Coming Soon! Future Home of Wilson’s New Middle School Afterschool Program Emerges Downtown

Excitement is building as construction progresses on the Foundation YMCA building –the future home of an innovative afterschool program for middle school youth that will launch in August 2022. The building and the much-needed youth program are being funded as the first strategic grant initiative of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson.

In 2018, Healthcare Foundation of Wilson made a bold commitment of $25 million in strategic grant funding and partnered with the YMCA to design, launch and sustain the afterschool program and building. Downtown Wilson was identified as a central location for this special place and space for youth that will be accessible to all middle school students in Wilson County.

“Together we are building a brighter future for children in Wilson County,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “The countdown is on now, and we can’t wait to hear the buzz of youth activity that will fill the Foundation YMCA building during after school hours.”

Youth Engaged in Construction Project
Student groups have been engaged in the project progress in different ways from early on – even in the design of the building. One group is participating in an 18-month Construction Academy created and led by Balfour Beatty in joint venture with Holt Brothers to help give middle school students a look at the entire construction process.

“We are excited about the opportunities that are already evolving for middle school youth to participate in real and unique experiences,” said O’Hara. “Adolescence is a significant time of brain growth and development, and we know that the environment and activities of youth play a key role in decision-making and future success.”

Learn More!
Middle school students will be able to sign up soon for the afterschool program and select from a menu of experiences to discover their personal strengths, pursue their passions and explore new interests. The Foundation YMCA building is slated for completion by August 2022. To learn more about the 2022 program details and enrollment, contact Edwina Lucas at or call 252-218-2794.

Sitting Still in Class is Overrated at The SPOT

Kids at The SPOT might not be sitting still much in class, and that’s actually by design. “We want students to move when they need to and do what works best for them to learn,” said Matt Edwards, director at The SPOT. “Sitting still simply isn’t necessary as much as we tend to think it is in the classroom.”
With grant support from Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, The SPOT implemented “My Classroom MOVES” interactive classrooms in August 2021 to provide students with the opportunity to exercise and move more together or individually throughout the day. The flexible classrooms include rising desks, alternative seating, under-desk treadmills, and floor mats at each station. All ages starting at kindergarten can use the desks since the height is adjustable.
Flexible classrooms can increase engagement, empower student choice, increase oxygen flow to the brain, and improve metabolism. The teachers changed their approach a bit, and before long everyone began to realize the new opportunities. Now that everyone has gotten used to the change, Edwards says both students and teachers seem happy that they no longer have the repeated interruption of a teacher needing to tell students to sit still.

Students have the opportunity to use the desk at anytime during their classroom or homework sessions. They can track calorie burn on the elliptical, which creates a fun opportunity for friendly competitions and some self-motivation. Additionally the program coordinator developed a My Classroom Moves plan for teachers to utilize during their daily class time. For example, teachers can have students stand or use a specific component of the active desk stations while learning for the first 15 minutes of a class.
With a total of 70 desks located in six of nine classrooms at The SPOT, homework or class work can take place two times a day for up to 140 students. They’re using these active desks approximately 12 hours a week. Classrooms at The SPOT are used for more than just homework and tutoring so the new active stations are being used for various programs, including STEM, iPad Labs and Restore Circles.
Another creative way that The SPOT has been keeping students physically moving is with virtual field trips. By using Oculus Virtual Reality, they’ve set up a fun way for kids to physically move within a designated space as they navigate places like monuments in Washington D.C. or The Sistine Chapel. These virtual experiences provide a new kind of active learning that get kids moving and exploring places they might never see otherwise. 
“These changes have been extremely successful all around for our students who have ADHD or others who just need to move around more, as well as for those who prefer to sit still,” said Edwards. “When you give students the permission and ability to move freely, they find what works best on their own.”

Wilson Area School-Based Health Centers
Recognized by NC School Boards Association

Wilson County Schools Board of Education received an Award for Excellence in Educational Programs from the North Carolina School Boards Association for the Wilson Area School-Based Health (WASH) centers at Forest Hills Middle, Beddingfield High and Hunt High schools. Healthcare Foundation of Wilson provided funding to establish the WASH centers at all three locations.  
“We are grateful for the proactive mindset of Wilson County Health Department and Wilson County Schools for prioritizing the health and well-being of students so they can learn and thrive at school,” said Denise O’Hara. “This award-winning team is a remarkable example of collaboration for the greater good, and we are proud to be a funding partner.”
WASH provides accessible and affordable physical and preventative health services.  Any Wilson County Schools student or staff member can be seen by appointment at the WASH centers whether insured or noninsured. Same day appointments are available. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 252-360-0769 or send an email to

“WASH has benefited our students and staff tremendously – especially during the pandemic. It is a stellar example of what can be accomplished when school districts and community partners work together. More than 10,300 students and 1,700 staff members now have access to caring health providers right in our schools. I am grateful to the WASH staff for providing such excellent care to our students and staff, myself included, and thankful for the incredible community partners who made it possible. I look forward to our continued partnership and hope we will open more centers in the future.” 

