Big Man on Campus

Honoring one coach by helping others who are in crisis

By Sue Baldani

Coaches can have a huge influence in young athletes’ lives, and not just on the playing field. They are often vital in instilling important values such as responsibility, hard work, and humility, and some become much more than coaches to their young players.

One coach who touched many lives was Jamal Powell, a Texas Christian University standout and former NFL and CFL (Canadian Football League) player. “Coach Powell had a tremendous impact on me,” says Casey Kroll, who played football for Powell at James Madison University in Virginia and later followed him into the Texas coaching circuit.

“When I met Coach Powell in my senior year of college at JMU, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after I graduated, and had aspirations to be a lawyer. But then I looked at Coach Powell and thought ‘What a cool job he has. He’s making such a difference in young people’s lives.’ He was someone I looked up to and who helped me through some difficult times as a student, as an athlete, and as a young person.”

When Coach Powell was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome in 2018, he not only lost a considerable amount of weight but also lost feeling and motor function in his extremities. Months later, after spending a significant amount of time in the hospital, Powell was then diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. After undergoing surgery to remove the cancer, it returned in the summer of 2020, this time in his stomach.

“People within the Southern Methodist University [where Coach Powell was the assistant football coach] and JMU football community as well as the Dallas community helped in whatever capacity they could,” says Kroll.

During this time, Kroll was working on starting up The Big Man Foundation, a 501(3)(c) organization that would help coaches and their families going through crises like the Powell’s.

Sadly, Coach Powell passed away on April 6, 2021 at the age of 39, and the name of the organization is a tribute to him; Powell called his offensive line unit the “Big Man Fraternity.”

“We had a really great opportunity to expand his legacy and there’s no better way to honor him than by helping others, so that’s what our real drive is – being able to help and serve other coaches,” says Kroll.

Kroll, a native of Nokesville, missed his family (he was the oldest of four children) and left Texas to come back home. “I then got linked up with Coach Greg Hatfield, who was my high school coach when I was at Kettle Run High School in Fauquier (Kroll graduated in 2010). They had an opening on their staff and I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work with him. When he recently left to coach at Battlefield High School [in Haymarket], I went with him and am now serving as the offensive line coach.”

Today, Kroll is the founder and president of The Big Man Foundation, which has been in operation since December 2020. “We’ve had over 100 people donate so far, and we have five or six ambassadors and six board members.”

The first Jamal Powell Legacy Grant will be bestowed later this year. The deadline to apply for this quarter is September 3 and the amount of money given will depend on the number of people who apply and how much money the organization raises. Instead of just choosing one family, they hope to be able to help a few different families.

“Right now, our goal is to give out grants quarterly, but we also want to have emergency financial relief available, which may be needed right away,” says Kroll.

Their focus right now is to get the word out about their organization. “We have to make a big push to get people to share who we are, what we do, and why it’s important. We just recently started an ambassador program for people in the athletics community who align with our mission and to share that mission.

“Aaron Stinnie was so passionate about it he became one of our board members,” says Kroll. “I played with him at JMU for Coach Powell, and he now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who recently won a Super Bowl.”

Also on the board is Blaine Stewart, a teammate of Kroll at JMU and currently the coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers; Bryan Schor, quarterback of the JMU 2016 National Championship team; Lou Chiccehitto, Kroll’s college roommate; Dr. Jennifer Taylor, Kroll’s professor at JMU; and Aaron Epstein, who was Powell’s neighbor and also worked in fundraising at JMU.

The 100% volunteer-based organization is hoping to raise $120,000 by the end of 2021. “Every decision we’ve made up until this point has not been based around what is best for The Big Man Foundation right now, but instead focused on our long-term growth and solvency and looking at what we want to be doing five or 10 years from now,” says Kroll.

Besides illness-related expenses, The Big Man Foundation will also help coaches and their families affected by natural disasters or domestic violence. In the future, he hopes the foundation will be able to help in even larger ways, such as paying off someone’s mortgage or all of their medical bills.

“One of our other goals, and this is really close to my heart, is to be able to hire Coach Powell’s wife, Rachel Powell, to work with us, to be able to give her a job and stability. And it would be an awesome opportunity to work with someone who has lived our mission and knows why we’re doing what we do.”

