2019 Root for Kids Awards

Every year, Root for Kids recognizes key partners and individuals in our community who go above and beyond to support our mission. Meet the 2019 Root for Kids award recipients –

2019 Outstanding Community Partner: Utah Food Bank

For over 115 years, Utah Food Bank has stayed true to one objective: fighting hunger statewide.  Last year, the Utah Food Bank distributed 43.3 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 36.1 million meals through a variety of programs they offer. Currently there are more than 1,000 homeless students in the Washington County School District, and even more unacceptable is 1 in 5 Washington County children are unsure when their next meal will be.  Household food insecurity has insidious effects on the health and development of young children, including increased hospitalization, developmental risk and behavior problems.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Linda Trujillo (Utah Food Bank), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board President)

Linda Trujillo, with the Utah Food Bank, understood that children ages 0-3 cannot learn as well because chronic under-nutrition harms their cognitive development during this critical period of rapid brain growth and can actually change the architecture of the brain and central nervous system. Linda knew that Root for Kids did not fit their typical partnership requirements but did not let that stop her in her quest to help us feed the 700 families we serve every week. 

Through innovation, she crafted a hybrid program that allowed Root for Kids to distribute 21,172 pounds of food in this past year, which is equivalent to 17,644 meals. This is just one example of why the Utah Food Bank is our outstanding community partner for 2019.

2019 Outstanding Business: Litehouse Foods

Many of you have probably purchased Litehouse’s delicious dressings, dips, dried herbs, cheese or cider. But did you know they have a big new manufacturing facility in Hurricane that employs over 300 people? Root for Kids was fortunate to have met them at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and subsequently was the recipient of a generous gift during the grand opening of the Hurricane facility last year.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Ken Kaneversky (Litehouse Director of Operations), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board Director)

The founders of Litehouse believed that all of the people who make Litehouse great deserved to benefit in its success. That is why they transferred 30% of the company’s ownership to its employees in 2006 and by 2014 it was 100%. Together, Litehouse employees share the hard work and rewards of building their company, and they also share in the decisions of how the company spends its philanthropic dollars.  We are grateful to Litehouse and the employees who work at their Hurricane plant for choosing Root for Kids as one of the nonprofit organizations they support.

2019 Outstanding Health Partner: The University of Utah Physician Assistant Program

The Utah Physician Assistant Program at The University of Utah School of Medicine is one of the oldest PA programs in the country and has held continued accreditation since 1971. Their PA program has consistently ranked as a Top 10 program in the country by US News and World Report. In April 2018, accreditation was given for a distant campus in St George in the Russel C. Taylor Health Science Center at Dixie State University.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Jacqueline Murray and Rayne Loder (U of U PA Program), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board Director)

Our Health Services team learned of this exciting news and knew there had to be an opportunity to partner and help meet both of our missions. Last spring, we had the PA students join us at the Root for Kids and Dixie State University Dental Hygiene Day where we provide free oral health services to children and pregnant moms enrolled in our programs. In June, they joined us for our 2nd Annual Health Fair for kids who are enrolled in our Caterpillar Clubhouse childcare program. Having the PA students there made it possible for us to invite our Early Health Start families to receive free health services, which were unable to the year prior.

We are excited about what the future holds for this program here in our community and we have already planned events for October and beyond.

2019 Outstanding Volunteer: Dixie Sunrise Rotary Club

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change -across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves. The Rotary Club motto is “Service above Self” and this was demonstrated repeatedly by this club in our community and with an intentional focus on Root for Kids. 

If you ever want to be entertained stop by our office when the Rotary Club is helping us make developmental kits for our families. Watching grown men meticulously cut out card stock fish, gracefully glue on eyes and proudly hold up their one creation as the women shake their head and roll their eyes as they have completed 10 in the meantime.  

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Dave Higbee and Dave Nelson (Dixie Sunrise Rotary), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board Director)

In addition to making developmental kits, these Rotarians could also be found at our agency bundling diapers, making newborn kits and delivering diapers. Most impressive was their help with our Community Food Distribution program here they were instrumental in handing out over 39,011 pounds of food at Coral Cliffs Elementary and through the Washington City Mobile food bank which is equivalent to about 35,000 meals.

2019 Outstanding Donor: The Kahlert Foundation

The Kahlert Foundation was established in 1991 by Bill Kahlert who was the co-founder of Evapco Inc. – a worldwide manufacturer of evaporative cooling products with corporate offices in Maryland. Bill was a very giving and generous man with a passion and desire to make a difference in the communities where he lived and worked. This compassion was passed down to his granddaughter Heather, who lives in Lehi with her three young children and manages their philanthropic efforts as Vice President. When Bill passed away in 2011, he left a generous gift to the foundation that has made it one of the largest private foundations in Maryland and Utah.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Heather Kahlert (Kahlert Foundation Vice-President), Jennifer Neal-Madsen (RFK Board President)

Through a chance meeting on social media, Heather and Janie – our Chief Development Officer – connected immediately and bonded over their love for The University of Utah, the nonprofit sector, their special relationships with their dads and being working moms raising 3 kids. Heather is unlike any other philanthropist or foundation director we’ve met. She uses social media to share her experiences and goals as a philanthropist and lets the reader experience what it’s like to be on what Janie likes to call “the other side of the grant curtain.” The style and vulnerability that comes through in Heather’s posts about the organizations she supports here in Utah is beautiful to read. Root for Kids has recently been the recipient of some very generous grants, sponsorships and branding advice from The Kahlert Foundation.

2019 Debbie Justice Legacy Award: Ellen Arch, MD

Well-behaved women, seldom make history and Dr. Ellen Arch is definitely one of these women. As a Pediatric Geneticist, her role goes far beyond the role of typical Doctor. Dr. Arch meshes the compassion of a Counselor and the knowledge of a Scientist with the ability to diagnose and treat patients as a Doctor. We are so fortunate to have a someone of this caliber in our community and thankful she has dedicated her time and talent to our organization as a Board Member for 6 years. 

As Board President this past year, her word for the year was “persistence”.  Recognizing that over 40% of our pregnant moms do not get prenatal care (2nd in the state of Utah), 4th in the state for low birth weight babies and 5th in the state for having the most uninsured children, she led us on a crusade for community accountability and breached the equality/difference dived for children with special needs by establishing critical relationships with medical providers and ensuring the highest quality of care for our most vulnerable population.

2019 Root for Kids Awards | Root for Kids
Suzanne Leonelli (RFK CEO), Dr. Ellen Arch, Ed Tracey)

Dr. Arch has an 18-year-old son Evan who is the light of her life, second only to her husband Karl Ashliman.  She has a fierce passion for children and adventure. Some of her most wonderful adventures have been with her in-laws, DL and Patricia Ashliman. She is truly one of the most brilliant women we know, and a wonderful friend and mentor.

Get involved with Root for Kids today! Donate, volunteer or learn more about what we do.


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