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Diabetes Program Presents “Journey to Wellness” Workshops

Stephanie Kreun gave an example of how much sugar is in one bottle of Vitiminwater during her presentation.

In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month, on November 16 the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community held an all-day event, the Journey to Wellness, at the Courtyard Marriott Scottsdale Salt River. The activities kicked off with a walk and ended with a family-themed evening at Salt River High School.

“The activities we offered for the Community in recognition of November’s Diabetes Awareness Month were a success,” said Elissa Caston, coordinator for the SRPMIC Diabetes Services Program. “We had several folks join us on Wednesday for a day of learning and sharing their ‘Journey to Wellness’ stories. I like that the day started with a walk to welcome the new day and prepare our minds and hearts for new learning.

“By the end of the day, I think everyone was full of knowledge that could be shared with friends and family.”

The Native–influenced event welcomed individuals from different communities to share their stories about wellness. Native speaker Waylon Pahona shared his personal journey to wellness through which he transformed his lifestyle dramatically. Pahona is known for founding Healthy Active Natives (HANS), a social networking group on Facebook. He shared an inspirational story encouraging people not to give up on wellness and how there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

The dozens in attendance listened as Council member Ricardo Leonard spoke about his life experiences and offered words of encouragement for those currently in recovery.
Stephanie Kreun, a fitness expert and certified holistic nutrition coach, presented a workshop called “A Day of Healthy Eating.” Kreun said that even the smallest dietary changes can create a huge difference. During her presentation, she discussed how much sugar is in the foods we eat and drink, especially soda. She is an advocate of “whole food eating.”

“I want to raise awareness of what is going into your bodies. I will not tell you that some food is bad; I will let you make that final decision,” said Kreun. Because Thanksgiving is coming up, she gave information on different foods and how they could either harm your well-being or be medicine to your body.

Kreun said that one of her greatest pleasures is teaching at some of the Native American wellness camps and being able to educate people.

After her presentation, participants took a break to browse among the vendors who had set up in the foyer area, handing out information and promotional items.

In her session, renowned Native chef Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D. (Kiowa), of Red Mesa Cuisine in Santa Fe, New Mexico, taught Indigenous concepts. Frank uses principles of ancestral Native American diets for health and wellness with a modern twist. Chef Walter Whitewater (Diné), also with Red Mesa Cuisine, then joined Frank for a food demonstration.

Community member Thosh Collins (Onk Akimel O’odham/Haudenosaunee) and wellness advocate Chelsey Luger (Lakota/Ojibwe) of Phoenix gave a presentation titled “Well for Culture.” Collins, who was raised in the Community, shared that he gains strength and motivation from spiritual cultural practices.

Next, endocrinologist and diabetes consultant Dr. Richard Arakaki from the Phoenix Indian Medical Center discussed diabetes prevention. Many Community members suffer from diabetes, so this is a topic that is always needed within the Community.

Waylon Pahona, founder of Healthy Active Natives (HANS), shared his personal story about his journey to wellness. Community member Anthony Thosh Collins, founder of Wellness for Culture, gave a presentation on strength and motivation.
Salt River High School capped off the day with a family-centered evening event. Everyone celebrated wellness by participating in traditional games, having a healthy meal together, listening to and trying to play Japanese drums, and enjoying some storytelling around a bonfire.

“We are here to help the Community however we can in reaching their personal health goals,” noted Caston.

To learn more about nutrition/fitness topics and diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association at