By William K. Alcorn
Pediatrician Dr. Ronald Dwinnells of Poland, one of 12 outstanding older Ohioans recently inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, has combined his passions for helping children and climbing mountains.
Doctor Dwinnells, 63, regularly competes in half-marathons and 10K and 5K races and has climbed the summits of 14 mountains, including Rainier, Shasta, Whitney, Hood, Washington, St. Helens and Fuji.
Now, he is part of a group, which includes his daughter, Abbey Dwinnells, that climbed the 19,300-foot high Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The climb doubles as a fund-raising event for Dr. Dwinnells’ Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation, which supports intervention programs for children suffering from adverse childhood experiences (ACE) such as trauma from physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse.
“I don’t feel older,” but he said he is proud to be one of a dozen 60 and older chosen by the Ohio Department of Aging for its Ohio Senior Citizens 2018 Hall of Fame Class.
The Hall of Fame recognizes older Ohioans for achievements and contributions to others and the roles they play in the their communities, state and nation.
“Dr. Dwinnells has a true talent for turning impossibilities into realities. Thanks to a lifetime of work, more than a million people in Northeast Ohio have had access to medical, dental and mental health care that may not otherwise have gotten. He has dedicated his life and career to improving the health and wellness of his community,” wrote Beverly Laubert, interim director of the state Department of Aging.
Dr. Dwinnells is chief executive officer of ONE Health Ohio, a federally qualified health center he founded, which serves 25,000 people in four area communities.
Over the years, ONE Health Ohio has been awarded more than $50 million in federal grants and has brought more than $100 million into the local economy, ODH officials said.
Dr. Dwinnells said in his Hall of Fame induction address that now he is confident about his future, something that wasn’t always true for him.
Using the senior theme, he said: “When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t know what the future would bring. When I was a senior in undergraduate school, I knew I wanted to go to medical school; when I was a senior in medical school, I knew I was going to practice medicine, but I wondered if I was going to be good or bad and would I hurt people. Dealing with people’s lives and health is scary,” he said.
“Now, I’m told I’m a senior citizen,” Dr. Dwinnells continued, and his perspective has changed.
“I’ve lived almost a lifetime and I finally feel very confident about the future. I know where I want to go with my life. This is the best part of my life. I think being a senior is a positive label. I feel the best is to come. I like being a senior citizen,” he said.
Besides his family and ONE Health Ohio, his future involves combining two intensely personal and challenging passions in his life: mountain climbing and helping children with behavioral and mental health issues.
“Adverse experiences in my family with mental and behavioral health issues are what brought about the Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation,” he said.
After his mother’s death in 2016, Dr. Dwinnells, who has been climbing mountains for several years, founded the Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation to “transform the lives of children afflicted with depression, addiction and other behavioral health problems.”
“Kids who are abused emotionally and physically and live in dysfunctional families too often become drug addicts. ... My thing is, shouldn’t we identify these kids as early as possible and help them,” he said.
“That’s the focus of the foundation; to identify and support kids who have mental and behavioral health issues. I thought, couldn’t my passion for mountain climbing provide a platform to increase awareness for mental and behavioral health issues in kids and raise money for projects benefiting behavioral health programs that will improve the lives of children, adolescents and young adults,” he said.
Following Dr. Dwinnells’ physical climb, people who want to support the Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation can register to participate in the Mount Kilimanjaro Virtual Mountain Climb, beginning July 30. The virtual climb runs Aug. 13-17. Each participant will pay a $5 registration fee to begin the climb and walk 50,000 steps in five days to virtually summit Mount Kilimanjaro.
It’s not the huffing and puffing of a real ascent with Dr. Dwinnells. Supporters can take the 50,000 steps on flat ground or wherever and whenever than wish.
The Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation is a qualified 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization. Donors can deduct contributions under IRC section 170. For more information, visit www.butterfliesandhope.org.