Council honors Spark Spirit award winners

By Jana Wiersema | The Republic

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Two Bartholomew County women were recently honored for their passion and community impact.

The Council for Youth Development awarded its first-ever “Spark Spirit Awards” on Wednesday at “ENLIGHTEN UP!”, the keynote event for this year’s Spark Spirit Week. Nicki Vreeland won the Spark Spirit Adult Award posthumously, and Hauser Jr./Sr. High School senior Rachel Hoke received the youth award.

“This year marks the start of what we hope is a long tradition of celebrating young people and adults in Bartholomew County who have not only discovered their spark but share it with others,” said CYD director Heather Carson. “We define spark as a person’s passion, joy, and purpose in life. We believe that tonight’s recipients not only have followed their purpose but also inspire others to pursue their own dreams and make a difference in our community.”

Vreeland, who died in July, served as the Coordinator of the Healthy Communities Mental Health Action Team at Columbus Regional Hospital, working on suicide prevention, increasing access to mental health services, and substance use prevention.

Carson said that Vreeland’s spark “continues to light a path for those who are passionate about youth mental health and family well-being.” Her family accepted the award on her behalf.

The youth winner, Hoke, was nominated by Hauser’s Director of Counseling, Kelli Hoeflinger.

“Rachel is an actress, playwright, and director; writing and co-directing her own play in the spring of 2022,” Hoeflinger wrote. “Seeing Rachel on stage, behind the scenes directing, or lost in her writings is to see Rachel come alive. You see her soul shine. Her passion for mental health and neuroscience are equally as bright. It is enthralling listening to her contemplative musings about gender and racial bias in medical research, diagnosis, and treatment.”