GUEST JOURNEYS & PROFILES
GUEST JOURNEYS & PROFILES
Doing Good, Does you Good Ref. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/doing-good-does-you-good
In Order of Appearance on Our Podcasts
Dr. Tom Catena
Tom “Dr. Tom” Catena was born in Amsterdam, New York. He went on to study mechanical engineering at Brown, in the U.S., before enrolling at Duke to study medicine on a naval scholarship. After he completed an internship at the Naval Medical Center San Diego in 1993, Catena joined the U.S. Navy, and for the next four years, he served his country as a flight surgeon. After his discharge from the Navy in 1999, Catena began residency in family medicine at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana, while also participating in medical mission trips to Guyana and Honduras. Having received experience working at international missions, he moved to Kenya, then to Nairobi and South Sudan before finally settling in the Nuba Mountain region.
Since 2007, Dr. Tom has been on call 24 hours, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital to care for the more than a million citizens of Nuba amidst the ongoing civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. Humanitarian aid is restricted here. Very few NGOs still operate due to the Khartoum government’s blockade. Since 2012, while aid has not been expressly forbidden, none has arrived as volunteers are unable to travel into the region. Limited by his surroundings, Catena sometimes uses decades-old treatments and engages the local community to work as nurses and in other roles to assist him and the patients.
Being the only surgeon who is working in Nuba Mountains under the dangerous circumstances, Dr. Tom is the only hope for people living in the neighborhood. Patients frequently travel by foot or by cart for up to a week to reach the Mother of Mercy Hospital, where Catena practices.
Dr. Tom was recently profiled in the award-winning feature length documentary, The Heart of Nuba, where he selflessly and courageously serves the needs of a forgotten people, as the region is bombed relentlessly by an indicted war criminal, Omar Al-Bashir. Two things remain constant: Dr. Tom’s faith and his enduring love for the Nuba people. The film can be seen on Hulu, iTunes, Amazon. Sony and the BBC.
For his contributions to furthering humanity and his efforts to save people’s lives, Dr. Tom has been awarded the $1.1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity in the 2017 awards ceremony, becoming the second recipient of the annual prize.
Kenneth A. Carlson
Director, writer, producer
Kenneth A. Carlson directed and produced the feature length documentary, THE HEART OF NUBA, profiling the courageous and selfless efforts of Dr. Tom Catena, the sole doctor for a million patients in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. THE HEART OF NUBA was released theatrically in the US and has been screened for US Congress on Capitol Hill, British Parliament’s House of Lords at Westminster Palace in London, the Italian Senate in Rome, the Sudanese Parliament in Khartoum and the International Criminal Court in Den Hague. It has been projected in every continent and screened in a host of film festivals from Hollywood to Shanghai. Maria Shriver serves as the film’s executive producer. The film is currently available on Hulu, iTunes, Amazon. Sony and the BBC.
Carlson and his wife created the Take Heart Foundation from which 100% of all funds go to the Mother Mercy Hospital in Sudan. To date they have raised over $750,000.
Carlson recently completed THOSE WHO SERVE, a long form documentary that documents the journeys of three psychologically wounded American combat veterans who’ve committed crimes and are now struggling to find a just outcome in the judicial system. The film gives viewers an unprecedented access to real-life courtroom dramas that takes painful, intimate, sometimes hopeful and sometimes sobering turns.
Carlson is currently in production on the documentary IN HIS DEFENSE about Death Row inmate, Kevin Cooper, who has been incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison for over 36 years. Interviews for this feature length film include Nicholas Kristof and Kim Kardashian.
Carlson’s other feature documentaries include GO TIGERS!, AMARGOSA, STEPPIN’, WILD BILL HOLLYWOOD MAVERICK amongst others. For nearly seven years, Carlson directed, produced and wrote more than 275 feature segments for AMERICA’S MOST WANTED which aired for 26 seasons on The Fox Network. His efforts have resulted in the capture and incarceration of more than 72 of the country’s most wanted criminals. For a full list of Carlson’s credits go to IMDB.
THE HEART OF NUBA/DOCTOR TOM is currently in development with ABC Signature to become a scripted series. Carlson will be executive producing along with Erica Messer.
Carlson’s love for photography has taken him from the Artic to Antarctica while his images have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Lindblad/National Geographic Travel catalogs and numerous other travel and entertainment websites.
