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The 2016 Breakout Session List: Try This Conference

closeup organizing session

Try This sessions bring like-minded West Virginians together to inspire each other, trade Ideas and hear new ideas. During these sessions, people start to combine forces, hatch plans and roll the ball forward. (Photo: Kate Long)


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A wonderful smorgasbord of affordable, do-able ideas are waiting for you in Buckhannon, June 3 – 4!  More than 120 of your fellow West Virginians are volunteering their time to pack your head with healthy-community ideas! West Virginians trading ideas! Community by community, we’re creating a healthier state!


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At the conference, we practice what we preach! Lots of fun between and after sessions!


Full schedule here. Two days of inspiration and fun.

Register here.

Wondering how to apply for a minigrant?  Look here.

Come Thursday to relax and take in extra events: farm dinner, community conversation workshop, bike ride, exhibits … see the schedule for more details.






Friday, June 3 / 1:00 – 2:15 pm


Healthy food on a shoestring budget: On a tight budget, can you still eat a healthy diet? You bet! But it takes planning and know-how. Each presenter offers solid advice and tips from a different angle. Kristen McCartney and Belinda Nicholas, Nutrition Outreach program, WVU Extension; Karen Bright, Afterschool founder, Bright Knights Cooking Academy;  Alicia Rapking, Buckhannon Parish House cooking school; Dana Wright WVU Extension, Cooking Matters; Andy Pense, Office of Child Nutrition;  Brooke Nissim-Sabat, WV Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Make your town friendly to bicycles! Want to make it easier for people in your community to bike for fun? Get to the store? Go to work? Give kids something healthy to do? Attract visitors with biking? This session’s for you! Dennis Strawn, WV Connecting Communities (statewide);  Gabe Rousch, Pt. Pleasant Bike Trail Committee; Jessica Harmening, South Middle Kids Bike Club; Andy Forren, New River Gorge Trail Alliance;  Christiaan Abildso, Morgantown Bikes; Mary Small, Country Roads Cyclists.


Promote healthy child care in your community: If children develop healthy habits in their first five years, they’re much more likely to stay healthy all their lives.  An exciting wave of healthy child care centers is growing in West Virginia, a big plus for the future! Pick up practical, affordable ideas!  Jamie Jeffrey and Laura Dice, KEYS 4HealthyKids; Jessica Dianellos, KEYS 2 a Healthy Start coordinator; Terry White, Linwood Child Care Center; Helen Post-Brown, Sunbeam Child Care Center.


Create a dynamite youth group, Youth led / adult sponsored: These outstanding West Virginia youth and their sponsors will inspire and move you. They’re providing a healthy alternative to drugs, learning to be creative, capable adults who know how to stay healthy and have fun.  Students Against Destructive Decisions (Wyoming), High Rocks; 4H Health Ambassadors, Appalachian Center for Equality (Mingo, Logan, Boone); the George Washington HS Fed Up group; Youth Leadership Assn.


RX: Prescribing Prevention! Conclusive research says physical activity and healthy diet can stop diabetes and heart disease before it happens. How can doctors and nurses help spread prevention through the community? Creative answers from Rahul Gupta, MD, Director, WV Bureau for Public Health; Dino Beckett, OD, Williamson Health and Wellness Center; Dan Doyle, MD, Cabin Creek Medical Clinic; Perry Bryant, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care; Mark Cucuzzella, MD, WVU med school prof and internationally-known runner; Jessica Wright, Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, Bureau for Public Health.


Creative ways to market fresh local food: Is it hard to find fresh, local food in your area? Want to create new ways for people to buy it? These West Virginians know how! Everything from pop-up markets and mobile markets to full-time create-your-own-grocery.  Joey Aloi, Food Hub Marketing Specialist, KISRA, Lauren Kemp, The Wild Ramp; Ken Peralta, Grow Ohio Valley; Brandy Brabham, Mid-Ohio Valley Edibles; Fritz Boettner,  Alderson Community Food Hub, Jarrod Dean, Project Development Coordinator, WV Dept. of Agriculture.