When the board receives applications for grants, it’s going to look at each applicant on a case-by-case basis to find out what that particular person’s needs are and how they can best help each family. “We aim to give financial resources, but some people might not need those, and instead need some other type of support such as a therapist or baby sitter. One of the things Mrs. Powell needed was someone to watch her children and go to the grocery store. With three kids (Jaden, now 13, Ellison, 8, and William, 5) and a husband in a wheelchair, she needed help with daily tasks.

The foundation would also like to expand to include a wellness outreach program for student athletes and coaches. “We’re going to try to work with schools and sports teams, and we’re sharing resources with Morgan’s Message, a nonprofit focusing on student athlete mental health.”

Like every nonprofit, The Big Man Foundation needs funding, and lots of it, to fulfill its long-term mission. If people aren’t in a place to help financially, they can volunteer their time and/or talent. Families in crisis often need reliable and caring babysitters, house cleaners, tutors to help children with homework, and/or counselors for emotional support. People can also help by getting its message out, following the organization on social media, and/or signing up to become an ambassador.

To find out how you can help support and refer families, or if you are a coach in need, go to, like it on Facebook, and follow on Twitter @thebigmanfound and on Instagram @thebigmanfoundation.

Written for Haymarket & Gainesville Lifestyle Magazine in Virginia.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown

By Sue Baldani

When Tropical Storm Ida recently tore through our area, over 25 people in New Jersey died, mostly from drowning. Although some of these deaths couldn’t have been prevented, others could, especially those that occurred on our roads.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is caused by walking into or near flood waters.

In their desire to get to their destinations, many people underestimate the power and force of water. When coming upon a flooded road, instead of backing up and finding an alternate route, they tell themselves that their vehicles can get through just fine, often misjudging how deep the water truly is. Many times, this leads to tragedy. Once in the middle of these flood waters, cars often stall and people find themselves stranded and in trouble.

If they’re lucky, rescue crews are nearby and can pick them up before the water gets even higher or their cars are washed away by flash flooding. If they’re not, and can’t make it back to dry land, they often drown. Driving into flooded waters also puts first responders at risk when they have to venture into these dangerous waters to save others.

So the next time you drive up to a flooded road, turn around. Don’t take the chance; don’t gamble with your life and that of others. Drive to higher ground and find a safe place to wait until the water recedes and it’s safe to travel once again.

Written for the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad in New Jersey. Sue Baldani is a life member of the squad.

Make Learning a Snap

A fun way to develop STEAM skills

By Sue Baldani

When it comes to education, kids learn best when it’s a more natural process. Add interesting and fun to the mix, and you’ll get Snapology. Named the #1 Children’s Enrichment franchise in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, its curriculum is full of STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning opportunities.

“After I had my son Darren, I watched him explore his surroundings, and when he was about 2 years old, he got hooked on LEGO®,” says Sunny Sun, the owner of Snapology Summit. “I realized that LEGOdoesn’t force kids to build anything, but instead they can build based on their own imagination and observation. I felt like it really boosted children’s creativity. That was the first connection I had with LEGO.”

While working full time in finance, she decided to find something that would give her a better work/family balance. “When I discovered Snapology and saw the whole educational approach and the curriculum and structure of the classes, it was exactly what I was looking for. It connects creativity and learning and provides all the tools for children to design, create and build based on their own thoughts. And this program uses mostly LEGOto teach. I was sold!”

In addition to LEGObricks, Snapology makes learning fun by using Duplo, K-Nex and innovative technologies such as robotics. And the instructors are all experienced STEM/STEAM teachers. “I looked first for people who had a loving heart for children,” says Sunny. “This was the most important element for me. I didn’t want them to treat this as just a job.” Sunny is an instructor as well.

Everyone involved with Snapology, she adds, is very passionate, from those who research and develop the curriculum to her fellow owners. “We all care about education and children. Our mission is to make children happy and to develop the habit and love of life-long learning.”

Snapology, stresses Sunny, is not just LEGObuilding; it goes beyond that. “We use the LEGObricks and other innovative toys as tools for the kids to boost their imagination and creativity. We also help them with the concept of teamwork and social development so that they will eventually become great people.”

Another wonderful aspect of Snapology is that the classes, parties, play dates and workshops are mobile. Sunny partners with local venues such as schools, libraries, and community centers; classes can even be held at children’s homes. Snapology Summit offers classes not only in Summit but in the surrounding areas as well.

Classes and workshops are flexible in terms of length and are customizable. While its summer camps are usually three hours long, birthday parties can be 1 to 1 ½ hours and workshops 2 hours. Snapology also offers half-day field trips right on school grounds. They will arrange fun activities and indoor and outdoor games for an entire class.