– Dr. Lane Mills, Superintendent of Wilson County Schools

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson Surpasses $36 Million in Total Funding

Thirteen New Responsive Grants Awarded for the Greater Wilson Community

WILSON, N.C. (July 12, 2021) – With the recent approval of 13 new responsive grant awards for 2021, Healthcare Foundation of Wilson’s investments in collaborative health and wellness initiatives in the Greater Wilson Community has reached more than $36 million in funding support for the local community since the establishment of the foundation. 

Since 2014 Healthcare Foundation of Wilson has been committed to providing funding support for essential and strategic projects that improve the health and well-being of the people of greater Wilson. Funding has been provided to our community through four different avenues:

Responsive Grant Funding – $6.35 million 

Strategic Grant Funding -$5.9 million – Funding allocated to date for the Middle School Afterschool program and new YMCA facility. An additional $17 million in future funding has been approved for the initiative.

Restricted Funding – $626,992

Hospital Support -$23.56 million

Responsive grants and strategic funding support the Wilson community’s work to address adolescent pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse, obesity, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Restricted funding provides support through donated funds that are designated in specific areas of healthcare, and the hospital support has provided funding for construction and upgrades to the local hospital.

The 13 new responsive grant awards for 2021, which total $821,300, are to support nonprofit sustainable solutions and measurable outcomes related to one or more of the foundation’s four focus areas.

Responsive Grant Funding for 2021:

“As Healthcare Foundation of Wilson increases it’s investments in vision-driven, strategic funding initiatives, we remain committed to providing these annual, responsive grants for sustainable projects that focus on rising concerns and current needs to improve the health and wellness of the greater Wilson community,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. 

Learn more about the 2021 Responsive Grant Awards.

Third WASH clinic opens at Hunt High School

The third Wilson Area School-Based Health Clinic (WASH) opened at Hunt High School in early May 2021.  Healthcare Foundation of Wilson has provided more than $1.1 million in funding for three WASH clinics, including two previously opened locations at Forest Hills Middle School and Beddingfield High School.

The health clinics are staffed with a family nurse practitioner, and there is a registered nurse at each school.  Any student or staff member at Wilson County Schools can be seen at the on-site school clinics for wellness or sick visits. The clinics serve both the insured and uninsured.

Clinic services include but are not limited to the following:

  • Physical exams
  • Diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions
  • Immunizations
  • Acute care services
  • Health education related to physical fitness, sexual health, etc.
  • Blood pressure management
  • Diabetes management

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson is proud to partner with Wilson County Health Department, Wilson County Schools and Wilson County Department of Social Services to provide these services to our students.

Read more about the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Learn more about WASH clinic services.

After School Construction Program Launched for Middle School Youth

Balfour Beatty, in joint venture with Holt Brothers, is partnering with Healthcare Foundation of Wilson and the Wilson Family YMCA to create a Construction Academy afterschool program for middle school students, and to deliver a shared facility for the new Wilson Middle School After School (MSAS) programs. The new Construction Academy program and dynamic shared-space facility will provide unique opportunities for youth to build brighter futures in Wilson County.

The Construction Academy and new building are part of a larger community initiative funded by Healthcare Foundation of Wilson to develop MSAS programs with engaging, hands-on afterschool activity choices for middle schoolers ages 11-14. In 2018, Healthcare Foundation of Wilson approved a $22 million grant for the Wilson Family YMCA to design, build, and sustain the MSAS program and new facility that will serve as a shared space for middle school youth to discover their strengths, explore their passions, and help their young minds grow with a focus on health and wellness.

Read The Wilson Times story.

Community Celebrates 2020 Grant Awards

See the slide show to view Healthcare Foundation of Wilson as they deliver checks and celebratory signs in early July for 2020 grantees. Fifteen grant awards totaling $780,000 were awarded to support community projects that focus on solutions to some of the greatest health challenges for Wilson.

“The signs are our way of giving a big high five to our community’s leaders and agencies as they remain focused on solutions to improve the health and wellness of people in the greater Wilson area,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “We applaud our grantees for taking on new initiatives to help make healthy changes with a lasting impact.”

View the slideshow above and read more about the grant news in this Wilson Times article.

Learn more about what we fund and the 2020 grants.

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson Awards 15 Responsive Grants

WILSON, N.C. (July 1, 2020) – Healthcare Foundation of Wilson announces 15 grant awards totaling $782,649 to support community projects that focus on solutions to some of the greatest health challenges for Wilson.