Community gardening: Five years ago, WV community gardens were hard to find. Not now! All over the state, people are growing food for their own table and for soup kitchens, pantries and backpack programs. Hear models, creative ideas and resources from some of the best:  John Porter,  Kanawha County, WVU Extension agent, Jenny Totten, WVSU Extension agent; Buck Edwards, Buckhannon Community Garden;  Ann Garcelon, Manna Meal (Charleston) volunteer; Stephanie Bragg, Fayetteville garden-raising.


Create low-cost exercise programs that work: Active Southern WV organizes year-round local running/walking groups. Sutton offered zumba and yoga in the community building. Schools share their gyms and fields after hours. Libraries offer yoga. How can you stir up action in your town? Jennifer Wells, Shared Use Campaign, WV Healthy Kids and Families; Elaine Bowen, WVU Extension; Cathy Schrader, Arthritis Foundation of WV; Courtney Roark, WV Physical Activity Network.


Community conversations: a great way to make things happen in your town: In almost a dozen West Virginia towns, anybody can come to a weekly anybody-welcome conversation over food or drink. They meet to answer this question: How can we make our town healthier and more prosperous? They accomplish a LOT! CJ Rylands, Create Buckhannon; Jenny Selin, Try This Monongalia; Bob Johnson, Mayor, Richwood; Ray Smith, Organizer, Lewis County; Tom Hart, Grafton Community Conversation; Jaquelyn Proctor, Huntington Chat ‘n’ Chew, Carey Jo Grace, West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families.


Local businesses make great partners in healthy-community projects! As long as WV is on top of the worst health lists, businesses are less likely to move here. Hear from business people who are taking steps to make it easier for people who live in their communities to live healthy lives. How can you get business involved in your community? Adam Flack, Executive Director, Wellness Council of West Virginia; Sarah Holub, Director, Kids in Motion; Dave Harshbarger, Director, WVU Wellness, Candi Hill, Wellness Director, NGK Spark Plugs



Friday, June 3 / 2:45 – 4:00 pm


Can we use physical Activity, nutrition and mindfulness to lower risk of drug abuse? Hear from inspiring West Virginians who use physical activity, nutrition and mindfulness to make it easier for people to fight drug abuse. How can your community do the same? Tammy Jordan, Fruits of Labor (Rainelle); Kevin Blankenship, MD, Jacob’s Ladder (Preston Co); Kim Pack, SHARE program, FMRS Health Systems (Beckley);  Kathy Brunty, Wyoming County Students Against Destructive Decisions; David Didden,  Jefferson County health officer, Rev. James Patterson, Partnership of African-American Churches.


Social Media Part 1: Get your wheels rolling! Want to use media to attract people to your project or tell people your story, but not sure how to get started?  This session is for you! Learn how to use facebook effectively and find out more about social media programs like Twitter and Instagram. If you can, bring a laptop.  Debbie Workman, Social Media Consultant, Social West Virginia, LLC.


If kids grow it, they’ll love it Part 1: School gardens are popping up all over the state! Teachers are weaving gardening into the classroom day. This one-stop workshop is packed with lots of practical ways to do the same and plan and fund your gardening program.  Jessica Pollitt, founder, West Virginia School Gardening Network; Chuck Talbott, Putnam County, WVU Extension agent; Kate Marshall, Education Director, Grow Ohio Valley;  Stacie Fridley, Principal, Blackshere Elementary (Marion County).


Build trails – so they will come! Some counties are building and connecting trails so bikers, hikers, walkers and runners can easily get from town to town.  How can those trails be used to promote healthier children? How can we let people know they’re there? Funding? Peggy Pings, National Park Service Rivers & Trails Program;  Mark Scoular, WV Dept of Transportation; Mark Cucuzzella,  Shepherdstown “Trail Time”; Wendy Staats, Community health innovator, Jackson County Health Dept.


Get funded, Part 1:  Are you writing a Try This grant – or any other grant – for the first or second time? Maximize your chances for success! Learn from people who know what they’re talking about. You’ll cover: framing the problem / mission, identify partners, writing SMART goals, and more!  Kim Tieman, Program Officer, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Jamie Jeffrey, MD, Director, KEYS for Healthy Kids, Jessica Wright, Director of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.