Many parents, she says, are surprised at what their kids can do in these classes. “I recently hosted a Video Design class for 6- and 7-year-olds and there was a girl with special needs in the class. I customized it for each individual’s pace, and by the end of the course, she and the rest of the group were able to make the same game. Her parents were happy and amazed.”

Snapology has a well-established curriculum with over 1,500 hours of instruction. Some of the more popular classes include the Amusement Park Engineering course, where kids learn the mechanisms, or physics, behind the rides. Another is Escape Snapology, where they have to solve math and other problems in order to unlock themselves from one room and get to the next.

“We just established a new program called Drone Commander, which is a drone made out of LEGO. We add a little engine and wings so it can fly with a remote control and do different tricks.”

Sunny also believes in giving back to the community. Through Snapology, she raises money and/or offers free classes for nonprofits such as Room to Read and Crossroads4Hope.

Darren, now 5, loves Snapology. To get your children involved in these amazing courses as well, go to

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

A Non-Dieting Approach to Health

Building a better body through eating and living right

By Sue Baldani

Good nutrition is not just about losing weight. It’s also about feeding your mind, body and soul. This is the main tenet of Cara Clark Nutrition, and it’s this philosophy that has garnered Cara Clark a strong following.

A certified Sports and Clinical Nutritionist, Cara specializes in full-body wellness as well as sustainable lifestyles. Since founding Cara Clark Nutrition in 2009, she has shared her “non-dieting approach” to feeling and looking better.

“We don’t proclaim it to be weight loss and our success stories aren’t about what the scale says,” explains Cara. “Instead, it’s about people getting off medication, or those who had chronic illnesses getting better. Success is about a mom who felt so down and out and alone and now has the energy to be present in the moment with her kids.”

While living in Orange County, California, there was no shortage of celebrities seeking out her expertise. One of these was Christine Haack of HGTV’s Christina on the Coast and Flip or Flop (which Christina films alongside her ex-husband, Tarek El Moussa).

“We met eight years ago when Tarek was going through thyroid cancer treatment,” says Cara. “Christina reached out to me to help with a meal plan for him that aligned with his treatment protocol. Very quickly she realized she needed some nutritional support as well.” Christina was drained from caring for a sick husband, raising a toddler, and being new to the TV world.

Shortly thereafter, they became fast friends, and have maintained a close relationship to this day. In fact, when Cara and her family moved to Franklin last year, Christina was the first to visit and even bought a place nearby to stay while visiting. (The family’s move from California to Tennessee will be featured in an upcoming episode of Christina on the Coast.)

“We became that person we were missing in each other’s lives,” says Cara. “We even had babies at the same time with her Brayden and my Carli Jo and all of our kids are friends.”

They also co-authored the book, The Wellness Remodel. “We really wanted to touch on rewiring because a lot of it is how we think,” says Cara. “If time is the biggest obstacle, you can actually gain time by meal prepping. It’s not actually as hard as you think, but you have to have the energy to apply it. So, we say give us five days, which is when people’s energy starts to change.”

Being a wife to Chris, a financial planner, and a mom to four daughters – Maggie (age 11), Mila (9), Claire (8), and Carli Jo (Jo Jo) (5), Cara knows all about time constraints. Soon after moving into their new home, they also rescued a Pyrenees Australian shepherd mix named Aspen, so they have a full house.

Limited time is one of the reasons that Cara now only takes on athletes on an individualized basis. For others, she offers a unique and effective group challenge program. “When my third daughter was due, I had so many people begging me to take them on as clients, so I created a challenge that would work for everybody, but also take into consideration their personal assessments.”

The program has been unbelievably successful, with over 2000 participants per season taking part. “We do them seasonally so we can use seasonal foods and recipes not only to inspire people, but to also make sure they are taking in the best nutrients possible.”

Adults aren’t the only people she focuses on; she is currently writing a program called “The Balanced Kid” that she hopes to launch this month. “We already have a Fall Back to Health challenge every summer for parents to get back on track, and a kids’ cookbook, [with recipes approved by her children] so this is an add on.”

Cara collaborated with Dr. Kaisa Coppola, a functional medicine doctor, to talk about the main issues she sees in her pediatric patients, and then went on to provide all the meal plans, recipes, and guidance to help with those issues. She says that when many kids act out, instead of a behavioral problem, it may actually be a nutritional deficiency issue.

