April is National Volunteer Month. This year, the Spina Bifida Association is happy to be awarding the coveted Volunteer of the Year award. The 2019 winner will be announced and presented with their award at the Celebration Dinner during our Teal on The Hill advocacy event in May. We are so grateful for our volunteers and we are honored to recognize their accomplishments, not just in April, but all year long.
Sadly, it should be noted that two of our nominees, Tom Baroch and Demmer Bryant, passed away in the final months of 2018. SBA is proud to honor their hard work and legacy through this nomination.
Volunteer of the Year Nominee – Tom Baroch
- Former SBA of the Intermountain Region Advisory Council Member,
- Former Board Chair for SBA of Colorado,
- Former Member, SBA National Board of Directors.
Tom spearheaded the conversation around establishing a Spina Bifida clinic in Las Vegas in the for people Intermountain Region and the surrounding areas. It was a project near and dear to his heart. He coordinated and participated in many meetings, virtually as well as the initial meeting with Dr. Brei and local medical professionals to get this project off the ground. Tom was critical to the planning of many SBA of IR events, including the Walk-N-Roll. He also formerly served as Board Chair for the Colorado Chapter of the SBA. Tom was tremendously passionate about SBA’s work in advocacy. Tom is missed by many friends in the Spina Bifida community and beyond.
Volunteer of the Year Nominee – Michelle Blazzard – Intermountain Region Advisory Council member
Michelle has been an integral part of the SBA of the Intermountain Region Chapter since its inception seven years ago, and she is a primary reason for our success in building the Spina Bifida community network locally.
Michelle has tirelessly and unselfishly worked to plan and execute the last seven Walk-N-Rolls in Las Vegas. Quite frankly, the events would not have been as fun or as successful without her. Her team “Blazzard Babes,” full of family and friends, has continuously supported us financially and always comes out in full force, and she coordinates plenty of volunteers to serve every year. We can always count on her crack registration team and plenty of people to set up and clean up. Michelle has a wonderful vision of making our local Walk-N-Roll festive and fun. She has coordinated several cheer teams to come and lend color and sound. Their parents come, too, and end up contributing money to the cause when they see what a wonderful event, she helps to plan every year.
In addition to playing such an integral part in our local Walk-N-Roll, Michelle is always willing to help with other community building events. She would love to see our community here grow and support each other, and she is dedicated to furthering that aim.
The most important reason for nominating Michelle is that she does all this for others while having not one, but two daughters of her own born with Spina Bifida. How easy would it be for her to be selfish and concerned only for her own girls? But, Michelle has chosen to share her knowledge and experience with other families in our area and to devote a huge amount of time and energy towards this aim.
I do not have any children born with SB. When Michelle relates navigating the inadequate healthcare here in Las Vegas, the nightly routines she and her daughters go must go through, and the challenges of raising two children with SB (especially now that they are teenagers), I am simply amazed. What a physical and mental toll it must take on her. Yet, she soldiers on with humility and devotion, absolutely never wanting any limelight for doing what she knows is right.
Volunteer of the Year Nominee – Joanne Hurtekant – SBA of North Texas
The Spina Bifida Association of North Texas would like to nominate Joanne Hurtekant as Volunteer of the Year. Joanne has been a volunteer for SBANT for over 30 years. Throughout her years of service, Joanne has served in many capacities, including; President, countless committee chairs, and the establishment and running of our Camp TLC summer camp program for over 20 years. She has raised three children, including her son Robert, who has Spina Bifida. Her children all give back to their community and volunteer for SBANT when they can. Joanne is a full-time attorney with the Department of Veterans Affairs. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for SBANT as an Ex-Officio member. Despite her busy work schedule, Joanne continues to volunteer for SBANT to support our events, programs, board structure, and more. Joanne currently plays a major role in every event that SBANT hosts. This includes the following:
- Volunteer & Logistics Coordinator for Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida for SBANT
- Education Day Co-Chair, Kids Camp Chair, and Adult Social & Memorial Chair
- Holiday Party Food Chair
- Camp TLC Ground Crew Chair, Training Volunteer & Background Check Coordinator
- Walk-N-Roll for SBANT
Volunteer of the Year Nominee – Demmer Bryant – SBA of Kentucky
Demmer Bryant started volunteering with SBA of Kentucky when the organization opened its doors in 1983. He was fully invested in not only making sure his only child, Beth Bryant, who was born with Spina Bifida in 1968, survived, but he intended for her to thrive. Ignoring medical advice that he should, “not get attached” and “be prepared for her to die,” Demmer became her biggest supporter and advocate.
Demmer’s dedication to the Spina Bifida community did not stop at his daughter. He was a longtime supporter and volunteer at SBAK. At Beth’s side, he participated in numerous programs and events, working behind the scenes to ensure the success of the organization. He stuffed envelopes for program invitations, helped prepare for holiday programs, prepared and served food at numerous events, just to name a few. Anyone who has attended a Holiday or Halloween party knows how amazing Demmer’s homemade brownies and fruit cobblers were.
For over 36 years, Demmer was a mentor to countless new parents. He offered support and guidance for parents during their most challenging times. He made our community stronger and helped parents be the best advocates for their children as possible. He was the “dad” of SBAK!
He was a staple in the Kentucky Spina Bifida Community until his death on Christmas Day, 2018.