40 Leaders Under Forty: Inspiration & Aspiration

We asked our 2018 class of 40 Leaders Under Forty about the causes they hold near and dear to their hearts, the people who have inspired them, and what they would bring to Peoria if they could. Below is a sampling of their responses.

What social issue fires you up—and what programs or organizations are most important to you?
Equal opportunities for everyone to be their best selves. The Center for Prevention of Abuse and the Society of Women Engineers are both programs I support. —Paroma Banerjee

I love the Dream Center Peoria! They’re helping and interacting with the community in practical ways, and I’m so happy to continue to support them. —Kelli Drake

What St. Jude Children’s Hospital does for patients and their families is truly amazing. I participated in the Canton to Peoria St. Jude Run and have already marked my calendar for next year! —Kyle Essex

I am very passionate about autism awareness and… the Central Illinois Autism Association. As a board member, I take very seriously my role as an awareness advocate to help children get intervention as soon as possible! —Alyssa Herman

I am proudest of my accomplishments made through my local Kiwanis Club to raise money for children right here in my community and throughout the world. —Kyle King

Undocumented children and students, police brutality, and racial profiling get me fired up. Some of my favorite causes include ones that help children, provide suicide awareness and fibroid awareness. —Myskeshia Mitchell

Morton Community Foundation. We’re just scratching the surface on the impact this organization through its supporters can have in our wonderful community today and for years to come. —Jeff Muniz

I always said I couldn’t fundraise for an organization I didn’t have passion for, and that rings true for Illinois CancerCare Foundation... Unfortunately, everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another. That’s what keeps me motivated—I am working to help other people’s moms and dads and sisters and uncles and sons and daughters—people we don’t want to live without. —Lauren Obalil

I support Family House because it provides affordable hospitality housing for families experiencing a medical crisis away from home. —Bryan O’Neal

Gender equality at work. —Kristal Roop

The lack of funding, research and awareness around pediatric cancer. Only about four percent of federal cancer research is allocated to pediatric cancer, and in the last two decades only three new drugs have been approved by the FDA to treat childhood cancer. Cancer is the number-one killer of kids in the U.S. with about 12 children dying each day, and another 45 children diagnosed. —Adam Simmons

I love EP!C and their garden program supplying farm-to-table ingredients to local restaurants. —Nick Yates

What is one thing you would bring to the Peoria area if you could?
A separated sewer system. —Joe Adams

A larger grocery store in downtown/south side of Peoria that also sells local produce and goods. —Paroma Banerjee

An Apple store. (Actually, I have always wanted to see a Ronald McDonald House, and it’s happening.) —Benjamin Brewer

Trader Joe’s. —Jenna Ford

Though I understand the challenges associated with this, I’d like to see more opportunities for safe biking/personal transportation in the city. The less dependent that we are on cars and buses for transportation would be a benefit to both businesses and the local environment. —Kyle King

Continued vibrancy and revitalization of the Riverfront District and the certainty that we will be a thriving community for another 200 years. —Eric Martin

High-speed rail! We need it. —Erin Wood Miller

I would bring the shopping experience of the “Mag Mile” to the River City. —Myskeshia Mitchell

Imo’s Pizza. It’s a St. Louis institution that my kids ask for every time we visit family. —Jeff Muniz

A year and a half ago, the answer would have been quite easy: a Ronald McDonald House. Now that the house has broken ground and construction is underway, I’d have to say further utilization of the wonderful natural resources we have in Peoria. We have great biking and hiking trails, but could use more. I’d also explore the potential to further utilize the Illinois River for both recreational and commercial activities. —Adam Simmons

A recreation of the old Palm House at Luthy Botanical Garden. —Priscilla Slaughter

Chicago deep-dish pizza (Lou Malnati’s or Giordanos). —Kyle Tompkins

A comprehensive collaborative cancer center. —Dr. Steven Stergios Tsoraides

Shorter winters! —Jon Ward

A full-time piano bar. —Tiffany White

What local figure or person inspires you?
I’m inspired daily by my supervisor Dr. Deborah Garrison, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs of Methodist College UnityPoint Health. We have dealt with a lot of change in our organization and Dr. Garrison has demonstrated not only great leadership, but also humility and respect. I enjoy working under her and attempt to soak as much wisdom that I can. —Andre Allen

Andrew Rand (CEO, Advanced Medical Transport) and Debbie Simon (Regional CEO, UnityPoint Health). —Benjamin Brewer

My parents. Especially, my dad who has been West Peoria Mayor for over 20 years. He taught me to strive to make my community a better place. —James Dillon

Lora Murphy, medical terminology course coordinator at ICC. She has been a great resource and soundboard for me as an adjunct instructor. —Alyssa Emanuelson

Margaret Hanley, president of A. Lucas & Sons; Lesley Matuszak, CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Peoria; and Pat Drake, CEO of Fidelity On Call. —Jessica Ford

Adam White, the owner of Running Central – his story and his ability to build his brand is incredible! —Alyssa Herman

Michael Stephan, retired president of the Heart of Illinois United Way. —Robert Hills

My late employer and friend, Jim Mamer. He put the community and those individuals living within it above his own interests and desires in an attempt to make the whole community better... I try to emulate the amazing path that he walked in his life. —Kyle King

Chuck Weaver has been a person whom I’ve looked up to and has taught me many great things. —Adam Lofgren

Peoria is one of the most giving communities I have ever been a part of. So… I would have to say all of the men and women who run our nonprofits and make sacrifices for others less fortunate. —Eric Martin

Three local figures inspire me: Mr. Deveraux Hubbard and Kristie R. Hubbard of St. Paul Baptist Church inspire me to keep God first and stay grounded in my faith at all times. Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin of Bradley University encouraged me to always have my credentials on display wherever I work. The work of Mrs. Bernice Gordon Young motivates me to continue to help wherever there is a need, both professionally and in my community. —Myskeshia Mitchell

Professionally, Garry Moore, former co-worker and anchor at WEEK. Personally, Phil Kuhl. His amazing love for his family, philanthropic spirit and visionary leadership as one of the original founders of the Morton Community Foundation. —Jeff Muniz

Betsy Bladel, Peoria community volunteer extraordinaire. She is so busy with her many volunteer commitments during her “retirement,” but she will always show up, offer advice and respond to your text. She is direct and honest, and I know I can count on her to give it to me straight, which I greatly appreciate. —Kristal Roop

Polly Barton for her integrity, dedication and generosity. —Priscilla Slaughter

Dr. Thomas Rossi for laying out a vision of what surgery should be in our town. Dr. Teresa Lynch for enduring obstacle after obstacle and pushing to make the Department of Medicine at UICOMP/OSF stronger despite it all. The Peoria City Council and Peoria Magazines for optimism and maintaining faith that Peoria is a great place to live and can be so much more than just a reactionary background to Caterpillar earnings and jobs reports. —Dr. Steven Stergios Tsoraides

I’m a moderate Republican from Pekin who cares deeply about bipartisanship and issues of social justice, so of course it’s Everett Dirksen. —Tiffany White

I am continuously inspired by the philanthropic leaders who support the Peoria-area community. Whether the annual United Way campaign, the St. Jude or Easterseals telethons, or the events that support the tremendous social service agencies we have here, the philanthropic giving of the Peoria area is unmatched. —Melissa Yoder

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