Karen Hawkins is a self-described Chinese-Japanese goofball born in Singapore. Here is her story:
I’m 5′ 3-1/2″, small but fiesty, funny, and loveable. Moved to the U.S. when I was about 9 years old and LOVE Southern California!! I’m married to a man Lee (he’s not Asian despite his name) who drives me crazy…oh wait, that might be me who drives him crazy. Either way, we’ve been together for 25 years and married for 23!!! Together we have two of the MOST incredible sons and three dogs. Our oldest son, Tyler is 18 and a senior in high school where he gets to shine his talent on the Varsity baseball team. Our 13 year old, Ryan has one of the most creative minds. His Lego building skills are like no other. He’s recently started Lacrosse to learn the basics of the game where he may want to tryout for the sport when he gets to high school. There’s NOTHING better than being a proud mama to these two.
At 41, I was finally in the best shape of my life, working hard at hot yoga, kickboxing, stand up paddle boarding and doing yoga on the boards. What started out as painful bloating, weird tingles, and finally sharp pains pushing up under my ribs, it came down to having a hysterectomy and removing a fibroid tumor which was thought to be the cause of the rib pain. During that surgery, it was found that I had cancer. Tumors pretty much covered every organ I had and I was labeled to be stage 3. Upon hearing this news, I knew immediately I had a journey to embark on and I was going to share it with whoever would listen. That’s where my Facebook and Instagram pages were started-A Warrior’s Fight. I’ve shared the highs, lows, good, bad, and the ugly. You get pictures, video, procedures, along with my thoughts and feelings. Most people have no idea what side effects can occur with chemotherapy. In less than 7 years, I’m about to go into my sixth fight. Through hell and back, I keep fighting. It’s been one of the hardest experiences, physically, emotionally and mentally. Bringing awareness to Ovarian Cancer and what cancer patients go through is an important part of my journey. I love helping others answering a lot of private messages with questions and concerns. Being there for family and friends who have or are fighting. I believe no one should fight alone.
In my almost 7 year journey, I started my infamous Bucket List. It began about 6 years ago when my dear friend Cindy was put in hospice. We had an unbreakable friendship which started on a day we shared a room where we were both receiving chemotherapy. She loved the beach and sun as much as I did and our friend Erin, gifted us with the most meaningful trip to Hawaii. Sitting by the pool one afternoon, I knew I had to start living, truly living my life to the fullest which meant facing my fears, trying new foods, visit countries/states I’ve been wanting to see. Most of all, I wanted to be an inspiration especially to my sons. Something I tell them all the time, is no matter how hard life can seem to be or how bad you may feel, know that you have two choices; one is to sit and have a pity party or you can get back up on your feet and make the best of it. While my Bucket List continues to grow, I feel I’ve accomplished the most fearful ones!! I always said NO WAY, NEVER will I ever go skydiving. Why the hell would I want to do that? Well that all change after a day in the indoor skydiving tube. It was when I opened my big mouth and said “Oh that was easy and fun.” Mr. JD didn’t waste a second and took the bait and replied, “Well, let’s go skydiving!” Damn it!!! And again my big mouth opened with “OK, I’ll do it.”
Now skydiving out of Oceanside, where the view was breathtaking to say the least, that was one of the MOST exhilarating, face your fears, poop in your pants just for a second kind of experience. I swear I can remember the hundreds of moments that happened in that experience. As of today, I have successfully accomplished 80 Bucket List activities. They stem from little fun things to meeting celebrities to experiencing the craziest activities. I encourage people to start a their list now! There’s no point in starting it when you are told you are dying. See the world and go experience things, seek adventures, LIVE your life to the fullest!! Share them with family, friends or on your own.
Most importantly, along every step, open your heart and ALWAYS be kind. I smile all the time and I can even during the most painful times. I try to make to make the best out of every experience and have a sense of humor. I never forget to say thank you to every nurse, doctor, tech, or human being I come in contact with. It’s the little things that mean the most. When people look at me, you wouldn’t in your wildest dream know I have cancer. I have my hair, skin color looks good, and I can be a ball of energy. You never know what someone else is going through and there’s never reason not to be kind. Live your own story. Make it a good one.
I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.
Kristin Hettermann is recognized for her underwater and adventure travel photography and awareness efforts surrounding important environmental and social causes. Kristin strives to share important stories, document the earth and its cultures, inspire people to explore, and raise awareness for crucial causes- particularly the protection and restoration of the world’s oceans.
As a writer and photographer, Kirstin’s goal is to produce work that elicits feelings, questions, and a desire to experience life deeply and consciously. Based between Maui and Manhattan, her work and travels have taken her on adventures around the world with a keen eye toward ocean conservation and indigenous cultures. She supports valuable projects, causes, and initiatives through visual and literary storytelling, dynamic local-global influence, brain trust collaboration, and philanthropic efforts.
