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When Shermaine Rideout’s daughter was born, doctors said she wouldn’t live more than two hours. If she did happen to survive, the child would never speak and would be confined to a wheelchair.

“I said to myself I have to get into something that’s going to help these children that have physical and mental handicaps,” Rideout said.

More than 30 years later, that child was standing at Rideout’s side chatting with other attendees at a reception where her mother was honored as the Volunteer of the Year.

Rideout was one of 16 individuals, organizations and businesses that were honored by the Partnership for Better Health at a celebration held at Dickinson College.

“It’s the fifth year we’ve done this celebration, and it’s better than Christmas to me. It really is our meet the stars night of the community movers and shakers who are really doing extraordinary things everyday to build a healthy community,” said Becca Raley, executive director of the Partnership.

As the emcee of the event, Secretary Teresa Miller of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services said her department strives to improve the lives of more than 3 million Pennsylvania residents who rely on their services.

“My hope is that our work complements the work that you do to make your communities healthier every day,” she said.

Each of the honorees received $200 to contribute to the local charity of their choice with the grand prize winner receiving $1,000 to donate to a local charity.

This year’s grand prize winner was nonprofit of the year, Community CARES, which provides emergency shelter, services and resources to homeless people and those at risk of homelessness.

Beth Kempf, executive director of Community CARES, said the organization appreciated being acknowledged, but they realize that they couldn’t do what they do without the help of the agencies they partner with.

“It’s not possible for us to stand alone in this battle to end homelessness, and we appreciate everyone,” she said.

Awards were also presented to Sondra Wolfe-Elias, Philanthropist of the Year; Rachel McKenrick, Young Philanthropist of the Year; Eric Saunders, Professional of the Year; and Carlisle Arts Learning Center’s Artworks! Program, Youth Champions of the Year.

Artworks! Project director Carrie Breschi said art presents concepts in a different way that provides a meaningful effect. For the current work, handmade butterflies were placed on the side of Sadler Health Center to raise awareness of mental health issues.

“Some people don’t think about it that much … it’s a serious problem that needs to be shared,” said Cameron Miller, a student in the program.

Appalachian Running Company was honored as the Business of the Year for carrying out its motto of “be a difference maker” by providing safety seminars, collaborating with Employment Skills Center as a leading sponsor of Carlisle’s Downtown Mile and making every customer of any running ability feel welcome.

“Most of our customers aren’t runners and (we) make them feel just as good as anybody else and pay a lot of attention to their aches and pains and make sure we try to help fix them,” said Katie Larsen, who represented the business at the event.

Perry County Literacy Council received the Community Impact Award, and Raley surprised Miller with the Making a Difference Award, calling her a “fierce advocate” in championing the health of all Pennsylvanians.

“Like so many others here tonight, you get it and you are a change agent for good,” Raley said.

Champions for Better Health honorable mentions were awarded to Genesis Rehab Services, Joan Jones, Deanne Parsons, Project SHARE, Dr. Howard Rosen, Sam’s Spoons and Scott Shewell.

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Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.