Allegan General Awards Extraordinary Women in the Community
During its Girls’ Night Out event on Thursday, October 30, Allegan General Hospital and the AGH Foundation recognized three remarkable women with its Fourth Annual Spirit of Women Awards.
“The Spirit of Women Awards was designed to celebrate the accomplishments, achievements, and “spirit” of girls and women in our region,” said Jennifer Dentler, AGH Spirit of Women Coordinator. “It’s an awards program for the unsung heroine of everyday life, someone who has made a significant difference in the life of an individual or the community. We received many amazing nominations for each of the three categories and it was not an easy decision for our selection committee to make. We sure have a lot of exceptional ladies in the area.”
Young Person Role Model Award
The winner of the Young Person Role Model Award (ages 18 and under) was 16 year old Mackenzie Warning of Martin.
Mackenzie makes her community a better place by inspiring others to never give up. She has found despite life struggles, there is always a positive in every situation. Her infectious spirit and compassionate heart are visible as she volunteers in her community.
She loves to do what she can for others in need. This includes handing out backpacks for school aged kids at local churches, coaching young girls at cheerleading camps, participating in golf outing fundraisers, mentoring elementary children with learning disabilities and assisting in pageants for individuals with special needs.
Mackenzie faces more obstacles than most teens her age. She was born with a very rare birth defect called Pulmonary Agenesis. In Mackenzie’s situation, this defect has presented itself as the absence of her right lung. Her left lung is only 80% effective. The cold winter season is tough on her respiratory system triggering recurrent episodes of pneumonia. She has missed many school days due to illness and has had a total of 32 surgeries.
Mackenzie has been granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish® and will be going to Jamaica at the end of the year. One of her teachers formed a bike team in her honor to help raise money for the foundation. Mackenzie helps at all of the biking events and stands at the end of every finish line to celebrate and cheer her team members on. In two years, the team has raised over $10,000 dollars for Make-A- Wish® Michigan in her honor.
Mackenzie is a junior at Otsego High School. She was nominated by her mother Lori Warning.
Innovative Spirit Award
Kathy Sebright, resident of Hopkins, is the recipient of the Innovative Spirit Award (ages 19 – 54). Kathy was nominated by husband Tony.
Kathy could very well be the face of a women’s Nike advertisement. As a runner, a mother and advocate - she embodies the message “Just Do It.” When faced with adversity or times of trial Kathy confronts it with ACTION.
For the past two years, Kathy has been on fire to give back. She attributes this to the discovery that her youngest son Emmet had a birth defect called Craniosynostosis. Emmett was 13 months old when Kathy followed her mother’s intuition telling her something just wasn’t quite right with her son. She began to spend time on the internet googling her son’s symptoms and was eventually led to his diagnosis. Craniosynostosis is a birth defect in which one or more of the joints between the bones of a baby's skull close prematurely, before the baby's brain is fully formed. When a baby has Craniosynostosis, his or her brain can't grow to its natural shape.
Emmett has since received various treatments, including two surgeries on his skull. Kathy shared it was his courage and strength along with her faith that inspired her. Early on with Emmett’s diagnosis she was so scared. She couldn’t sleep, she didn’t feel healthy and she wasn’t the best version of herself. Eventually she began to think about all Emmett was going through and she thought if he could do it – she was capable of much more. Kathy said more than anything she wanted Emmett’s diagnosis to have meaning.
Kathy said she knew she had to do something. Kathy has been a long time runner. After Emmett’s diagnosis Kathy said running became much more to her. With so much she couldn’t control; running was something she could control. It made her feel strong and brave. During Emmett’s first surgery, Kathy ran the entire time on a treadmill. “If he was going through pain I wanted to share it with him,” she said. Kathy shared her story with others on the internet. Thousands of people watched and followed her online while she logged 7 hours and 26 minutes on the treadmill during Emmett’s surgery. She was able to spread awareness about Craniosynostosis and inspired others to move.
Other initiatives Kathy is involved with include Broken but Priceless Ministries where Kathy provides support as a writer for an online ministry magazine. She assists with Cranio Care Bears, a charity that provides care packages to families in the hospital. Kathy partners with Heart Strides, a charity that gives running shoes to moms of special needs or sick children, knowing mothers in that position are not always able to or inclined to spend money on themselves. She also inspires others to run by leading couch to 5k groups, makes training plans for new runners, and has put on a local 5k runs to encourage people to get moving and take charge of their health.
Margaret Sessions from Fennville was selected as the Inspired Spirit Award (ages 55+) winner. She was nominated by Jody Martin.
Margaret has been volunteering in her community for as long as she can remember. When Margaret was asked how she is able to do so much for others, she replied “I just love people, I love caring for them and it’s good for me to stay busy.” Margaret is a volunteer with Allegan’s Commission on Aging and has served on the board of Fennville Public Schools for over 26 years. She has volunteered several years at Christian Neighbors with their Thanksgiving Outreach Program, which supplies those in need with a complete Thanksgiving meal. She also cares and provides meals for people in her community, who are unable to get out of their homes.
She has faced many challenges in her life. Margaret is a 30 year breast cancer survivor and has experienced the loss of her husband, one of her sons and a son in law. After the passing of her son, a good friend of hers delivered to her a Prayer Blanket. It meant so much to her to know that other people were praying for her to remain strong during this difficult time. This gift inspired her to start making her own Prayer Blankets to give to those in need. She has now made well over 500 blankets.
“Margaret is extraordinary because of her selfless and tireless effort to serve others, and to do so with a smile on her face and a sincere heart,” said Jody Martin on her nomination form. “No matter how trying her personal life is, Margaret continues to reach out to others to improve their quality of life.”
Allegan General Hospital is a community hospital that focuses on providing exceptional, compassionate and personalized healthcare to the community it serves. The hospital has been named five years in a row by Modern Healthcare magazine as one of the nation’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare. Allegan General provides a wide range of healthcare services, including bariatrics, surgery, sleep center, emergency, physical rehabilitation and mental health. For more information about the hospital, visit www.allegangeneral.org.