As a writer and photographer, her goal is to produce work that elicits feelings, questions, and a desire to experience life deeply and consciously. Kristin strives to share positive stories, document the earth and its cultures, inspire people to explore, encourage the balance of mind-body-spirit through holistic life practices, and raise awareness for important causes- particularly the protection and restoration of the world’s oceans. Read recent features, see the world through her eyes.
Kristin serves as an ambassador to the Beneath the Waves and Oceanic, and you can read her environmentally-focused feature writing on Scientific American, Newsweek and Virgin platforms.
Her OCEANSCAPES ocean conservation photography brand was launched in August of 2018 and aims to inspire people to “feel the ocean,” executing inspirations of her underwater photography throughout various partnerships and projects in art, fashion, science, and philanthropy.
Sven-Olaf Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions, was born in Switzerland, son of renowned adventure-travel pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad. In 1979 he launched Special Expeditions, the small ship adventure travel company that became Lindblad Expeditions. In 2004, Lindblad formed a strategic alliance with National Geographic that combines the strengths of two pioneers in global exploration, with the goal of inspiring people to explore and care about the planet.
Lindblad’s personal experience led to a commitment to environmentally responsible travel and ocean conservation. In 2019 he took the company carbon neutral offsetting 100% of emissions from Lindblad ships, all land-based operations, employee travel, and offices, and guided the elimination of single use plastics across the Lindblad fleet in 2018. He is an honorary member of the General Assembly of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands; serves on the Board of The Safina Center, and on the Board of Trustees of Rare; is a founding Ocean Elder of the non-profit organization, Ocean Elders, and serves on the Board of Advisors for Pristine Seas.
Sven-Olof Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions, was born in Switzerland, son of renowned adventure-travel pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad. In 1979 he launched Special Expeditions, the small ship adventure travel company that became Lindblad Expeditions. In 2004, Lindblad formed a strategic alliance with National Geographic that combines the strengths of two pioneers in global exploration, with the goal of inspiring people to explore and care about the planet.
He is an honorary member of the General Assembly of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands; serves on the Board of The Safina Center, and on the Board of Trustees of Rare; is a founding Ocean Elder of the non-profit organization, Ocean Elders, and serves on the Board of Advisors for Pristine Seas.
Co-founder of Angel City Sports
Ezra Frech, was born with congenital limb differences, missing his left knee, left shin bone, and fingers on his left hand. Now 14 years-old, Ezra has used a prosthetic leg since he was 11 months and a running blade since he was 4 yeas old. Ezra had two major surgeries when he was young, the first one to transplant a toe to his hand and allow for better fitting of prosthesis.
Ezra is an accomplished athlete and a sought-after motivational speaker. He holds dozens of junior national track and field records and was the starting QB and point guard for his football and basketball teams. In the fall of 2014, Ezra was honored to be named as a finalist for the 2014 Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year.
In 2019 Ezra made the US Paralympic Track and Field Team and competed in three international events, including the Junior World Para-Para-Athletics Championships, where he won three medals, the Para PanAmerican Games where he won two silver medals, and the World Para-Athletics Championships, where he placed in the top 8 in all three of his events and was the youngest athlete out of 1,400 competitors. Ezra has his sights set on competing for Team USA in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Ezra has been featured on dozens of radio and network television shows, including the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Good Morning America, sharing his story and raising awareness and understanding for the physically challenged. Since he was 4 years old, Ezra has done motivational speaking at schools, hospitals, companies, and leadership conferences, bringing his message that “Being Different is OK”. Ezra’s motto is “You can Dream it, You can Hope for it, or You can Make It Happen.” and he believes you should “Focus on What You Have Versus What You Don’t Have.”
Ezra is the inspiration behind and co-founder of Angel City Sports, a high-growth, high-impact non-profit organization dedicated to providing the joy of sports to children and adults with physical disabilities. Ezra also supports a number of other charitable organizations, such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Shriners Hospital for Children, Mobility Outreach International, Camp No Limits, and Free the Children.
Actress, Co-founder Angel City Sports
Bahar Soomekh, is an accomplished actress, advocate, and proponent of healthy, mindful living. Soomekh starred as Dorri in Crash, the Academy Award-winning film. Following her success in Crash, Bahar was featured in People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People. She followed up with roles in Academy Award-nominated film, Syriana and Paramount Picture’s Mission: Impossible III with Tom Cruise and guest stared in many television shows.
Growing up as an immigrant in Los Angeles, Soomekh always had an interest in social and environmental justice. Soomekh attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, graduating with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. After graduation, Soomekh worked in motivational sales at Showtime Networks while pursuing her childhood dream to be an actor.
