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Losing an Advocate
It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to one of the kindest, strongest, most genuine behavioral health advocates I have known. Anthony Steels lost his battle to cancer this month. I had the pleasure of getting to know Anthony and his family through our Don’t Be Sidelined public awareness campaign, which he served as our spokesperson for several years.
Anthony bravely told his story of his battle with depression and substance use issues through interviews, presentations, and videos to help us start the conversation around mental health, illustrate that it can impact anyone, and that recovery is achievable. Through Anthony’s recovery he was able to touch the lives of countless people as he listened to their stories without judgment, supported them in their journey toward recovery, and provided a shining example of the importance of helping others.
Many in Nebraska will remember Anthony best as a former Husker football player who went on to play in the NFL and perhaps for his amazing musical talents and National Anthem performances at Husker athletic events. I will remember Anthony for his infectious laugh, his willingness to do anything for anyone at any time, and his loving family who never shied away from helping us spread the word about the Don’t Be Sidelined campaign.
Anthony was one of those people who devoted his life to helping others through his advocacy efforts, but also his career at Journeys where he served as a strong pillar of hope to the youth who were receiving behavioral health services in the program. He never forgot those who helped him through his journey of recovery, and he wanted to serve in that role for others. He carried that desire to help others up until his final days. Just days before he passed away, Anthony’s family and friends held a benefit, but he insisted on having medical professionals there to educate those in attendance and raise awareness on prostate cancer. While his health may have been deteriorating, his passion and desire to help others certainly never did.
The program from the funeral beautifully captured how so many of us felt about Anthony, “If you met Anthony Steels even once, you considered him your good friend. That was the effect he had on people. The one thing he did so well was motivate us to be a better version of ourselves.” You will forever be remembered this way Anthony. Thank you for all you did for us here at The Kim Foundation, for serving as an incredible mental health advocate, and for always being willing to say yes – no matter the call. Our hearts and prayers remain with Anthony’s wife, Harvest, and his daughter, Sierra.
Julia Hebenstreit, Executive Director of The Kim Foundation
Julia Hebenstreit is the Executive Director of The Kim Foundation. She received her J.D. from Creighton University in 2005, and her BS in Journalism from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2002. She has been with The Kim Foundation since 2011, and prior to that worked for local non-profits doing development, strategic planning, communications and advancement. She has a passion for helping people and improving lives, and serves on the Executive Committee for Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, as the 2015 Hill Day State Captain for the state of Nebraska, and as an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, BHECN Advisory Committee, RESPECT Advisory Board, Connections Advisory Board and the Project Propel Planning Group.