Healthy Bodies Healthy Spirits! Helping people of faith live healthy lives: West Virginia now has a growing healthy faith network (! How can churches set a healthy food example and get people moving? Meet with people who are doing it! Lynn Keener, Nazarene Pastor; Belinda Nicholas, Adult Nutrition Outreach Instructor, WVU Extension, Linda and Joel McKinney, Directors, 5 Loaves and 2 Fishes Food Bank (Welch); Steve Willis, Baptist pastor; Joshua Sowards, Healthy Bodies Healthy Spirits Coordinator; Frances Shearin, Church Women United; Bradley Wilson, Director, FOODLINK.


Parents: Creating Healthier Schools. The law requires scnool wellness councils, a great vehicle for moving your school toward healthy food and activity. Learn how you can join / help organize one and help build a statewide parent network. Jenny Anderson, Village of Barboursville Elementary; Kelli Caseman, WV School-Based Health Assembly; Andy Pense, Office of Child Nutrition; Brandon Williams, Action for Healthy Kids; Laura Young, Marlinton Family Resource Network; Deanna Cunningham, Teacher, Kenna Elementary; Kimberly Earl, Parent Volunteer, Ruffner Elementary.


Think Big: Create your own Grocery Store, Gym or Youth Center. Are you dreaming of a healthy, big project that might seem near-impossible? It can happen when people work together. Alderson created its own grocery store.  Harrisville turned a crumbling gym ito a great recreation center.  Wyoming teenagers created their own recreation center. How? Find out.  Fritz Boettner, Alderson Grocery and Food Hub; Doug Jackson and Andy Law, The Gym (Harrisville); Kathy Brunty (and students), Wyoming Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)


Get kids moving after school: A smorgasbord of ideas, ranging from do-it-yourself clubs and parent-run soccer clubs to public school afterschool activities, Girls on the Run, and 4-H. To make it possible: share school facilities with the community in off-hours! Jennifer Wells,Shared Use Campaign Manager; Beth Anderson, Flatwoods Soccer Club; Susie Huggins, After School Explorers, Preston County Schools; Laurie Abildso, Morgantown Girls on the Run; Melanie Seiler, Active Southern WV; Sarah Holub, Huntington Kids in Motion; Gus Nelson, WV Office of Child Nutrition.


Natural playgrounds, little parks and outdoor classrooms that don’t bust your budget. A natural playground is created from natural materials. It costs less.  Leave this session with affordable ideas. Hear from a landscape designer and people who can give you ideas your community can copy. Laura Dice, Project Coordinator, KEYS 4Healthy Kids; Doug Hylton, Town Planner, Ronceverte, Dave Hill, Landscape Designer, Three Trees Designs; Chastidy Graham, Principal, Hamlin K-8;  Julia Spelsberg, Mayor, Weston.



Saturday, June 4 / 10:00 – 11:15 am


Stress reduction: Stress is a leading cause of heart disease and diabetes. To ease their stress, many people combine physical activity and good nutrition with practices that quiet their minds: meditation, yoga tai chi, prayer. Hear about research on each practice and hear ways to get it going in your community. Aila Accad, mindfulness and meditation; Rick Wilson, tai chi; Josh Sowards, prayer, Leslie Drake, yogaNIDRA; David Didden, Health Officer, Jefferson County Health Department.


Running and Walking: a foundation for a healthy community. Active Southern WV creates running groups, town by town. Williamson offers monthly 5Ks to help people build a running/walking habit. Eastern panhandlers have it happening almost every week. What can you do? Melanie Seiler, Active Southern WV; Alexis Batausa, Mingo County Diabetes Coalition; Kevin Bracken, Bros and Bras, Shepherdstown;  Mark Cucuzzella MD, Professor, West Virginia University; David Kephart, Genesis Running, Couch to 5K.


Healthy community = economic development! The state spends seven out of ten health dollars to treat chronic diseases that can be prevented with physical activity and healthier eating… diabetes, heart disease, etc. Lower that number = more $$ for everything else! How can you convice local officials to budget for prevention? Tara Martinez, WV Center on Budget and Policy; Monica Miller, WV Development Office;  Jason Hughes, Office of Innovation, Department of Education; Don Perdue, Chair, House Health Committee and director, Wayne County Development; Ben Gilmer, Refresh Appalachia; Kathleen Stoll, Kat Consulting.


