When we hear the word “hero,” many of us think of firefighters, EMTs or maybe caped crusaders. But when it comes to the Healthy Living Heroes, chefs, fitness instructors and even neighborhood associations have held the honor.

Celebrating its 10th year, the La Crosse Healthy Living Collaborative is once again accepting nominations Healthy Living Heroes, with applications due Dec. 11 and the winners to be recognized in January.

Awarded in three categories — youth 18 and younger, adults and organizations — the collaborative selects people or entities that promote active living, healthy eating and deterring tobacco use.

Paula Silha


“Three behaviors — poor diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use — contribute to four chronic diseases — cancer, heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes and lung diseases — and cause more than 50 percent of preventable deaths,” said Paula Silha, coordinator of the Healthy Living Collaboration. “Influencing healthful behaviors in these three areas can make a huge impact on the health and preventable diseases of our residents. Hero awards are a way to recognize local champions in our community leading the charge.”

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The Collaboration, composed of community members, area schools, public health officials, private businesses, health care workers and family-serving agencies, has in past years honored Strong Senior Training leaders, YMCA exercise instructors, Cameron Park Farmers Market staff, Community Supported Agriculture farmers, the Boys & Girls Club and Safe Routes to School liaisons. Last year’s winners included the WAFER Food Pantry and Douglas Neuschwanger, executive chef at Three Rivers Lodge.

Neuschwanger was selected for his introduction of produce and whole-grain rich menu items at the restaurant, while WAFER, the Coulee Region’s largest food pantry, was chosen for its innovative mobile pantry, which makes nonperishable and fresh foods available to those unable to visit WAFER’s facility on Causeway Boulevard.

Nominations for Healthy Living Heroes must include an application form, available at www.GetActiveLaCrosse.org or by emailing psilha@lacrossecounty.org, and responses to the following two questions, in 500 or fewer words each:

  • Describe the exceptional effort of the youth, individual or organization to promote healthy living among La Crosse County residents.
  • Describe how the example of activity links to the La Crosse Healthy Living Collaboration to make living tobacco free, eating healthy and being physically activity the norm among La Crosse County residents.

The inclusion of supporting documents, such as a photo of the nominee in action, media coverage on the effort related to the nomination or a letter of recommendation, are encouraged.

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Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.


General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers health, human interest stories and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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