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Do you know people or groups who have worked to protect, promote, and enhance the health of southern Idaho citizens? Nominate them to be our next Health Hero!

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Congratulations to our 2024 Health Heroes!

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From left to right: Brent Reinke accepting on behalf of Health Heroes Winner Nate Francisco (Adult Professional), Tejay Holstine (Youth Volunteer), Sheri Allred and Nancy Winmill of Simply Hope Family Outreach (Organization) Cooper Smith (Adult Volunteer), and Erin Buell (Adult Professional)

Youth Volunteer Winner: Tejay Holstine

One remarkable Magic Valley youth decided to use his senior project as a platform for mental health awareness through some friendly games of pickleball.

Tejay organized the ACE Pickleball Tournament as a way to honor his loved ones that lost their lives to suicide and to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. For Tejay, there was a great meaning in choosing the name ACE: "A" stands for asking loved ones how they are feeling, "C" stands for caring for people and helping them, and "E" stands for encouraging loved ones to seek professional help if they are struggling with their mental health.

The community came together for Tejay, and the pickleball tournament was successful: 60 pickleball players joined to fill all 30 2-person team spots, mental health-related booths attended the event, and proceeds from vendors at the tournament went to charity.

Tejay's innovative tournament that focused on combining sports with mental health awareness was the work of a true Health Hero!

Adult Volunteer Winner: Cooper Smith

Cooper Smith is a charitable powerhouse in the Magic Valley and works with multiple community support organizations in the area. Among many other things, he currently works as the kitchen manager for local nonprofit Everybody House, providing healthy meals to people struggling with food insecurity. Additionally, Cooper partners with Clif Bar and Chobani to distribute healthy food and snacks to local food banks, recovery residences, churches, and the Twin Falls Refugee Center.

When he's not busy at the Everybody House kitchen, Cooper also works at Recovery in Motion, an organization focused on helping people on the road to substance use recovery with food, housing, and support groups.

"I believe Cooper is a Health Hero in Twin Falls," said his nominator. "He promotes a healthy lifestyle in mind, body and spirit and he offers community support and love for those who are often overlooked. It's a beautiful legacy to have and we are so grateful to know him and partner with him so we can make a difference in our community."

Adult Professional Winner: Nate Francisco

Nate Francisco has a passion for environmental health and is not afraid to take on big projects in his work at Southern Idaho Solid Waste. Francisco's resource recovery project at the Milner Butte Landfill is working on a process to reduce over 50% of the municipal solid waste volumes and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The process being developed combines advanced technologies and waste management practices to also recycle commodities and harness energy, recovering valuable resources from waste.

Francisco’s work is wide-reaching across Southern Idaho, including solid waste district programs spanning 7 south central counties, 15 waste transfer sites, a trucking fleet, and a landfill gas-to-energy facility. Additionally, his new project partnership with Southern Idaho Resource Recovery will process municipal solid waste to source separate organics, plastics, and other commodities like aluminum, tin, and cardboard that will be used or recycled within the local economy.

Nate Francisco's work in environmental health is serving to make Southern Idaho a leader in global waste management.

Adult Professional Winner: Erin Buell

With an established career as a Community Outreach Coordinator at St. Luke's Center for Community Health in Hailey, Erin Buell is a force for kindness, education, and connection in the Wood River Valley.

As part of the Center’s team, Buell spends time with individuals to understand their health needs. Her role is to help patients navigate the healthcare system and connect them to social services, as well as to provide referrals and community health education.

She is frequently praised in the community for going above and beyond in her efforts to assist. To that point, her role in leading the education, guidance, and support for the local New Moms Group received many rave reviews during this year's Health Heroes nomination period.

"She has listened and offered support with empathy as we new moms often bared our most vulnerable self-doubts," said a nominator. "To me this has been just as important, if not more important, than the factual information she shares about taking care of infants."

Organization Winner: Simply Hope Family Outreach

Over the years, Simply Hope Family Outreach has become a beloved organization in the Mini-Cassia area, led by CEO Nancy Winmill. The vision for Simply Hope started after Winmill's son survived an opioid overdose in 2015. Winmill realized that her rural area lacked resources to support her family through their difficult time. In response, she started a family support group, pursued education related to substance use disorder, and worked as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. Simply Hope was born out of Winmill's desire to help even more families in the area to access support resources.

Nancy and her team of volunteers actively work with the youth and young adults in their area to prevent behaviors that contribute to substance use, abuse, and suicide. They spend time with teens, providing support, meals, and transport to events and activities.

"We strive to provide a safe and supportive environment for teens and their families," said Nancy Winmill. "Our specialized services are designed to help teens and young adults build a better future for themselves through personalized treatment plans."

Here at SCPHD, we want to express our immense gratitude for the 2024 Health Heroes, and all Health Heroes working hard every day to make their communities safer, more connected, and healthier. Thank you all!

Read about the 2024 Health Hero winners here.
Read about the 2023 Health Hero winners here.
Read about the 2022 Health Hero winners here.


Do you know people or groups who have worked to protect, promote, and enhance the health of southern Idaho citizens? Nominate them to be our next Health Hero!

For more information, email or call (208) 737-5900.