Eating first thing in the morning, she says, is key for both kids and adults, and she gives many grab-and-go ideas like rolling up your protein and carbs. A great snack or meal can be a combination of nutritious crackers and cheese, hard-boiled eggs and sliced apples, watermelon and nuts, and popcorn with nutritional yeast, which adds not only a cheesy flavor but protein and B vitamins as well. “It’s not about sneaking these foods in, but instead just shifting the experience. This is what I want to teach with The Balanced Kid.” Go to or pick up “The Wellness Remodel” to get started on living your and your family’s best lives.  

Written for Brentwood Lifestyle magazine in Brentwood, TN.

Dollars and Sense

Teach kids the importance of saving money

By Sue Baldani

Teaching children the value of saving money should start early. “Most kids’ early interactions with money will likely involve spending, so it’s important to teach them from a young age that money isn’t only for making purchases – they should also be saving regularly,” says Nicole Gibbs, senior vice president of CapStar Bank. (See her tips below.)

CapStar Bank can help. “CapStar operates with an owner mindset with highly effective teammates who are obsessed with ‘wowing’ customers by setting the standard in guidance, responsiveness, flexibility, and service,” she says.


  • Play a board game, like Monopoly, or, play “grocery store” with bills and coins as a fun hands-on way to learn to make change.
  • Introduce the concept of “wants” vs. “needs” by creating a worksheet that notes the difference between things we need to survive and things we simply want.
  • Teach the value of delayed gratification with a parent-supervised savings account. Then, set savings goals, create a budget, examine results, and reward accomplishments.
  • Ask older kids to help balance your checkbook to show how the family budget works as a step toward real-world money management.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Franklin, TN.

The Moss Hunter

Visitors to artist Henry Clarke’s outdoor gallery are treated to a healing tour and a fresh take on “going green.”

Written by Susan Baldani | Photographed by Joe Worthem

When you think about moss, if you think about it at all, it’s probably that soft, squishy ground covering you see in shady yards or growing up the side of a tree. Most of the time, it’s not even noticed or appreciated. But moss actually has a lot of benefits — to the environment, to our health and even in art. Yes, art.

Henry Clarke, a master ceramic tile glazer and artist from Oxford, Mississippi, felt that something was missing from his wooden carvings. He wanted to infuse more natural elements into his designs.

“Being out in the woods brought out my creativity, and when I saw all the moss, I decided I wanted to put that in the forefront,” Clarke said. “So, I started putting it on top of my wood carvings, and after that it was off to the races.”

Mosses are small flowerless plants that typically form dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations. According to, there are approximately 12,000 species throughout the world. They grow in damp places and don’t require a lot of sunlight, preferring the ground around trees and other taller plants. They clean our water, clear our air and prevent erosion.

“What people don’t realize is that moss takes carbon out of the air,” Clarke said. “If you’re in an area with a bunch of moss, you’re getting nothing but clean fresh air which will make you feel euphoric.”

Clarke, who calls himself “the Moss Hunter,” searches for moss all around Oxford and Lafayette County; he’s been at it now for over three years. He’s been known to stop on the side of the road, put on his bright orange jacket and get busy digging up the moss he spotted there. His backyard collection includes fern, tree and toothpick mosses, among others.

The yard is an outdoor gallery; a fairyland filled with wooden creations covered in moss.

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Among them are a carved head with moss for the hair, mustache and beard; a wooden bench totally covered in a vibrant green moss; and a moss-covered carved man lying on the ground. He sometimes incorporates small ferns as well.

“Children love to run around and touch everything,” Clarke said. “I have some moss that I glued onto little wood animals, and they love that. It looks a little like a zoo when you first walk in.”

Clarke’s wife, Toni Coleman, whom he met while living in New York and followed to Mississippi, supports his hobby wholeheartedly. Coleman came up with the name, House on the Hill Enchanted Oasis, to describe their home and grounds.

“She loves when I’m outside doing my thing,” Clarke said.

Visitors who come to House on the Hill for the free moss garden tours are from all walks of life and of all different ages. Many of them have never been around moss before, and Clarke said they always find it fascinating.

While touring, guests are encouraged to walk on the moss in bare feet. Clarke wants people to be close to the moss, to touch it and be able to differentiate between the different types of moss.

He also teaches people how to attach moss to wood using mud, and he will sometimes give them moss to take home, to start their own moss gardens.

