2021 $45,000 Father's Day New Smile Giveaway Finalists
Left: Kennon Cooper
Right: George Nielson
Choosing our giveaway winners is always incredibly hard, with so many amazing people sharing their stories picking only one can seem like an impossible task. That's why we'd like to recognize our runner ups for their amazing spirits, warm and giving personalities, and their kind hearts. Our second place winner George Nielson will receive $5,000 off treatment and our third place winner Kennon Cooper will receive $2,500 off treatment.
George's Nominations Exerpts:
George is an amazing dad and person! He has so much to look forward to now! I want him to be proud of who he is and be around to see the important events for our girls. He now has a chance to be around for weddings, graduations and grandbabies.
I would love to see that smile on the man I fell in love with all those years ago! For someone who has always put everyone's needs before his own. This would change him so much and be one of the best things that could happen to him.
Unfortunately due to all his medical care over the last 4 years. And all my medical bills from cancer a few years ago. This is something I could never do myself.
Thanks for considering George!
George is my son-in-law and he married my daughter about thirty years ago. He has four daughters ranging in age from ten to about twenty eight. The youngest one is worth mentioning in a little more detail. She was born to one of our grand-daughters and because of some issues with her biological mother she was adopted by Julie and George. They thought they were basically through raising their family when they took on this responsibility. During the adoption proceedings she was placed in George's arms and her reaction was amazing. The love she had for her future father was evident and the adoption was finalized. I admired George for his willingness to forgo an easier life to raise this child.
Because of persistent financial difficulties he has never been able to have normal dental care and this is why I am writing this. I want George to be able to have something we all take for granted but he has never had. I want him to live a "normal" life for the first time. I want him to be able to smile without being embarrassed. I want him to enjoy being around others without being self-conscious. I want him to be able to freely enjoy the new lease on life that his new kidney will let him have. I don't want him to have anything other than what the rest of us call "normal." I believe he deserves that.
My dad was born in Sonora, Mexico in 1966 into a struggling family. Money was more than tight, and being one of the older children my dad sacrificed meals, and basic necessities to make sure his younger siblings had food in their bellies, and clothes on their back. When he was still a young child my dad, and three of his siblings were adopted by an older Utah women to try and get medical attention for my dad’s younger brother, who had polio, and needed medical attention that their biological parents had no way to provide. Being adopted may have seemed like I better option due to the circumstances on his biological parents, but unfortunately that was not the case.
When my dad turned 19, he served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in California. He served those two years, and spread his light with the world. Unfortunately, what awaited him upon his return was not what he had planned. He came home to his adoptive mother telling him he no longer had a place to call home, and was kicked out into the streets. He made the quick decision to join the army, and try to make a better life for himself. He served his time in the army, but was honorably discharged a few years in. Upon return, my dad returned home to nothing once again.
I want to nominate my dad for this, because through thick, and thin my dad has sacrificed everything for his wife, and kids. He has worked so hard up to this point, and now I want something positive for him. With something like this my dad would not only have a beautiful smile again, but he would also have a new lease on life. He sacrificed his healthy smile, to provide for his families needs. I want him to know his sacrifice has not gone unnoticed, and hopefully this can be how my family can show our appreciation for everything he has done for us. My dad has had it rough throughout the years, but through all that he not only remained a strong person, but he has been an AMAZING dad and husband. I wanted to nominate him, because I want my dad around to see us all grow up, get married, have kids, and be there through it all, and this is a big step toward all of that. I know he wants nothing more than to be around for his girls, and I want to try and make that possible for him anyway I can
He is the single-most kind and generous man I know, but he is also in desperate need of some help to get the handsome smile I married, restored. Kennon has spent his entire career meeting the needs of the underserved in Utah. First, as a Psychiatric Technician on the Adolescent Unit at the Utah State Hospital, while concurrently attending BYU. During this time, Kennon developed a strong connection working with adolescent boys. This led us into a business providing Residential Care for Adolescents with the most severe behavioral and adjustment disorders one can possibly imagine. One might ask what on earth he was doing, but he rose to the challenge and provided a loving home, critical needs support, and basic structure to these young men; whom most of society would label as delinquent or even psychotic. Kennon was the primary caregiver for up to 20 youth between 2 locations, one in Provo and one in Bluffdale. It was Kennon who got the teens up in the morning and fed them breakfast each morning, before taking them to school. Kennon attended every court appearance, (all throughout the state of Utah) every school meeting, IEP, each sporting event, and most enjoyably, the high school graduation ceremonies of each child in care at the time of their graduation. Kennon spent countless hours counseling, reinforcing positive behavior, correcting the negative and simply loving them to death. As part of the token reward economy Kennon developed for the boys, he spent a small fortune on several ATV’s and motorcycles, so he and the boys would have something to look forward to on the weekends, if they were on top of their school and community responsibilities etc. Kennon believed very strongly forming a loving, kinship bond with the children in our care, would be the key to helping them heal and overcome the horrific experiences which landed them in state care. Kennon was truly the positive male role model most of our boys had never experienced or learned from before. As a testament to his efforts, he is in frequent touch and has lifetime relationships with many of the kids he served over the years.
