"Nurses' Week 2013" got its official start on Monday, May 6, at St. Luke's Hospital, Miners Campus, during a breakfast program held at the Coaldale facility.

During the program, Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek, who is also the treasurer of the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation, praised the nurses and the hospital for the "kindness and compassion they provide to the people of the Schuylkill and Carbon areas who become patients here, as well as their families."

O'Gurek was present to represent the foundation that was founded several years ago in memory of Bo Tkach, a former area athlete and student who took his life in 2007. The hospital selected the foundation to be the recipient of funds it raises during its annual Nurses' Week activities.

But the commissioner first offered praise for the St. Luke's administration in general and the nurses in specific, saying, "I have always had a special affection for the quality of care the people in your profession provide families in the region." He told the nurses, "There is a special place in my heart for how you take care of patients and their families, especially at times when they need that comfort the most. It takes a special person to work every day in a profession such as your's, and so I want to commend you for the work you do each and every day."

At the same time, the commissioner said the many improvements made at the Coaldale hospital "reflect the commitment of the St. Luke's administration to providing quality care in our area." He added, "The place looks beautiful, well taken care of, and as I walk around the campus, it's obvious to see the people here have made a strong commitment to meet the medical needs of the area in the future."

Meanwhile, Nanette Haldeman-Green, RN, BSN, director of the St Luke's Miners Home Care, said this year's Nurses' Week will benefit the Bo Tkach Foundation. She noted, "Every year, St. Luke's University and Health Network- Miners Campus selects a local charity to sponsor during Nurses Week. This year, the Bo Tkach Foundation was selected out of many worthy charities in the community. The Nursing Excellence committee at St Luke's chose this memorial as it met the criteria for being a local foundation which provides services for the underserved in the community."

She said the foundation's mission is to "create an awareness for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other mental health issues while providing essential funding for youth athletic programs, scholarships and otherwise inaccessible individual mental health screening and treatment."

Haldeman-Green added, "A portion of St. Luke's mission is to care for the sick and injured, as well as to improve access to care in the communities we serve. It was founded by the committee that both St. Luke's and the Bo Tkach Foundation have a similar cause and that is to provide access to care for our community members in need."

Speaking about the foundation, O'Gurek said, "Out of tragedy came establishment of the foundation, so we can help other youths who have a dire need for counseling and their families, so that these type of tragedies need not happen."

He related how Tkach was a two-time First Team All State football player, National Honor Society member, two-time District 11 javelin champion, ESPN Academic High School All-American, a youth volunteer, and a 2007 magna cum laude graduate of Wilkes University.

"Bo had every reason to live. He was successful in every part of his young life and he had a promising future ahead of him. But he also a lifelong battle with OCD, a psychiatric anxiety. And, in the end, it resulted in the loss of his life," O'Gurek said.

He said statistics show America is losing 100 young lives per week to suicide, noting, "Sadly, and unfortunately, our immediate area contributes to that number as we have lost many young lives to this illness."

The speaker said other statistics show one out of every five adolescents are affected by Mental Health problems, and it is estimated two-thirds of all young people with Mental Health problems are not getting the help they need.

"That is why our volunteer organization, started by Jim and Sandy Tkach, former Lehighton residents and the parents of Bo, works hard to try to attack those numbers, to provide the help that a young person may not otherwise receive because of the lack of funding and/or insurances, and, just as important, to support Mental Health awareness and to educate parents to recognize the potential signs of symptoms of this silent but deadly illness," O'Gurek said.

Since its inception, the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation has provided tens of thousands of dollars in behalf of patients' wellness, and established itself as an important provider of services that will help make our families, schools and communities happier and healthier in the years ahead," O'Gurek closed.