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson provides responsive grants and strategic funding for programs that focus on sustainable solutions with measurable outcomes to address four of the community’s greatest health concerns, including adolescent pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The following 2020 grants have been approved to fund initiatives that address one or more of the four areas of health concern:

Hope Station – $40,000
Love A Sea Turtle – $17,500
Wilson County Department of Social Services – $100,000
Wilson County Health Department – $284,639
Wilson County Health Department – $20,000
Wilson County Health Department – $10,000
Wilson County Schools – $95,000
Wilson County Schools – $85,000
Wilson County Schools – $7,500
Wilson County Substance Prevention Coalition – Hope Alliance $9,500
Wilson Parks and Recreation – $10,000
Wilson Police Department Athletic/Activities League – $25,000
Wilson Youth United (The SPOT) – $11,680
Wilson Youth United (The SPOT) – $61,640
Young Life Wilson – $5,190

“As we award the 2020 responsive grants, we applaud our grantees for their ongoing commitment to overcome challenges during difficult times and pursue positive outcomes to improve the health and wellness of the greater Wilson community,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “Our grant funding since 2016 totals more than $6.5 million invested in forward-thinking health and wellness initiatives that address our community’s rising concerns and current needs.”

Learn more about the 2020 grant awards.

High Fives for The SPOT

Giving Families Daily Meals and a Dose of Healthy Activities

With the recent closing of schools and community spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team at The SPOT – Wilson Youth United has been working around the clock to help nourish children and their families with a big focus on fueling bodies and minds. “We want kids and their parents to know we are here for them,” said Matt Edwards, executive director at The SPOT. “We are grateful for all the volunteers, donors and staff who are making this all possible.”

Once the team at The SPOT realized they wouldn’t be able to continue afterschool activities that are vital to so many children in Wilson, they paused to consider their options and the best ways to continue to serve families. Within just a few days of schools closing, The SPOT launched curbside pick-up of free meals on March 16 and served approximately 2500 meals per day in the second week. By the end of May, The SPOT will have served more than 100,000 meals for families since mid-March, and the plan is to continue as long as possible.

The mission of the SPOT includes three areas of focus for every day – academic enrichment, social immersion and health programs, and they wanted to make sure these would all continue. So in addition to quickly organizing a meal pick-up program, the team worked up a list of ways to continue the Hi5 program, which is funded by Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, to help families stay active.

“Hi5 is an innovative fitness program at The SPOT, which is designed specifically to get kids up and moving in new, interesting ways,” said Baylie Gagne, development director at The SPOT. “Thanks to this program, each grade level participates in a minimum of three new activities each week at The SPOT, and we decided our goal is to help motivate them do the same amount of activities during these challenging times.”

The Hi5 team at The SPOT is creating online tips, videos and printed handouts that go out with the meals at curbside pickup. They have added new levels of involvement over time to encourage participation. Youth and their families can stay active by tuning into The SPOT’s social media channels. They’ve posted and shared several activities and challenges such as shadow boxing demos, fitness word finds, an alphabet exercise game, and zoo yoga.

Families have even been spotted doing yoga moves in the car while waiting in line for meal pick-up, and the Hi5 team says The SPOT youth are challenging their siblings to get active at home. The SPOT also plans to share reminders and tips for hydration, healthy routines, and positive mental health.

“We are sending a big round of virtual high fives to The SPOT and community partners who are being so resourceful and finding new ways to continue to help the people of Wilson stay as healthy as possible during such difficult times,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “It’s inspiring to see The SPOT’s proactive focus on continuing the Hi5 program to engage with families and encourage them to be active. We all know it’s extra important to continue and even build more healthy habits right now.”

The SPOT is also actively learning about the community’s needs through an online survey, and they have received feedback from families who are grateful for the service. “It is allowing parents to feed their families at a time when there is overwhelming uncertainty about job security, unemployment and steady resources,” said Gagne. “We plan to continue this as long as we can, and community donations are what’s making it all possible.”

Nourishing Families

Read more about the launch of curbside meal pick-up provided by The SPOT, which began on March 16 and has continued through May with no plans of stopping at the time this information was published. To learn more about accessing or helping with resources for the meals, visit The SPOT’s website.

Staying Active

Activity pages and links are posted on The SPOT’s Facebook page and website (Click the “FUN” button.) Below are a few direct links for videos posted by The SPOT to Facebook to help get families started with some fun activities.


Spell Your Name

Tai Chi with Mr. Bill

Get Involved

The SPOT wants everyone to take advantage of the activities they’re sharing, and they invite people in the community to send short, fun videos that will help others get moving together.  They would love to also collaborate with yoga or tai chi instructors, athletes, dancers, and others who want to join in the effort to keep families moving.

published May 2020

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson creates opportunities for middle school students

Middle school students provide insight into the afterschool program, Healthcare Foundation of Wilson’s first strategic initiative.  Read more about how students are helping to shape this program.