After the birth of her first son, Ezra, Bahar shifted her advocacy work to support the disabled community. She put acting on hold to help raise her kids and co-founded Angel City Sports, the leading Paralympic Sports organization in Southern California. Angel City Sports provides sports clinics, equipment, and competitions to children, adults and veterans with physical disabilities. While working in luxury residential real estate in Los Angeles, Bahar also coaches families with children with disabilities, teaches meditation and positive thinking in local public schools.
CEO & Founder of Angel City Sports
Clayton Frech, is a disability advocate, social entrepreneur, and frequent speaker on the intersection of disability, sport and human rights. He is the CEO and Founder of Angel City Sports, a fast-growing adaptive sports organization based in Los Angeles that will host over 100 programming days and impact 1,000 athletes in 2020.
Clayton recently started Ampla Partners, an employment agency for people with physical disabilities. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Adaptive Sports USA. His inspiration is his 14 year-old son, Ezra, who in 2019 made the U.S. Paralympic T&F team and was the youngest athlete to compete at the World Championships. Clayton holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson School and a BA in Economics from UC Santa Barbara.
CEO, Chairman & Founder of
The Giving Spirit
Tom Bagamane, founded The Giving Spirit in 1999 and has led it as Chairman and CEO during its 20+ years of service to the homeless of Greater Los Angeles. Tom’s business experience and leadership skills combined with his passion for helping those in need have resulted in delivering life-sustaining aid to over 55,000 homeless women, children and men – supported by a volunteer army of 20,000 strong.
In 2015, he founded and became Managing Director of Profitable Good Group (PGG), a consulting agency for CEO’s and investors interested in growing their company’s bottom line and increasing valuations through profitable, measurable and sustainable social impact programming directly integrated into their revenue strategies.
Both The Giving Spirit and PGG have benefitted from his over 25 years of success as an entrepreneur and senior executive in diversified consumer products companies; overseeing strategy, operations, global business development, traditional and digital marketing, product branding and manufacturing. He has operated venture capital, private-equity and owner-financed product companies – two of which he conceived, financed, launched and sold. These skills help him both lead The Giving Spirit’s development efforts – raising millions to fund their survival aid and education and awareness programming to impact individuals and communities – while legitimizing his successful track record as a pioneer, innovator and results-oriented senior advisor to his agency’s clients at PGG.
Tom received his MBA from George Mason University’s School of Business and his BA in Journalism/Political Science from Virginia Tech University. Tom received recognition from both his alma maters for his civic leadership – in 2005 from Virginia Tech as the recipient of the university’s inaugural Alumni Association’s Humanitarian Award, and by George Mason in 2016 who acknowledged him with their Prominent Patriot award.
Tapiwa Mugadza (aka “Taps”)
Musician & Founder of
Tapiwa Kudakwashe Mugadza (aka “Taps”) was born on April 1, 1988. At two
days old, Taps was left on the front steps of Harare Children’s Home in Harare,
Zimbabwe. Over the next several years, one child in an orphanage of many, he
became so frightened that only a few actually ever heard him speak. At nine years
old, he then was moved to St. Joseph’s House for Boys where he continued in his
silence. This silence was so deafening that people assumed that he was mute. At
15, realizing his strong love for the music, he finally found his voice. Each night,
Taps would climb through a second story window to borrow a four-string guitar
and taught himself to play.
Like all boys who reach the age of eighteen, Taps was forced to leave. Alone, he
was told that he had to leave immediately that very day. Homeless, with nowhere
to go, no one to turn to for help, and no personal connections, he volunteered to dig
wells in the impoverished regions of Zimbabwe. After two years of volunteering,
the head of the organization asked Taps a question which propelled him to his
defining moment. “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” Taps,
searching for the courage to speak his truth, answered, "I would love to study
music.” With that, a volunteer from California offered for Taps to travel back with
him to his home where he could pursue his dream.
Taps attended Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California for two years. Then in
2011, he graduated with the school’s highest honor, ‘Outstanding Artist’.
Taps has played at the House of Blues, the Hard Rock Café and has been featured
on Extra with Mario Lopez as Extra’s New Artist. Taps has also had his songs
featured on numerous television shows and has just completed his first album
which will be released this year.
Knowing that feeling of desperation of being forced to leave his home, Taps
founded Taps4Africa to help boys who are finding themselves in a similar
situation. The organization offers food and shelter to the many 18-year-old boys
forced to leave their home, teaches them a trade, and helps them realize dreams of
Today, Taps is invited to speak all over the world. His message of holding onto
hope, being resilient, and knowing that anything is possible inspires all who meet
him. Sadly, he has had to return to Zimbabwe while he awaits his visa renewal.
