February 23, 2016 is a date that has loomed large in my mind and heart over the past several months. It was the date selected for Health eVillages to celebrate its five-year anniversary and honor several individuals whose work is also changing global healthcare access.

As one of the team members charged with helping to plan and organize this event, I cannot begin to describe the inspiration, dedication and hard work that went into making this celebration a night to remember. Each and every detail had been deliberately thought through, discussed and executed upon. In fact, our “Run of Show” document had been meticulously mapped out to the minute. As a team, we all could easily have anticipated every single solitary action, down to the lighting and A/V cues set to take place at precisely 5:47 p.m.

What we could not have anticipated, however, were the beautiful, poignant words spoken by our honorees. For someone so well acquainted with how the night would play out, I still found myself being bowled over by the truly moving speeches offered by each recipient as they were presented with their award.

The first honoree was Wycliffe Omwanda, head clinician at Lwala Community Alliance, who received the Frontline Healthcare Hero Award. Every month, I’m privileged to read survey responses from Wycliffe and hear first-hand how he is using Health eVillages training and Aptus Health technology to make a difference. Still, it was incredibly humbling to hear him speak directly on what motivated him to take action and address healthcare access in his community.

Our next recipient was Alex Gorsky, Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson, who was presented with one of the Social Entrepreneurship Awards. Though Alex was not able to attend, our Chairman and Founder, Donato Tramuto, spoke briefly on his behalf. After remarking upon their lengthy friendship, Donato pointed out the significant role Alex has played in forming a coalition among his employees to help move the needle on mental health.

Congressman Patrick Kennedy, our third honoree, also received a Social Entrepreneurship Award. Congressman Kennedy offered insights on creating “healthcare without walls” and the mission of “treating the whole person” through the aid of technology. The words that struck me the hardest, however, were his comments on giving empowerment and a voice to those who are “overwhelmed with the silence.”

Last, but certainly not least, were James and Jenna Nardella, the former Executive Director of Lwala Community Alliance and Co-Founder/Executive Director of Blood:Water Mission, respectively. Both received the Community Champion Award and spoke eloquently on some of the successes of Health eVillages they had witnessed first-hand. The most significant message I gleaned from their incredibly moving speech was that, even in an increasingly fast-paced world, we must be prepared to anticipate the “slowly by slowly” progress that takes steadfast commitment and determination to see things through to their conclusion.

As the evening drew to a close, I began to reflect on all of the hard work that had gone into creating such a successful event with the support of the Aptus Health and Healthways employees and our unwavering sponsors. Our team spoke briefly with friends, colleagues and attendees on how they thought the night had gone. One comment that bears repeating is from Ross Scott, one of our partners at Healthways and our newest board member. Scott said, “I expected to come here and be motivated; I did not expect to come here and have epiphanies.” He was genuinely surprised. I think we all were. And in that moment, what became most clear to me is this:

No matter the level of planning, you will always find yourself surprised among the company of inspired individuals.

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