We Can!® Champion: Ted Everett from Washington County
We Can! first heard from Everett in March 2012, when he registered Washington County as an Intensive Community Site. As the Executive Director of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Everett took the lead in helping his community get healthy using his gregarious personality and passionate enthusiasm for the We Can! program as tools to recruit and involve local partners in the effort. Since Everett registered Washington County as a We Can! site, the program has grown from the germ of an idea into a flourishing and impressive reality.
According to state health department statistics, nearly 35% of Washington County's population of 25,109 are obese compared to the state average of 27%. The county also ranks higher in cancer, diabetes, and stroke than the states average, according to the state's Office of Vital Statistics.
Everett knew he needed to get involved to help make this community healthier, and in order to be successful he needed help. With the county's surprising statistics in hand, Everett was able to approach potential partners for support with a clear call to action.
"I learned very quickly that there are many resources that can be tapped into. The issue of childhood obesity, once explained to people has a certain resonance to it," Everett said.
Everett has successfully rallied local government officials, local businesses, and media outlets to plan and implement the We Can! program in his county. He convened his first meeting of the project's partners this past spring to plan the promotion of We Can! in conjunction with the town's annual Back-2-School Fair. Everett's mission was to involve partners not only with program planning, but also with raising monetary support and donations of healthy foods and prizes for the execution of the We Can! Parent Program after the initial kickoff.
Everett's planning committee consists of nurses and medical professionals from the Northwest Florida Community Hospital, members of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the Washington County Health Department. He has also met with local government and school officials.
After months of rigorous planning, the program officially kicked off at the County's Back-2-School Fair on August 11th. To encourage parents to sign up for the Parent Program, the community site raffled two donated bicycles from the local Wal-Mart. In order for parents to put their children's names on the list for the drawing, they had to sign up to participate in the Parent Program.
"There's no better way to keep a kid moving than a bicycle, and we were able to spread the word about what we were trying to do. It was a smart tactic, everyone wants a free bike," Everett said.
A major benefit from partnering with local businesses was that all of the prizes for the kick-off event were donated. "All of these great businesses stepped up with either monetary donations or physical activity items," he said.
Everett continues to approach local businesses including grocery stores, farmers markets, sporting goods stores, and local media outlets like the county's largest newspaper. He has been able to secure donated advertising space as well as jump ropes, healthy snacks, and gift cards for families to purchase healthy foods.
To get his community to purchase more fruits and vegetables, Everett partnered with a local printing shop and a local food market to create and print discount cards for fresh produce. Those who attended the Back-2-School Fair and took interest in participating in the We Can! Parent Program received a card. This was a very successful recruitment tool for Everett and his team.
Washington County currently has 42 parents registered for its first ever We Can! Parent Program. With support from various community businesses and local government organizations, Everett and his team will hold the classes in the Northwest Florida Community Hospital's cafeteria and will provide a healthy meal as an incentive to keep participants coming back each month.
When asked what he hopes to gain from teaching the Parent Program and educating the community's youth, Everett responded, "The long term goal is to see the rate of type 2 diabetes in the county drop as well as the waistlines of our students. The We Can! program gives us the opportunity to leverage the passion of our We Can! team here in Washington County to make that kind of difference."
We look forward to following Everett and his team as they continue to make a difference in their community.
Get to know Ted Everett, the most recent We Can! Champion, with a brief Q&A:
- What is your favorite healthy recipe?
I am a big fan of herbs and garlic to make healthy food taste more flavorful. I guess my favorite healthy recipe would be baked chicken with herbs. I also like to pick fresh vegetables from my garden. Sometimes I even cook them on the grill to top it off!
- What has been your most memorable experience since starting We Can!?
Truly, the best thing that has come out of this is seeing the passion and commitment from the hospital and its nurses that became part of the team, and the partners from the private sector that have come on board with money or physical activity items. They are all committed to We Can! and seeing it through. There is no doubt in my mind that the program will succeed in its efforts with this program. I would like to say thanks to the many people that are a part of the We Can! team!
- What are some 'lessons learned' you have encountered so far?
I've learned the importance of working with a wide variety of partners who can offer many different types of assistance. By establishing relationships with local organizations, grocery stores, printers, local media, etc., I was able to get most of the supplies I needed to promote and implement a successful Parent Program. It's also important to tailor your 'ask' to each business, think about what they have to offer, and how you could best use that to your advantage. For example, I knew that a monetary donation wouldn't be possible for all organizations that I proposed a partnership with, so instead I asked for discount cards for fruits and vegetable from the farmers market, free advertising on local news programs or in the newspapers, or even a donation of printed flyers to pass out in the community. Almost every business has something they can contribute. Think outside of the box!
Did you know? We Can! encourages community sites to develop partnerships with local organizations to assist with the implementation of We Can! programming. Partners can help access a group of people you might not currently be reaching and provide additional resources such as materials, facility space, or funding, and can add to the success of your programming.
We Can! recently updated the Partnership Presentation, Community Partnerships: Helping Children Maintain a Healthy Weight. This presentation provides partners with current childhood obesity facts, background information on We Can!, and ideas of ways that they can help. We have created the presentation to be customizable, which allows you to tailor the presentation to best fit your needs. You are able to edit, add, and highlight aspects that are most relevant to your community site. This will help potential partners learn about the specific programs that you are implementing, understand the benefits to them in forming a partnership with your community site, and have the opportunity to become involved in this very important effort.