At the very end of the moss trail, Clarke created a little beach that he calls Betty Beach, after Coleman’s mother. It’s an all-white sand beach with a 20- by 27-foot pool.

“It’s like a little lake,” Clarke said. “I want people to get immersed in all the elements of life here. They can feel the sand, get in the water, and then come back and feel the moss. It’s a place of total enjoyment. After the tour, I let them be free to wander around to see what they want. I let the moss take control of them so they can let their minds flow.”

A cancer survivor, Clarke says he is grateful for every day, and that the best things in life are usually free. He strongly believes that the moss, along with spending time in nature and working in his garden, were as much a part of his recovery and survival as his medical team. He notes that Native Americans and the Japanese have been using moss for many years to treat all kinds of illness.

“Since I’ve been playing with this moss, it has taken me now to a whole different level with dealing with nature and people,” Clarke said. “It’s calming, more like a meditation thing now, as opposed to art. One of my goals now is to have people come to the moss garden and meditate and be healed.”

Clarke admits he sometimes gets lost in nature and in his garden. But then again, he said, there is nowhere else he’d rather be.

To visit the House on the Hill Enchanted Oasis, email Henry Clarke at, or call him at 662-715-9597.

Written for Invitation Oxford Magazine in Mississippi.

Let’s Celebrate our Independence Day

By Sue Baldani

Now that COVID-19 infection rates are coming way down, this 4th of July we will celebrate a different kind of freedom. A freedom from having to wear masks inside and out, from the fear of stepping outdoors, and from the barriers to being with the people we love. Of course, we still have to practice some caution, but it’s now possible to celebrate a holiday in a way that resembles the “good old days.”

Fortunately, a lot of 4th of July celebrations will take place outside, in the warm, sunny weather of summer, which is still considered the safest way to congregate. We can don shorts, flip flops, hats, and of course, sunglasses, without that dreadful mask steaming them up. This Independence Day will be a time to gather again with friends and family, cook juicy burgers, eat corn on the cob slathered with butter, and grill barbeque chicken and ribs to sticky perfection.

Children can splash around once again in pools, in lakes, or in oceans with friends, while parents lounge on beach chairs waiting for the fireworks to start. Cool drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, will be made by the pitcher, and ice cream in cones and cups will be doled out in abundance. Ahh, what a wonderful image!

Let us rejoice in our health and celebrate the chance to live life to the fullest, and let’s give thanks that our country and the world is bouncing back from the horrors of this pandemic. It’s time to be optimistic that there will only be happy and healthy surprises moving forward.

Happy 4th of July, and God Bless America!

Written for The Country Register distributed across the US.

Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Tip of the Month – For optimal health, schedule routine exams

We all know it’s important to keep up with annual physicals and medical screenings to catch any health issues early on. Often, early detection save lives. Due to  COVID-19, many of us have postponed getting these crucial checkups. Don’t delay any longer – schedule those appointments!

During an annual physical exam, your doctor will most likely order blood work to check for, among other things, glucose, cholesterol, iron, and vitamin D levels. Blood pressure, pulse rate, weight and other vital statistics will also be assessed.

During these visits, your doctor may also refer you for medical screenings that are age, sex, and risk appropriate. Here is a list of the more common ones:

Colonoscopy – If you’re 50 or older and at an average risk of colon cancer, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years (or sometimes more often) to screen for colon cancer. 

Mammogram – At age 40, many women begin having mammograms to check for breast cancer, and then have them every one to two years. Professional groups differ on their age and frequency recommendations, so speak with your doctor to see what he or she recommends for you.

Prostate cancer screening – Men in their 50s should discuss the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening with their doctors. This discussion should include a review of your risk factors and any preferences about screening.

Total body skin exams – Yearly or more often depending on risk factors for skin cancer. Can begin as early as the teenage years.

Osteoporosis screening – Women are usually at higher risk for osteoporosis and will be screened more regularly. A baseline is usually taken at 65 years old.

Don’t let COVID-19 put you at risk for other health issues. Speak with your doctor and find out what screenings you may need right now, and then go ahead and get them. Just because you’re not experiencing any signs or symptoms of an illness or disease, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Stay on top of your health, stay safe, and do whatever’s necessary to live a long and healthy life.

