A Look Back on the 2017 Good Life Award Winners

A Look Back on the 2017 Good Life Award Winners
By: Chris Mahlmann Last Updated: November 13, 2018

Now almost 10 years ago we started this crazy mission, and the cliff notes version has been a story made up of one part innovation, two parts madness, three doses of perseverance, and a relentless response to the question of what good news do you have to share.

The kind of business your heart pursues, your checkbook thinks is stupid, your wife worries will consume every bit of your body, and your brain thinks about every waking second you are alive because it feeds your soul, ignites your passion, and requires all of that and more.

A year or so into this crazy journey I wrote a blog post asking why we could not throw a party for good people, and give them a cool award just for being good.

Good People Awards - Crazy Idea of the Day

Some friends like Jon Groth thought it was a good idea, so I said what the heck and we started this tradition of the Good Life awards. An event to celebrate people that have made not only a positive impact on me but on the world around them that we are all a part of.

The award is made by master steel craftsman Mike Leeson, who you will recognize from his landmark Industrial Revolution restaurant in Valpo that tells the story of this region and this countries strength in building things. The award has become a marker for people that are not only good, but strong, and symbolize the character that I see in good people every day across NWI.

Last year we once again welcomed a strong line up of non-profits that are positively impacting the communities that serve in the #Vote4Good contest. That gives each of those organizations the platform to tell their story, and the chance for 3 of them to win a year long campaign on the Life sites sharing their good news in story, photo, event coverage, promotion, and social media communication.

Last years winners included Hannah’s Hope, Casa of Porter County, and Habitat for Humanity and we have loved telling their story to our readers throughout the region over this past year.

Every one of our readers, sponsors, partners, contributors, and fans on social, need to be thanked for showing up over all of these years. When I asked that question many years ago and every day ever since,

Do You Have Good News to Share?

You answered again and again and again.

Millions of times someone has clicked on something we published and felt good. Positive people are awesome. Lifers Rock. Good News Works

Bill Hanna
Bill Hanna was the very first person I ever told about launching Life other than my wife Natalie. We had a meeting in Valpo where Bill took lots of notes, asked me a couple of times “so you are not asking for any money?” and gave us an immediate thumbs up when I told him I just wanted the city to like it. He was our first fan, and forever supporter – long before we were large enough to matter, and he stayed that way even after some very influential folks told him we didn’t.

Many of you know that Bill served our country protecting the tomb of the unknown soldier, served the city of Valpo as City Manager setting the bar for any others in the future, and now has led the RDA and has been the cornerstone of projects ranging from the Gary Airport to the Portage Pavillion, City of Whiting Beach and Park to the Wolflake park and pavilion in Hammond. He has spent the last few years working to bring everyone on both sides of the aisle at the local, county, region, state, and federal level to drive the effort to take the South Shore Rail up to its full potential as a commuter level service tapping into the Chicago market.

All of those efforts take someone that is incredibly smart, absolutely nimble dealing with all of the personalities and agendas involved, determined as heck to keep that up for years and changing administrations, and ultimately the stamina to bring them all together for the common good.

Bill thank you for being our first fan, forever supporter, now a Good Life Award Winner.

Erin Parker
Erin Parker came upon my view almost as soon as we started LaPorteCountyLife as the relentlessly positive communicator extraordinaire at La Porte High School. She is a one woman force of nature that teaches, motivates, leads, and befriends for life students that want to learn how to communicate and spread good. In a tactical responsibility sense that includes the yearbook, videos, photos, website articles, and social media communication. In a real world since she teaches them how to be kind, to give of their time and their spirit, to love, help, and encourage each other with every fiber of their being.

Erin has written for us, been the conduit to many students working for us, sent us tons of positive content about all of the La Porte community schools in an ambassador program that is the model for the region, and shared our message and mission hundreds of times online. She consumes positive media and messages and shares them in every electronic form possible.

