Haley Bezon first Coulombe Center Award for Innovation recipient

Posted:  Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 3:30pm
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On May 21, Haley Bezon was awarded the first ever Annual Award for Innovation, presented by the The Coulombe Center for Health Improvement. The event took place at the Oceanside Golf Resort in Boothbay Harbor.

The Coulombe Center Award for Innovation was created to highlight community partner organizations doing innovative work within the LincolnHealth service area. The goal of the award is to build capacity in the community and further develop innovative programs that already exist locally.

Bezon is the founder and director of the new organization Hearty Roots, https://www.heartyroots.org/ , based in Bristol.

Launched in May 2017, Hearty Roots is a non-profit program designed for kids between the ages of 9 and 15. According to Bezon, its mission is: “Fostering mindfulness, resiliency, and outdoor experiences for youth in Mid-Coast Maine.”

The Hearty Roots website states the organization is “… an esteem-building outdoor adventure program led by professional counselors and backcountry gurus … guided by the power of relationships, the benefits of nature, and a practice of mindfulness, kids gain experiences that strengthen resilience and personal growth.”

Coulombe Center Program Manager Anni Pat McKenney presented the award. She said she and others at Lincoln Health have been talking about how the Coulombe Center can highlight people in the community, and pass along funds to serve community work that’s already happening, “as part of the mission of the Coulombe Center to be a catalyst for action.”

Before presenting Bezon the award, McKenney spoke about her. “This nonprofit’s founder has a vision and a passion for getting youth outdoors and empowering each child to find their strengths within themselves.”

She explained Hearty Roots is new, but brings years of experience to its work. “Detailed business plans were developed, partnerships formed with multiple local nonprofits, and countless hours dedicated to learning how to best meet the needs of local youth before even one child participated in the program, started just last summer.”

In anticipation of the award ceremony, McKenney reached out to people, asking them to describe both the founder and the work of Hearty Roots. Some of the words she received were: “Committed, creative, authentic, passionate, supportive, brilliance, opportunity and never-ending hope.” She said the words that came to her mind were: “Courageous, funny, and real.”

Bezon thanked McKenney, calling her a “doer and a shaker, who works behind the scenes to create ideas to fruition to help our communities from Damariscotta, to Boothbay, and throughout Lincoln County … if there is something super cool and innovative happening, Anni Pat is somehow behind it.”

She went on to thank her board members, Patricia Welton and Christine Cameron, and her husband Andy, who has been “unwavering and patient holding down the fort” with their family, as she picked up and created “another job for myself.”

Bezon thanked three foundations for providing funds for her “pipe dream”: The Elizabeth Ann Leach Charitable Trust, the Horizon Foundation and the Maine Community Foundation. “If I could find out who was on those committees I would hug them, probably for an uncomfortable amount of time, to thank them for taking a chance on us.”

Before moving to Maine around seven years ago, Bezon and her family lived in Alaska, where she worked in outdoor behavioral health running therapy trips in that state. She is now a school counselor at Edgecomb Eddy School. “I’m on the front line working with kids on a daily basis, strengthening social and emotional skill sets, helping families overcome barriers that are keeping their child from accessing their education, and navigating the adolescent years.”

She said the fusion of the two worlds of emotional health support and outdoor camping adventures led her to found Hearty Roots, to fill that unmet need for kids in their communities.

Bezon stated the goal of the program is to equip kids with the skills they need to handle adversity and stress. That takes place when “we get the kids off the couch, off their screens, off the grid, and into nature and into authentic interpersonal relationships.”

Along with the innovation award, a check for $2,500 was presented to Bezon and Hearty Roots.

The program is now operating year-round. Bezon said she is grateful for the support and relationships that have been formed over the past year with Midcoast Conservancy, Boothbay Region Land Trust, Pemaquid Watershed Association and Eleanor Kinney, who donated land to run programs on.

Rounding out the evening, McKenney introduced keynote speaker Dr. Stephen DiGiovanni, a practicing pediatrician and medical director for the Maine Medical Partners Outpatient Clinics. DiGiovanni has a passion for improving health outcomes for children.

DiGiovanni spoke about his work developing programs to prevent, screen for and treat Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and trauma, across the MaineHealth Pediatric Service Line.

DiGiovanni said one in four children in Maine experiences one or more ACEs, which may lead to social, emotional and cognitive impairment, health-risk behaviors, disease, disability, social problems, and early death. Over 60 percent of children in the U.S. are exposed to violence.

Nomination applications for next year’s award are available at the Coulombe Center at 6 St. Andrews Lane in Boothbay Harbor. Applications need to be completed by March 1, 2019.

The mailing address for Hearty Roots is P.O. box 302, Bristol, ME. Call (207) 242-1434, or email rootshearty@gmail.com