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Looking inward, allows us to see outward 

Looking inward, allows us to see outward.  

That was the lesson learned by more than 600 Northern Arizona Healthcare colleagues who participated in a Mindfulness Challenge that raised $5,000 for two local charities.  

“Mindfulness starts with us as individuals,” said Mitch Martens, the Lifepath and Wellness manager at NAH who masterminded the challenge.  

“When I am more in touch with myself - physically, emotionally, and mentally - it allows me to be more aware of those around me.  

“Places like the food bank and animal shelter don’t exist, unless you have a lot of mindful people who have developed the skill to connect with themselves and the world around them,” Martens said.  

Each year, NAH sponsors two colleague health challenges, where colleagues compete for big prizes, but this time Martens wanted to turn the challenge upside down with the goal to benefit someone else.  

“Rather than trying to earn money for themselves, what if we challenged NAH to collectively achieve 25,000 mindful minutes, and if successful, donate $5,000 to local non-profits of their choosing?” Martens questioned, explaining the origins of the idea.   

 “They doubled it!” Martens exclaimed, saying more than 50,000 minutes were logged in the first two weeks of December. “It made my heart swell. I mean, these people are already so darn caring and then they go and do this.”  

Because Northern Arizona Healthcare has a hospital in Flagstaff and Cottonwood, $5,000 was split between two non-profits: Flagstaff Family Food Center and Verde Valley Humane Society.  

In 2020, the Food Center distributed 4.8 million meals in northern Arizona and is celebrating its 30th year in operation, according to Monica Foos, Executive Director at Flagstaff Family Food Center.  

“We’re just so extremely grateful you thought of us,” Foos said, adding that they rely solely on donations and volunteers to successfully get food into homes and on the tables of people in need. The food center operates 365 days a year and nothing goes to waste. “If it doesn’t make it on the table, it gets out to the farms to help feed the animals.”  

Flo Spyrow, President and CEO at Northern Arizona Healthcare, was at the Family Food Center with Tyffany Laurano, Chief Nursing Officer, and Martens, to deliver the check and take part in a tour of the facility.   

“Our mission at NAH is not only to heal people but to improve health,” Flo said after finishing the tour.  

“We believe that nutrition and the support in our communities for the underserved will help improve the health of our communities and ensure that people live healthy and productive lives. And so, we're as much about that as we are taking care of the sick and healing people.”  

A week earlier, a $2,500 check had been delivered to the Verde Valley Humane Society by Chief Operating Officer Josh Tinkle, along with Laurano and Martens. During their tour, they received the same warm reception and tour of the facilities.   

“Last year we provided shelter, love, and care to nearly 1,500 homeless and unwanted Verde Valley pets,” said Tacy Pastor, Executive Director of the Verde Valley Humane Society in a heartfelt letter of thanks to NAH colleagues.  

“Your generous donation is helping us save the lives of deserving pets day in and day out. Your gift provides food, shelter, and veterinary care for pets in need and supports them through their transition to new homes,” Tacy continued.  

"Owning a pet can encourage us to exercise, get outside, and socialize,” said Laurano, who got to play with some of the puppies while touring the facility. One puppy nearly unmasked Laurano with enthusiastic kisses - luckily, something surgical masks weren’t designed to protect against. 

“Playing with our pets can help decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and help us manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. Owing pets help us turn our attention away from ourselves and towards others - which isn’t that what mindfulness does? 

“I'm excited that NAH colleagues chose the Verde Valley Humane Society because just like NAH helps patients transition away from trauma and towards a better future, the humane society gives pets a chance for a better life as well."  

Laurano was excited by the choice of the non-profits, adding, “For me, it spoke to our employee’s investment in their community – the communities in which they live and the communities in which they serve.”