Contributing Author:  Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

Capturing the Play

The art of defining moments in sports and music history

By Sue Baldani

Artist Mark Kannell of Florham Park has captured almost every iconic athlete in paint on jerseys, footballs, helmets, and even sneakers. Some of these athletes have bought these amazing paintings for themselves.

“I used to draw athletes while in college and liked to get them autographed at card shows or autograph signings, so that’s when I started getting into sports,” says Mark.

He never really thought of it as a career until he received a commission from Sports Express, a store that was located in Livingston, for a painted jersey featuring Patrik Elias, who played for the NJ Devils at the time. After others saw his work, he started to get more and more sports commissions.

“Tom Brady is one that I’ve painted many times, and he owns one of the painted jerseys,” says Mark. “Shaquille O’Neal is another who owns one. I’ve also done a lot of paintings of Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.” Other pieces includes Derek Jeter, Patrick Mahomes, and Eli Manning.

When Mariano Rivera, a former Yankee, saw the two paintings Mark wanted him to autograph, he told him he had to have one. “He was the first athlete who directly commissioned me to do a painting,” he says.

Before that original commission, Mark never thought of painting on mediums other than canvas or paper, but after that, people in the sports memorabilia industry started commissioning him to paint not only on jerseys, but on autographed footballs and helmets as well.

“I started doing some research about it,” he says. “I used different paints to see what would work best. For example, I use a leather paint because it’s more flexible.”

While painting, Mark uses extremely high-resolution images of moments in history, like Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, as his guide. “People tell me I have the ability to capture every detail. For example, if I’m doing a painting of a player and see little holes in his jersey, I’ll add those in, whereas many artists may not. And people also tell me I’m able to capture faces really well.”

Besides athletes, Mark has also painted music personalities, such as Carrie Underwood, on another unique medium. “I started selling a lot of music paintings to charity auctions and was commissioned to paint on guitars,” he says. “I did a few Taylor Swift guitars last summer and was told that she was going to autograph them. I’ve also painted Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Mick Jagger, all on guitars as well.”

Mark also does live painting. “I’ll bring an easel and set up a jersey and paint live at an event. People can come up and see it and if they want to commission something, they can do that.”

You can see Mark’s incredible pieces at Legends Gallery in Chatham, on Instagram and in videos on TikTok. His work has also been featured in a story on Entertainment Tonight and has been shared on many major social media pages such as the Bleacher Report, Complex, and CBS Sports. He has also been hired by EA Sports to create original paintings of football players for Madden NFL’s social media outlets.

To learn more about Mark or to commission a piece, go to

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

June is Men’s Health Month

By Sue Baldani

Let’s face it. Men don’t always take the best care of themselves. Common excuses are “I’m too busy” or “I feel fine. Why should I see a doctor?” Even when they think something may be wrong, some are still hesitant to visit a medical professional.

Since June is Men’s Health Month, it’s a great time to be proactive about health and wellness. So guys, get started on the path to good health, and women, let’s encourage the males in our lives to live and feel their best.

We all know that eating right, exercising, and getting proper medical care can lead to much longer lifespans. Follow these guidelines in June, and then continue to make these same choices throughout the year and every year:

  1. Make an appointment with your doctor: This is the first step. Your blood pressure and weight will be checked, and blood work may be ordered to test for issues such as diabetes, liver function, and cholesterol.
  2. Get screened to identify, treat and prevent diseases: Depending on your age and risk factors, your doctor will recommend appropriate screenings. For example, if you’re 50 or older and at an average risk of colon cancer, your doctor may prescribe a colonoscopy every 10 years. Your doctor may also suggest having prostate cancer screening and other important tests. Yearly skin exams by a dermatologist are also critical to check for skin cancer.
  3. Eat healthy: Include lots of vegetables, fruits and lean proteins in your diet, and drink plenty of water. If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation.
  4. Quit or avoid smoking: Lung cancer, heart disease, and other serious health issues are much more common in smokers.
  5. Exercise: Like all of the muscles in your body, your heart needs to stay in shape. Get moving. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll look better.
  6. Do a mental health check: Depression and anxiety can cause people to miss out on some of life’s most enjoyable moments. Seek help from a mental health professional if you feel the need.
  7. Pamper yourself: Play golf, get a massage, take a nap, go for a hike – whatever it is you enjoy, do it. And then do it some more.

The blue ribbon is the symbol of Men’s Health Month, so get busy and take home that winning ribbon. Do it for yourself and for those who love you.

Written for Suburban Essex Magazine in New Jersey.