KC Healthy Kids Celebrates Winning One of the Mid-America Regional Council's Annual Leadership Awards

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MARC to host 20th Annual regional assembly on June 9. 20th. One awardee, KC Healthy Kids, focuses on innovative community solutions to reduce childhood obesity.

Gretchen H. Kunkel, leader of KC Healthy Kids

As a region, we must do the impossible and make sure all children live in communities of opportunities. -- Gretchen H. Kunkel

The Mid-America Regional Council will hold its 20th Annual Regional Assembly on Thursday, June 9, 2016, from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Downtown Marriott Muehlebach Hotel, 1213 Wyandotte Street, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The program, “Expanding Opportunity,” will include keynote remarks by Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky. In his second term as mayor, Fischer is focused on three key priorities that are also important to the Kansas City metro: creating good paying jobs, improving education at all levels, and creating a more compassionate community. He brings a strong business background to public service, and is known for using a data-driven approach to increase local government efficiency and performance.

Also at the event, MARC will also honor recipients of the 2016 Regional Leadership Awards. These annual awards honor individuals and organizations for their leadership and excellence in advocating regional concepts; advancing the vision of the region as a community of excellence; applying innovative solutions to regional problems; and achieving improved quality of life and equitable opportunity for the region’s citizens. This year’s Regional Leadership Award recipients are:

  • Dr. Doug Girod and Scott Smith, co-chairs of the KC Rising initiative — For the past 18 months, Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Scott Smith, former president of HNTB, have served as volunteer co-chairs of KC Rising. Under their leadership, KC Rising has advanced a compelling agenda to grow the region’s economic competitiveness by focusing on trade, innovation and entrepreneurship, and human capital.
  • KC Healthy Kids — For more than 10 years, KC Healthy Kids has worked to ensure that every child in the region has access to healthy food and safe places to walk and play. KC Healthy Kids fosters collaborative relationships that bring farmers markets and community gardens into food deserts; add more sidewalks, bike lanes, parks and playgrounds to neighborhoods; shape local food systems and policies; and empower children to speak out for healthier communities.
  • Dr. John Nalbandian, professor emeritus at the University of Kansas — Over his 40-year career on the faculty of KU’s School of Public Affairs and Administration, John Nalbandian has influenced the trajectory and quality of countless local governments across the region. He has taught and mentored numerous city and county managers and built a national reputation for helping local governments develop professional staff and sound governing practices.
  • Gene Shepherd, emergency manager for the city of Kansas City, Missouri — After a 32 year career with the Kansas City Fire Department, Gene Shepherd became the city’s emergency manager in 2010. As co-chair of the Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee’s policy committee, he has been a driving force in the creation of one of the most well-coordinated emergency response systems in the country. Shepherd has helped bring local, state and federal officials together with private industry to strengthen the region’s planning, preparation and response capacities. He led the city’s all-hazards preparations for the Major League Baseball All Star Game in 2012, as well as two consecutive World Series and a championship parade in 2015.


KC Healthy Kids rallies the people in our communities to improve access to affordable fresh food and safe places to walk and play. When our neighborhoods support healthy habits, we are less likely to suffer from obesity, which is linked to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and poor mental health. To make a lasting impact, we shape policies that improve our food system and physical surroundings, and, ultimately, the places where we live, work, learn, and play.

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sarah shipley
KC Healthy Kids
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