A Spark for Change

She has made a difference for LaPorteCountyLife, and she has made a difference for me as the Eveready energizer bunny for good and Erin Parker can now count among the many awards she will earn in life, a Good Life Award.

Pat Bengert
Speaking of a one woman army, Pat Bengert may have more energy and determination than any three of us combined. She has been a teacher of children, whether her own or the hundreds of kids that she taught in all those years in the classroom. Most importantly, Pat has impacted their life outside of the classroom, and has continued to year after year no matter how large the alumni class of Mrs. Bengert, as everyone knows her to be, has grown.

She has helped them write their college essays, their job applications, entry forms for scholarships, awards, or any other kind of communication they are doing – and she does it forever. I have personally watched her stay connected to my Trevor and Peyton, and when I am saying connected, I truly mean at their events, notes on their birthday, help on their applications, calls, text messages, and as soon as they ask, she answers and then never lets go, acting more like their grandma or mother than she does some teacher they had when they were a kid.

She came because she thought we were recognizing Trevor, after getting home from Europe just yesterday. That tells you exactly why Pat Bengert is someone I want to recognize with a Good Life Award

Ian Bowen
We each take for granted, myself included, how precious actually being here alive on this earth is. The amount of things that have to go right in our body everyday just for us to keep on ticking is mind boggling. So when you stand up to congratulate this, I ask you to think what thoughts were happening in the mind of Ian Bowen, who is an Owner at Pumps Fitness, when he was told after spine surgery in 2009 that he was paralyzed from the chest down, and his sports and fitness oriented life was over.

He did not believe them when they told him that, and he did not believe them again and again at every milestone that he crossed from wheelchair to walker to cane to walking, running, all the way to competing in mini-marathons and mud runs, defying the odds at every step. What are we each battling that could not use a healthy dose of “well Ian did it, and he wasn’t supposed to be doing any of this stuff”

He has poured that passion into helping others not only battle their injuries, age, or fitness challenges, but is constantly trying to educate everyone on the principles that have worked for him knowing they can work for each of us. This guy is smart, giving, and exemplifies the principle of never giving up, no matter what we face, and I am proud to give him a Good Life Award.

Brian Snedecor
Politicians are not always my favorite people. Not because of their political opinions, more so for the gap between what they say and what they do, or their public vs. their private persona. Brian Snedecor is such a humble, real person – as a man, husband, father, and as the Mayor of Hobart Indiana.

Fun from the minute I met him, never taking himself so seriously that he could not make those around him smile while they are working. From the memorable night he asked me to MC his Mayoral Ball working on comic skits with Josh Huddleston, to our Driving the Streets of NWI video, and being interviewed jumping on the bounce platform at Johnson’s Farm Produce, he has make it fun reporting on everything good coming out of Hobart.

He does this with every employee and resident I have ever seen him interacting with as it is his very nature. He loves his City, appreciates that he serves them, and not that they serve him.

Join me in congratulating Mayor Brian Snedecor as a Good Life Award winner.

Stephanie Swearington
Rarely has someone come into Life and made the kind of rapid, significant, and lasting impact on our team that Stephanie has. She was hired to be Jenny’s assistant and has become the Mom to our office and our people.

She installed systems that we sorely needed, became the stellar rock solid sidekick to Jenny Craig-Brown that makes sure all of things happen and she has gone from newbie to veteran in less than a year.

We are known for throwing more at people than they can possibly handle until they almost drown, which teaches them to swim hard against the current and stay afloat. A couple months in Stephanie was not only keeping her head above water, she was helping teach others to swim, and being an anchor for when they struggled.

Most important for me is that she talks to and understands humans and they understand and learn from her. That is not a trait that is one of my go-to strengths, so she is ever more valuable turning ideas into action with all these Lifers.

She has done the rare feat of turning into someone as solid as steel in record time and is very worthy of this Good Life Award.

Check out the plans for the 2018 Good Life Awards here, and get your tickets here for this always inspiring event.