We moved on from this venture, as we felt our own kids would benefit from a more traditional and less stressful environment, so Kennon got a job as a Social Worker for a non-profit in Salt Lake City, serving extremely low-income, elderly, and disabled folks living in Section 8 Housing. After working exclusively with adolescents for 15 years, Kennon didn’t miss a beat adapting, or a chance to serve the elderly and disabled folks in his care. Kennon reminds me frequently that “a man who loves what he does, doesn’t ‘work’ a day in his life.” Well, Kennon personifies his favorite quote, as he jumps out of bed ready to dig-in daily to help his 150+ clients. The 15 story high rise in downtown Salt Lake City is across the street from Vivent Arena, and also houses his office. Kennon spends his days doing everything from setting up streaming services for clients and referring them to his network of service providers to get the help they need, to providing emotional support and professional counseling services when needed. Kennon is the only social contact for several of his clients who have no one else, and despite many language barriers, he spends his days making them feel special, needed, and part of a community which has their back. During Covid, the housing project where Kennon works had a 20% Covid infection rate, when the at large infection rate in SLC was less than 2%, but this didn’t scare my husband off, even after he was given the option to take 2 weeks off “to flatten the curve.” Kennon wouldn’t take time off because his conscience wouldn’t allow him to, knowing people at work were suffering and would suffer more without him. Sohe got busy bringing in the SLCO Health Dept. (Almost unheard of at this juncture in the pandemic) to do twice monthly testing. It was because of the relationship he built with them during this time, his elderly clients received some of the first doses of vaccine to arrive in Utah last year. Kennon also retooled his workflow model to accommodate the need for social distancing, sheltering in-place and to slow the spread of Covid to more clients and staff. He collected current mobile device numbers and email contact info from each client, went door to door to access their needs, and also began doing virtual well-checks, to see how his Covid infected clients, and those isolating to avoid infection, were holding up. He used Messages for Web to start group threads, which allowed neighbors to communicate with and check on each other, without having to use up their mobile minutes. Kennon coordinated no-cost grocery and cash deliveries to clients who were sheltering in-place. He arranged for his LDS Clients to receive the Sacrament as well as virtual visits from their Ward Ministers. He facilitated in-house medical and mental health visits to the infirmed, and coordinated many other services too numerous to mention. While 9 of his clients lost their lives to Covid in late 2020 and early 2021, I’m convinced that were it not for Kennon, this number would have been much higher. Of course, Kennon doesn’t see it this way at all. I know how invested he is in serving the needs of all of his clients, and losing those 9 to Covid was extremely difficult for him to process, and he second guesses his actions during that time, to this day. As far as I and many of his clients are concerned, Kennon is a hero for hanging in there through one of the scariest periods of his life.
About 4 years ago our oldest son received an LDS mission call to serve in Ecuador. Because Kennon refuses to accept help from the Church, he took a job delivering pizzas for Dominos to pay for him to go. Kennon worked this evening job delivering pizzas as tirelessly as his full-time job for 2 years, until our son was released and came home. Knowing our next and youngest son was on deck to serve next, Kennon traded his pizza uniform for a job with Salt Lake County,(still in addition to his full time day job) to pay for our youngest son’s mission to Austin TX, where he will be until November of 2022. At the County, Kennon is part of a team developing a mobile app aimed at reducing homelessness and improving housing stability among the underserved demographic in Salt Lake County and throughout the rest of Utah. Kennon is a Human Service and Technology Consultant on the project, which is right up his ally, but what makes the job special for my husband, is that he gets to go out into the community and interact with the homeless and poor among us, gathering feedback on the app’s functionality, and to do his part to express human kindness and plant the seed of hope for a better tomorrow.
Kennon has been my rock for our entire marriage (going on 30 years) and he has stuck to me like glue during times when lessor men would have bugged out entirely long ago. When we were married about 5 yrs, I was diagnosed with MS while Kennon was attending BYU and right after delivering our oldest child, Zoe. I was in rough shape while the doctors tried to figure out what was going on with me, but Kennon never left my side during this time. When I had Ovarian Cancer just over 2 years ago, he was still by my side and never left it until I was out of the woods. He went so far as to spending every night on the most uncomfortable fold-out couch in my room. Twice, he put everything on hold so he could stay in my room at Huntsman for 10 days post-op. Two surgeries, a long rehab and my Dr’s insistence that I not push myself, meant that for about 18 months, in addition to working 12+ hrs a day, Kennon was on duty to do most of the shopping, cooking and cleaning, in-between jobs and after work. Despite the chaos, hestill made time to tell me daily how beautiful I was and how much he loved me, despite my post-op weight gain and having surgical staples from stem to stern. Honestly, I don’t know how he did it, and because he rarely expressed a negative thought about having to do EVERYTHING. I still don’t, but Iam becoming closer to understanding WHY he did it, and the commitment he has to me and to our family, or anyone.
We have been through a lot together and when I saw the details about your contest, I just had to enter Kennon, because he deserves some of the attention for once. We have talked about getting his teeth fixed for years, as they are in bad disrepair, but it seems he is always too busy caring for others to care for himself. And, he has always hated going to the dentist--that and the hefty price tag it can come with discourages action and that therefore encourages his procrastination☺ Our oldest just delivered our first grandchild on May 20 th , and I haven’t seen Kennon so elated since our youngest was born in 2002. When we visited the hospital to meet our grandson, Kennon couldn’t stop smiling, but I feel like he’s reluctant to express his joy completely and smile unabashedly because of the condition of his teeth, and this makes me sad. My hope is that winning your contest will take the financial barrier off the table and convince him to jump on the bus to better overall health. Our income is below AMI as I am on disability. While Kennon works like an overun Iditarod sled dog, social service work isn’t as financially rewarding as it should be. We are happy to submit financials, but all you will find is that we really cannot afford the treatment, without borrowing to pay for it. Thank You for taking the time to learn about my INCREDIBLE, and guileless husband and eternal companion, A. Kennon Cooper.
We truly appreciate everyone who entered our giveaway or submitted a nomination. There are so many amazing people in our community and we truly wish we could give them all the smile they deserve. Thank you all for participating and sharing your stories.