Little or no land? Grow anyhow!  Are you a country person with a little scrap of land? Do you want to grow food, but live in town with no land?  Want to get kids gardening, but don’t know where to do it?  Grow anyhow! Learn how!  John Porter, Kanawha County Extension Agent, WVU Extension; Bob Gregory, Owner/Founder, Berea Gardens;  Linda and Joel McKinney, Director, 5 Loaves and 2 Fishes Food Bank, McDowell County, Buck Edwards, Create Buckhannon.


Communities helping people with diabetes and heart disease: Want to start free or low-cost community programs to help diabetics or people with heart disease get control of their disease? Find out how people in your community can be trained to lead lifegiving programs.Sally Hurst, Director, Greenbrier Valley Health Alliance; Jenny Hudson, Director, Mingo Diabetes Coalition; Richard Crespo, Professor, Community Health, Marshall University; Sherry Ellem, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Dept; Linda St. Clair, Office of Child Nutrition


Keep kids focused / involved with physical activity: Brief bursts of physical activities keep kids interested, energized, non-fidgety and involved, whether you’re a parent, school teacher, Sunday School teacher, whatever. This session is packed with ideas, also a lot of fun! Come ready to get up and have fun moving!  Jenny Anderson, Try This West Virginia; Brandon Williams, Coordinator, Action for Healthy Kids; Eric Murphy, WVU Extension Service agent; Kathy Brunty, Wyoming Students Against Destructive Decisions


Community organizing and policy improvement: No matter how good your plans are, you gotta get the community involved if you want to make lasting change. How do you inspire people to work together? How can you help them plan and strategize for the long haul? Two excellent organizers help you make a roadmap that suits your situation. Stephen Smith, Executive Director, WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition; Kent Spellman, Executive Director, WV Community Development Hub.


Spread healthy eating statewide: a brainstorm session: Processed food is making us sick. Most schools don’t teach kids about nutrition and cooking. We’re drowning in pop and sugar. But a statewide movement is starting. How can we make it grow? A brainstorm session!  Kristin McCartney and Emily Murphy, WVU Extension; Dana Wright, WVU Extension (Cooking Matters program); Belinda Nicholas, Adult Nutrition Outreach Instructor, WVU Extension ; Mandy Curry, Healthy Kids Inc.; Karen Bright, Afterschool, Preston County; Kristy Blower, WV Office of Child Nutrition.


Get funded! Part 2. A funding smorgasbord:  This session is for people who have already written a few grants and established a track record, but want to sharpen their skills. Three grant-writing pros will help you improve your applications and get ready for bigger grants. They will give you valuation tips on evaluation, sustainability, grant seeking, and more! Kim Tieman, Project Officer, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Jamie Jeffrey, Director, KEYS for Healthy Kids, Jessica Wright, RN, MPH, Director of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.


Make your minigrant project a big success! Get valuable tips from successful Try This minigrant teams. How did they involve their communities and keep volunteers coming back? What roadblocks did they overcome? What did the project lead to? Debbie Workman, Bridgeport Farmers Market children’s project; Terry White, Linwood Child Care gardening; Gabe Pena; Fayette vermiculture; Ken Peralta, Toolbrary lending truck;  Stacie Fridley, Blackshere Elementary gardening. Matthew Thompson, moderator, Try This WV;



Saturday, June 4 / 11:45 am – 1:00 pm


Farmers Market on wheels! Kids’ veggie program! Learn creative ways your farmers market can reach more people!  See the actual Williamson Mobile Market. Learn to create fun children’s programs. Turn your market into a  community center, with outreach activities that bring in new people.  Maria Arnot, Mingo County Diabetes Coalition mobile market; Debbie Workman, Bridgeport Farmers Market, children’s POP program; Wendy Staats, Jackson County Health Department (farmers market in the schools).


