Don Meyer knows just how lucky he is.
When he speaks of his good fortune, he doesn't talk about how he is currently the winningest coach in any division in NCAA history. In February 2010 Meyer announced his retirement from coaching basketball at Northern State University in Aberdeen, but continues at NSU in the role of regents distinguished professor and assistant to the president.
Following a serious car accident and inoperable cancer diagnosis Meyer has received national recognition in various national media outlets – Sports Illustrated, ESPN, FOX Sports, National Public Radio, Associated Press, and CBS News. In July he was named the winner of the Jimmy V. Perseverance award at the ESPN ESPY's – Meyer used his national spotlight to again promote the community he calls home – Northern State University and Aberdeen.
Wednesday night, May 5, speaking before a capacity audience at the Dakota Hospital Foundation Community Leadership Dinner, Meyer said his presence at the event likely was one reason he has survived the recent challenges in his life.
"I really believe God had a reason for me surviving that wreck," he said, referring to his car accident. "I think a big part of it is being able to visit with you."
He passed along advice on what he believes are important personal traits that everyone should develop to lead successful lives.
One of those traits is concentration.
"There are so many distractions today," Meyer said. "Today, it's hard to keep the 'main thing the main thing.' The problem is today there is just so much going on – you have to work that much harder to make the 'main thing the main thing.'"
Courtesy, he said, is also a character trait that has grown increasingly important. "Courtesy pays, but when you are discourteous, you pay."
He encouraged audience members to develop their communication skills.
"Every day, somebody is fighting a tough battle, or carrying a tough load. You don't know the battle that some people are facing. You don't know the stress they are under. It is a sad situation."
Many times, Meyer said, a positive life-changing moment for people who are suffering comes when someone takes the time to communicate with them. "Somebody treated them with courtesy, and communicated to them that there was help, and there was hope.
"I think that's the biggest thing in the medical profession – to let people know that you are going to help them, and that there is hope, that they can live a life of substance."
He urged the banquet audience to prepare to participate in a world that is growing more and more competitive.
"You've got to compete every day to be the best you can be," he said. "I'm going to miss competing a lot in coaching, but I give a lot of talks, so what I try to do is make every talk better than the last talk.
"Competitors roll up their sleeves and they go to work," Meyer said. "All that is going on with health care, and with money and the economy – you can't just sit back and say 'we didn't get a break.' Who cares? You can't complain. You've got to compete."
He urged his audience to live their lives with consistency.
"Every day, you fill up your cup and pour it out in service to other people. Every day," Meyer said. "You've got to really work hard to get your people to reach levels beyond what you think they can. That's what leadership is all about."
Community Health Service Award
Sandie Sullivan of Vermillion was presented the Community Health Service Award at Wednesday's banquet.
Sullivan serves as executive director of Domestic Violence Safe Options Services (DVSOS), an organization which is committed to building a community that works together to serve and empower victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and to eradicating such acts of interperson violence. This is done through the provision of support services and public educational programs that challenge the traditional norms, beliefs and behaviors that may lead to violence.
As a long-time volunteer and, currently, full time executive director, Sullivan has worked for over 15 years as an advocate for victims of domestic violence in the Vermillion community and the surrounding area (all of Clay County and the southern half of Union and Turner counties).
As the leader of DVSOS, Sullivan
• writes grants,
• peer counsels victims,
• advocates in court,
• serves on the board of the Rural Office of Community Services (ROCS),
• works with other community groups (for example Women in Law at the USD School of Law),
• presents informational sessions for community organizations, area high school classes, USD classes and panels, and USD SAVvY (Students Against vViolence Yes)
• serves as the liaison to the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (Pierre) and the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence & Sexual Assault (Sioux Falls),
• works with other domestic abuse shelters in South Dakota, neighboring states and nationwide to ensure each client receives services appropriate to their situation,
• works with law enforcement, court services, lawyers, the Department of Social Services and the Vermillion Food Pantry as well as others on a case-by-case basis, and
• supervises the rural advocate employee of DVSOS and all program volunteers.
In addition to the above, Sullivan is on call or responsible for ensuring 24/7 response to dangerous situations or someone needing a listener. She conducts or arranges for weekly support groups for women and children and assists at the grassroots level, for example, by meeting victims at the emergency room, arranging for legal services, emergency shelter, clothing, and safe passage as victims try to leave/escape their abusive relationships.