every one of them.

But we should also celebrate the lessons learned. At a young age we learn the oven is hot for two reasons:

  1. We can feel the heat radiating off the oven door if we get close enough
  2. Our parents or guardians told us it was hot and have taken steps to prevent us from touching it

We modify our behavior accordingly for both of these reasons. The first implies that we see what could be painful or harmful, and we adjust our actions accordingly. The second means we rely on the experience of others to guide us in the right direction.

When crafting success stories, we should share the important lessons learned. We may help others on the front lines realize why specific activities are not producing the anticipated results. Or, we may expand the evidence base for activities because we felt the heat radiating off the oven and can adjust a program or initiative accordingly.

Even if you are a little bullheaded, don’t be afraid to tell others the oven is hot. It will help us all in our journey to create change for good.

Change for Good in the Golden Years

Along with honoring our servicemen and women and celebrating the unofficial start to summer, the last week in May also holds another distinction: the recognition of National Senior Health & Fitness Day.

Through good nutrition and physical activity, seniors can enjoy life as they did in their younger days.  Studies show that a good diet in later years helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and cancer, and in managing their signs and symptoms. This contributes to a higher quality of life, enabling older people to maintain their independence. Not to mention the many benefits of exercise: for adults over 50 those include improved immune function, better heart health and blood pressure, better bone density, and better digestive functioning.

My "elite" mom + role model

My “elite” mom + role model

This public health initiative is dear to me because I am the caregiver for my mother. While she certainly does not consider herself a senior (she prefers ‘elite’ to senior), it is very important to me that she is mindful of her health and well-being as she enjoys her ‘golden’ years.  I often look to her for health and fitness advice. She is a highly-active 60-something and seems to have slowed the effects of aging. She credits her success to:

–Eating a balanced diet

–Regular exercise

–Regular check-ups

–Not smoking

–Daily meditation

–A strong social network

Above all, maintaining balance and a positive outlook is why she doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon.  Every day is gift and she vows to live life and enjoy the little things.

I am equally proud of being a part of an organization that values the importance of a healthful lifestyle. Banyan encourages “Creating Change for Good,” which includes promoting health and wellness, supporting our communities, and encouraging each other.  Between Banyan’s annual Wellness Challenge and our healthy staff outings, like participating in local 5K run/walks, we actually walk the walk (and run and sprint it, too).

I hope to be half as active as my mother is when I’m an ‘elite’ one day. Between the example she sets and the opportunities Banyan provides, I’m in great shape (pun intended).

With Gratitude

My father recently came across a letter in his father’s briefcase dated January 1921. It was addressed to a Mr. Deval in Plumstead, London and was sent from the Army Records Office in England.  It reads:


James Deval was my grandfather’s half-brother and was in the Royal Artillery during World War I. Like so many other young men, James was enthusiastic when he first joined the war effort. Everyone in England believed the war would be won quickly.  Parades and celebration lined the streets of London daily, where there was an almost constant atmosphere of victory. This was a terrific adventure for James and like most people he thought the fighting would be over by Christmas. It didn’t dawn on him, or anyone, that this war could last four years and that over 16 million people would die.

By 1916, the glamour of battle had ended and new volunteers were hard to come by. So England began to require people by law to serve in the military.  But, James Deval had died by then. He was killed by bombshell fire in 1915 in Flanders, only one year into the war.

While I hope this civil service letter and the bronze plaque was some consolation to his relatives, I don’t believe 100 years later that the war was worth his life or the lives of the other millions of men killed between 1914 and 1918.  But, that is just my opinion. As with the wars and battles that have occurred since, and will occur far into the future, the choice to go to war is intensely personal.  The fight for freedom.  The right to bear arms.  Funding for an education.  Financial support for a family.  The right to choose.  I honor that choice and am in awe of it for it is not one that I would make.

My eldest son in 16 and my youngest is 14.  I am so thankful that today, in the U.S., they will not be called upon to go to war — that becoming a soldier is a personal choice.  And, I am so thankful that we have a chance to seek happiness in a free country.

As Memorial Day approaches, I remember James Deval and the millions of other soldiers who have fought and died in war.

Thank you for what you’ve done – and continue to do – in support of our freedom.


Healthiest Nation in One Generation

Daunting? Maybe. Achievable? Absolutely.

As anyone who is called to do this work knows, promoting public health can be a challenge: the American Public Health Association notes the current generation isn’t as healthy as the one that came before.

A challenge, yes. But one that’s worthwhile, rewarding, and often inspiring, too.


Day 2, Disaster Plan

National Public Health Week 2014 kicked off on Monday, and our entire team rallied around the effort. Our “Creating Change for Good” motto isn’t just part of our signature in emails or a hashtag. It’s truly the one unifying piece of all of the work we do.

To connect with others who share the same passion is a reminder that no one is in this alone. The benefits of a happier, healthier, safer nation far outweigh the heavy lifting it might take to get us there.

So we signed on as a NPHW partner, joined the #NPHWchat — which generated 5,300+ tweets, included 1,100 participants & trended nationally — and put our own creative spin on each daily theme for NPHW.  The end result:  a light-hearted and serious mix, represented via infographics, videos, and one bad dog trying really hard to do the right thing.

At the end of the day, aren’t we all?

#NPHW week daily themes:
  1. Be Healthy from the Start
  2. Don’t Panic
  3. Get Out Ahead
  4. Eat Well
  5. Be the healthiest nation in one generation.

And finally – today’s theme: “Be the healthiest nation in one generation.” We’re ready to roll up our sleeves. Who’s with us?



My Change For Good Journey

Over the holidays I decided it was time to push myself. Time to do something I have long been interested in but have always been a little afraid to do.  So, in early January I signed up for my first half-marathon.  What made me think this was a good idea?  To be honest, I wasn’t sure at the time.

As it turns out, training for a half-marathon provides some (ok, a LOT) of alone time to think.

So now, three months into the journey, I’ve figured out some of the reasons why:

Small Steps, Big Difference

I’ve always exercised but go through periods of laziness.  Last year Banyan introduced Wellness Wednesdays and a 10-week wellness challenge.  It really helped me focus on doing a little more each day.


My running shoes: with me every step of the way.

It may sound cliché but I have realized some wonderful benefits to running long distances: feeling strong, feeling accomplished, enjoying the neighborhoods around our beautiful city, and watching spring in Atlanta slowly emerge.

Runner’s High

Is it real?  No consensus there but I do feel really good after mile four (sadly seems to end after mile seven).

Support System

When I first mentioned wanting to run, my husband immediately agreed to do this with me.  We trained together, supported each other and got in better shape.  My father and sisters check in regularly to see how training is going.  My colleague and project partner Erica provided me with some easy-to-follow training schedules and supportive comments and helpful tips along the way.  The encouragement keeps me motivated.

Walking the Talk

Banyan Communications promises to promote public health practices and create change for good.  It isn’t just a job; it is a mission and a commitment, both professionally and personally.

Over the past year at Banyan we have worked together to promote health and wellness, support our communities, and encourage and support each other. This journey is my personal change for good.  What’s yours?