“Women Who Make a Difference” Awards Last Night!

Last night I was honored with the “Empowerment” Award at the SUNY Sullivan Foundation’s “Women Who Make a Difference” Awards. 

Holy cow! This was an absolutely incredible honor with six other truly amazing women, and I was SO nervous! It’s one thing to write a blog, or talk about something you’re passionate about, but to stand up and talk about yourself? YIKES!

My great friend, the Honorable Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther introduced me, which was in itself a terrific honor. As she said “I have had the great privilege of watching her grow – and then shrink!”

Here is my acceptance speech:

“Thank you! Let me start by saying, ‘How great is it that we live in a community that takes time to celebrate its women?'”

I want to thank the SUNY Sullivan Foundation for this honor. I started my higher education at SUNY Sullivan when I was 15 years old, taking one class each semester for three semesters and enrolling as a full-time student my Senior Year of high school. SUNY Sullivan is where I first read Dorothy Parker, took my first public speaking class and where I first started to get a sense of the big world outside of my hometown. I’m forever grateful for the education I received in and out of the classroom at SUNY Sullivan.

This night is all about women, but I’m an equal opportunity lover of people so I want to take a moment to acknowledge the two great men in my life. It takes strong men to raise and love and (at times) to live with strong women, and my father and Mr. Big share an innate ability. They’ve always known when to push me, when to encourage me to pause, and when to just back up and let me fly. Thank you both!

I grew up on a quiet street in the tiny little hamlet of Roscoe. One stoplight. One school, K-12. Not a whole lot doing unless you were fishing, and I wasn’t. Sorry Dad! Yet I grew up believing I could do anything I set my mind to anywhere in the world, because my mother would accept nothing less for herself OR for me. My mother believes hard work beats luck in the long run, and I’ve never seen her back down from a challenge because it might seem too hard or take too much time. I would not be the person I am or here today without her. Love you Momma Shelley!

Until 2015, I lived and worked and spent my free time in Sullivan County. From my teenage years at the Roscoe Diner to the Sullivan County Government Center and then Boys & Girls Clubs, my life has always been about service to others (in one way or another). Along the way I have been blessed with so many mentors, colleagues and friends, and certainly Mr. Big’s family, who have provided me with so much inspiration and guidance. And I have been blessed to take so many of those lessons with me to Montefiore Medical Center. I work with and for strong, fantastic women, serving our community. 

And Trading Cardio for Cosmos is the latest chapter in that theme of my life. It definitely started out as a way for me to chronicle my weight loss journey and share some helpful tips, but it’s grown into a full-blown exercise in how to live life to the fullest. So yes, it’s about healthy recipes and exercise and humor, but at its most powerful, it’s about building a community of support for those who need it. It’s about seeing someone who is struggling and saying “You are not alone. We can do this together.”

And when you think about it, that’s what Sullivan County is really all about, right? We might disagree about which river town is prettier, which Bethel Woods concert was our favorite or which of Bootlegger cocktail is our favorite. But when the chips are down, Sullivan County has always been about building communities of support, taking care of one another and saying to anyone who is struggling “You are not alone. We can do this together.”

So I guess at my core, I’m just a hometown girl. I do what I can to empower others because I’ve had a lifetime of Sullivan County doing the same for me.”

My thanks to the SUNY Sullivan Foundation, Montefiore and my colleagues there, Boys & Girls Club and Board Chair Karen Fisher, Jay & Carol Anthony, Media Solstice Marketing & PR and principal Jessica Gardner, Charlie D, Dali & Steve, Todd, our families, everyone in attendance and (as always) Mr. Big for making the event so special! XOXO


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