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Meet Our 2011 Champions

Wakefield pediatrician Celeste Corcoran recognized for combating obesity and teenage substance abuse

The Washington County Coalition for Children presented its top award, the 2011 Champion for Children, to Dr. Celeste C. Corcoran of Wakefield. The Coalition presents the award annually to someone nominated by the community as an “unsung hero” for Washington County youth.

“Not only has Dr. Corcoran cared for thousands of individual children in her pediatric practice (Coastal Medical/Narragansett Bay Pediatrics) over the past 25 years,” explained Coalition Chairwoman Linda Cardillo, “but she has been involved in significant prevention initiatives as well.”

According to Cardillo, Dr. Corcoran was one of the original doctors that began the South County Physicians’ Initiative (SCPI) in 2005. SCPI was responsible for developing a screening tool and the innovative practice of screening children during well child visits for mental health or substance abuse.

She has also been a long-term, active member of the South Kingstown Partnership for Prevention and serves as co-chair for Food, Fitness, & Fun, a research project to combat obesity in pre-teens.

Accepting her award, Dr. Corcoran spoke with humility.

“I am deeply honored by this award. I have a great job,” she said. “I get to touch a lot of children. In my practice, I care for many children with special needs. I have learned a lot from them and their parents. I have learned how to be strong and persevere in tough circumstances. I am a better parent and a better person because of my work with them.”

Dr. Corcoran was independently nominated by two people. “Her nomination form said it best, reported Cardillo: “She exemplifies if you want something done, ask someone who is busy.”

The Coalition presented Dr. Corcoran with a certificate and glass vase; she also received a citation from the RI General Assembly presented by Representatives Donna Walsh and Teresa Tanzi.

Coalition honors one of its own, Heidi Reardon

The Coalition used the same occasion to present the 2011 Champion for Community Change award, which is reserved for Coalition members who have shown long-term dedication and commitment. The award went to Heidi Reardon of Narragansett, a supervisor at the Dept. of Children Youth & Families (DCYF), North Kingstown office.

“Heidi worked well beyond her job description to make things better for children and families long before she became a member of the Coalition,” according to Suzan Morris, DCYF Regional Manager. “She has been operating an informal food pantry and coordinated holiday gift drives at DCYF for years.”

Since joining the Coalition, however, she’s been responsible for several of its activities, including the Coalition’s Teen Gift Drive. “After a Coalition meeting,” remembers Coalition Coordinator Susan Orban, “Heidi mentioned she was going to Wakefield to ask local businesses for gift cards for foster kids and teens ineligible for local gift drives. After we established the partnership with Casey’s Grill & Bar to sponsor the drive, she stepped up to coordinate the gift distribution to area agencies. Around the holidays her office is wall to wall gifts stacked so high inside there is nowhere to sit. We often refer to her as our Chief Elf.”

Reardon also works with the Coalition’s School Success initiative, serving on the Coalition’s Community Consultation Team at both Curtis Corner and Westerly Middle Schools. “Team members really value Heidi’s insight regarding the students with whom they are struggling,” added Orban.

RINET and Brown Continuing Medical Education (CME) Office also honored

The Coalition alos bestowed Community Partnership Awards upon two organizations. “We were able to train local professionals in children’s mental health and developmental issues with the wonderful support of the Rhode Island Network for Educational Technology (RINET) and the Continuing Medical Education (CME) Office at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University,” acknowledges Coalition Coordinator Orban.

Pam Christman, Associate Executive Director, accepted the award on behalf of RINET for their guidance and expertise conducting live videoconferencing of Collaborative Office Rounds between local hospitals and South Kingstown High and Block Island Schools.

Maria Sullivan from the CME Office at Brown was recognized for providing state-of-the-art, children’s mental health training to local medical, social service, and education professionals in Washington County.

“Over the course of the last five years, we have conducted more than 80 trainings, noted Orban. “We couldn’t have done it without Sullivan and her staff.”

Coalition thanks two at South County Community Action

The Coalition presented Community Involvement Awards to Sean Walsh, Director of the West Bay Family Care & Community Partnership, and Joseph DeSantis, CEO, both of South County Community Action. Walsh was recognized for coordinating the recent RI Children & the Arts Festival held in May; DeSantis was thanked for his organization’s longstanding commitment to the Coalition.

“Joe has supported the research and writing of our needs assessments, encouraged staff to participate in workgroups, hosts our child care workgroup in Charlestown, is providing storage for our book sale in North Kingstown, and has sought funding for the Coalition,” reports Orban. “We commend his organization’s dedication to the Coalition and our community.”

The awards were presented at the Coalition’s 9th annual Children’s Issues Forum held in June.