Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial partners with community, youth.
FREMONT, Mich., March 18, 2021 – Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is partnering with community advocates such as the Headway Coalition, the BreatheWell action team, and local youth from Newaygo County to take out nicotine during Take Down Tobacco Day on April 1. The celebration will feature activities to empower youth, information about quitting nicotine and tobacco use, and a special virtual interview by nationally renowned healthy lifestyle speaker Daniel Ament, a double-lung transplant recipient who lives on the east side of Michigan.
Take Down Tobacco Day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand up and speak out against big tobacco. Every year, students from across the county plan tobacco and nicotine prevention activities in their schools and community. This year’s celebration in Newaygo County featuring special guest Daniel Ament is available to watch on YouTube, by going to YouTube’s main page, and searching: “Daniel Ament interview” conducted with Sara Gorman. To participate in additional activities, go to www.takedowntobacco.org.
“Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is excited to collaborate with our community and support our youth, who are really the driving force behind the advocacy and activism around quitting nicotine,” Gerber Memorial Community Health Specialist Caitlin Mitchell-Schucker said. The Media Club at White Cloud High School saw this project through from start to finish with interviewing Daniel and editing the video to share out with local schools and the community. Rylee Hewitt, 12th Grade White Cloud Student and Chair of the White Cloud Media Club, said: “Thank you to the Headway Coalition for this opportunity. It has been very heartwarming in a way.”
Hewitt added: “Take Down Tobacco Day is one of many events and opportunities Gerber Memorial and organizations throughout Newaygo County participate in to share information about nicotine use and the many resources we have in this community that can help people quit. We look forward to sharing stories of inspiration, success and hope and we encourage everyone to join us on this day.”
Sara Gorman, White Cloud Media Club teacher, said: “This was such an awesome project in so many ways. I loved getting to experience our White Cloud students networking with and learning from Daniel about the harsh realities of vaping. This project addresses a major need within our student culture today: vape and tobacco education and reform. Connecting teens with local businesses and community organizations, such as Headway Coalition and Spectrum Health, while advocating for changes in our world today, is what it's all about. Very cool project!!”
Kelly Wawsczyk, the Project Assistant for Drug Free Communities with the Headway Coalition, played a central role in making this Take Down Tobacco project happen. Wawsczyk focused on engaging with youth community groups, primarily those in each local district high school.
Wawsczyk said: “During this live interview, I could see our students' faces and the impact and emotion it made. They were completely taken with what Daniel was saying. They showed amazing focus to his words and asked great questions. It is a powerful project with an impactful message.”
Ament is the world’s first double-lung transplant recipient. At the age of 16, he became severely ill from vaping and was on life-support for 29 days. He underwent double-lung transplant surgery on Oct. 15, 2019.
Today, Ament is committed to sharing his story publicly and launching a non-profit organization that will encourage young people to live a healthier and happier lifestyle and improve overall mental wellness with training for counselors, coaches and parents to provide alternatives for coping with the pressures of being a teenager void of substances. A Grosse Pointe Woods resident, Ament plans to graduate high school in spring 2021 and attend college. He has spoken nationally about the harm of nicotine use and vaping, and has appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning, America” and on CBS.
Mitchell-Schucker said vaping continues to be a problem among youth. According to the 2019-2020 Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth Survey, 23.1 percent of Newaygo County high school students reported recent use of vaping products, up from 12.7 percent in 2018.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic raising greater awareness about addressing chronic conditions and health impacts on our lungs and respiratory system, the message of Take Down Tobacco day is timely and more important than ever,” Mitchell-Schucker said. “Though this year’s activities will look different due to COVID-19, embracing our new virtual world has created an exciting opportunity for youth in our county. Students will get the chance to virtually meet with Daniel Ament, hear his story, ask him questions, and learn from his experiences.”