As part of MVP Health Care’s fall brand campaign, MVP asked the community “Who Inspires You?” and received more than 150 nominations and 40,000 votes in its quest to find the Ultimate Game Changer.
The contest — which was looking for people who make a significant difference in their communities by making them better, healthier places to live — concluded with an event on Saturday, Nov. 10, honoring the top 10 finalists and naming the Ultimate Game Changer.
Donald Carroll, of Batavia, NY, is the grand prize winner in the Ultimate Game Changer contest. Don, who is battling inoperable cancer of the stomach and esophagus, was not able to travel to Clifton Park for the event, but was there in spirit.
Don, who was orphaned at the age of 5, said that the kindness of family, friends and strangers deeply moved him as a child and young adult. It motivated him to “pay it forward” by sending local kids to summer camp, raising money to buy underprivileged kids toys and clothing at Christmas and funding college scholarships at Genesee Community College.
“I strongly believe all of us become who we are because of life experiences and the way we react to those experiences,” Don said in a statement read by a friend at the event. “We can pick up the ball and run with it, or we can fumble our way through life. I chose to run.”
Don and his former sixth-grade teacher, Jerry Foster, who nominated him, have each won $1,000. Jerry plans to donate his prize money to the cancer support fund established to help Don with his medical and other financial obligations.
“I nominated Don because I’ve had the opportunity to see him grow from a quiet, shy sixth-grader to a humble, compassionate man,” said Jerry, who taught Don at Oakfield-Alabama Central School in Oakfield, NY. “I know of no one who believes more in ‘paying it forward’ than Don. I have always believed in Santa. His nickname is Don.”
“All of the game changer finalists are examples of the kinds of everyday heroes MVP wanted to celebrate,” said Denise Gonick, MVP’s president of Operations. “Don’s story, especially, is wonderfully inspiring. Despite all the hardship in his life and, now, his illness, Don has never stopped giving back and paying it forward. It’s a reminder that wherever you are, whoever you are, you can make a difference.”
The Ultimate Game Changer Contest invited kids age 13 and older and adults in New York and Vermont to nominate someone they felt is making a significant contribution to their local community.