Farm to table, every which way. Want creative ways to help your small growers and producers make money and get local food and products onto local tables and into local stores?  Lotsa ways to do it! Jason Hughes, Office of Innovation, Department of Education; Gabe Pena, Fayette County Assistant Resource Coordinator; Joshua Donahew, Mid Ohio Valley Edibles;  Jill Young, Technical Assistance Coordinator, Value Chain Cluster; Sky Edwards, founder McDowell County Farms; Lauren Kemp, Board Member, Wild Ramp


Media Part 2: Use the Web and Social Media to build your project. For this session, you should already know how to use social media and get a facebook page and Web site up. This idea session with two pros will stir up creative ideas about ways you can use social media and paid media to publicize and build your project. Bring your laptop if you can.  Jake Lynch, Communications Director, WV Community Development Hub, Will Miller, Outdoor Recreation Specialist, Marketing and Communications, WV Division of Tourism.


Walkable/bikable communities: Change policies to make it happen! How can you make it easier, safer and more inviting for people to walk, run and bike in your community? Learn how to promote local and state government policies that make it a lot easier for people in your community to get around without a car.  Stephen Smith, Executive Director, WV Healthy Kids and Families; Angela Vance, Associate State Director of Advocacy, AARP; Dennis Strawn, President, West Virginia Connecting Communities.


Volunteers, Getting them and keeping them: This subject comes up quickly in any conversation about ways to help a project succeed. How can we find good volunteers and keep them coming back? If you don’t know how, your program’s in trouble. These presenters know how to keep volunteers happy over the long haul. And participants will learn from each other, so brig your own tips! Nadine Perry, Volunteer Coordinator, Putnam County SIStah; Kevin Bracken, Founder, Bros and Bras; Cheryl Gregg, The Gym (Harrisville), LeeAnn Shreve, Regional Organizer, Healthy kids and Families.


Healthy celebrations and meetings: If not soda pop and sweetrolls, what? Lots of ideas for tasty, affordable food kids and grownups will love that won’t raise their risk of heart disease! Sample some in this session! Laura Dice and Jamie Jeffrey, KEYS 4HealthyKids;  Mandy Curry, Healthy Kids Inc.; Emily Murphy, Childhood Obesity Specialist, WVU Extension; Linda St. Clair, Office of Child Nutrition; Kimberly Earl, parent, Ruffner Elementary


Kids gardening Part 2 – in the garden!  This hands-on breakout takes place in the beautiful Buckhannon community garden, behind the Performance Hall (see map in program). Learn activities you can take home! Ask a volunteer for directions.  Jessica Pollitt, Adult Health Educator, Family Nutrition Program, WVU Extension; Buck Edwards, Manager, Buckhannon Community Garden; Andrew Acosta, VISTA, KEYS 4HealthyKids; Katte Marshall, Grow Ohio Valley.


What to do (and not do) to get public officials on board with your project: How can you best present your project and increase your chances of success with your local and state officials? What can you do (or not do) to win their cooperation – and hopefully some funding? Patti Hamilton, Director, West Virginia Association of Counties; Matt Wender, County Commissioner, Fayette County; Don Perdue, Chair, House Health Committee; Julia Spelsberg, Westton Mayor.


Brand your community healthy, then plan it that way: If you want to accelerate the healthy growth of your community, pull agencies and groups together to look at what’s needed and plan long-term. Get advice from three communities that are in different stages of doing it!Sustainable Williamson: Jenny Hudson, Mingo County Diabetes Coalition; Fayetteville: Aletha Stolar, Organizer, Live Well Fayette Work Group; Greenbrier: Sally Hurst, Coordinator, Greenbrier Valley Health Alliance.


Weird grants and leveraged dollars: How do you find offbeat grants? How do you use your small grant as leverage to get other grants, donations and volunteers? The West Virginians on this panel are champions at turning a little into a lot. Hear their stories, find out how they do it. Micheal Tierney, Director, Step by Step; Elizabeth Shahan, Harrison County Family Resource Program; Terry White, Director, Linwood Alive!, Linwood Child Care Center;  Barbara Black, Principal, Hometown Elementary; Stacie Fridley, Principal, Blackshere Elementary.




1 Comment

  1. Dear Organizers, This sounds really good. Keep me informed and even if I can’t participate, I can still publicize it. Send news items to: Dave Corcoran, Glenville Newspapers, PO Box 458, Glenville WV 26351

    Thank you, Dave

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