Award Winning Director
Jeff Werner is an Emmy award-winning director and editor of documentaries, feature films and motion picture advertising. Most recently, Werner produced and directed THOSE WHO SERVE a feature length documentary dealing with invisibly wounded combat Veterans who have found themselves defendants in our Criminal Justice System.
In 2017, Werner worked on two documentaries. He produced THE HEART OF NUBA, a feature-length documentary for which he also supervised the editing. It tells a story of altruism and courage as an American doctor dedicates his life to healing a community in Sudan. It has screened at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. as well as the House of Lords in London and played the film festival circuit. It was released in theaters in April, 2018 and premiered on Hulu in July,2018. Also during 2017, Werner Co-Produced MUSIC GOT ME HERE, a film about a young man with traumatic brain injury whose life is saved by music therapy. In 2016, Werner produced and edited THE LAUGHTER LIFE a feature length documentary that profiles a popular Mormon sketch comedy group, STUDIO C. It was released digitally in October, 2018. In October 2013, ESPN premiered FREE SPIRITS. Werner co-produced and edited the documentary which won an EMMY as part of the 30 for 30 series. In 2012, the prestigious Telluride Film Festival premiered BECOMING BERT STERN, which Werner co-produced and edited. The documentary covers the life and works of famed photographer Bert Stern. The film was also invited to the 2012 International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam. It opened in theaters, Spring, 2013. The year before, Werner produced and edited the 2012 EMMY Winning, THE WOODMANS, a documentary about the famed family of artists, which was nominated for Best Documentary by the 2011 Gotham Film Awards. He also edited the feature documentary, THE OTHER CITY, stories about the AIDS epidemic in Washington D.C. Both films were invited to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2010. THE WOODMANS won Best N.Y. Documentary. THE WOODMANS was released in theaters in January 2011. In 2008, Werner co-directed and edited the documentary feature “KICKING IT”, with Colin Farrel, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and The Tribeca Film Festival. It had its theatrical premiere in June, 2008 and was bought by ESPN. Werner co-produced and edited the documentary feature “SECOND CHANCE SEASON”, the Nick Young story, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2007 and aired on ESPN in the fall of 2008. In 2006, Werner directed and edited “MARIO’S STORY”. The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival where it received the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. Some of Werner’s other work include editing “THE YEAR OF THE YAO”, “THE SMITH FAMILY”, which was recognized as Best Documentary at the Director’s Guild Awards and The Peabody Awards in 2003, the Sundance Festival Selection GO TIGERS! and Imagine Pictures’ BEYOND THE MAT. His editorial work on THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES marked the fifth film in which Werner collaborated with Barbra Streisand. Prior films are YENTL, NUTS, Barbara the Concert, STAR IS BORN. Werner has also co-directed the documentary CAMP SCOTT LOCK-UP for MTV as well as two documentaries for HBO: THE GODFATHER FAMILY and BLOODLINES; the latter having been nominated for a Cable Ace Award . Werner is the winner of several Hollywood Key Art Awards for his work in motion picture advertising.
My name is Mark Stillion. I was born and raised in Sebring, Ohio. Growing up next to my two older brothers was quite an adventure in itself. We always seemed to find something to get into whether it was camping and fishing out at the lake, or trying to beat the neighbor kids in street hockey, we always stuck together. When I was fourteen years old I learned about an awesome opportunity to go on a missions trip to South America.
I begged my mom until she finally agreed to let me go and on that trip, my life was changed. I had developed a passion for service work and after my trip to Panama, I had to go on another missions trip. After Panama was Australia, then New Zealand, then Uganda. I had visited 7 countries before my senior year in high school. During my senior year I helped build a new class at my high school called Learn & Serve which was a class dedicated to learning how to be of service to our community and to the world we live in. When I turned seventeen I decided to take my desire to be of service to the next level. With the consent of my parents, I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. Ten days after my high school graduation I shipped off to Paris Island, South Carolina and stood on the yellow footprints marking the beginning of my Marine Corps career. While in the Marines I was an M1A1 Abrams Tank crewman. I deployed with my unit to Fallujah, Iraq in 2007, and again in 2009 I deployed to Rutbah, Iraq. I got out of the Marines in 2010 as a Sergeant. I began working for the Department of Defense as a civilian contractor and deployed again to Baghdad, Iraq in 2011 and to Afghanistan in 2012. I returned to the United States at the end of 2012 and within six months began to have severe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). My PTSD ran through my life like a hurricane and turned it upside down for several years. Eventually I was forced to get help for my PTSD which is something I didn’t even like to admit that I had been diagnosed with. It wasn’t until I began getting the help that I so desperately needed before things in my life started to finally get better.