“Find your passion – and go with it.”
Both a straightforward piece of advice and an attitude embraced by the fearless, it has taken Steve Bennett, 64, from service in the Air Force to the heights of corporate success to a passion project with statewide impact.
“I’ll work 365 days a year if I’m needed,” he said.
Since 2012, Bennett has been the heart and soul – driver and operator – of the Lions Mobile Screening Unit (MSU), a four-wheeled outreach effort that facilitates free vision, hearing and other preventive health screenings at schools, public events and corporations statewide.
“I’ve done schools that are as small as four kids. A lot of these schools don’t have nursing staff or proper equipment. We go in and help them take care of their state- mandated screening requirements.”
The scope of the MSU’s impact is dramatic. Funded by the Nebraska Lions Foundation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, it enabled more than 21,000 free screenings at schools and public events in 2015 – and the discovery of more than 4,300 health issues requiring further attention.
“Some of these kids, they’ve never been to an eye doctor,” Bennett said. “When you screen a child and find out that they are so farsighted they can’t read – and then you get them some help – that’s the rewarding thing.”
A 20-year member of Lions International, the world’s largest service organization, Bennett retired from Ameritrade (now TD Ameritrade) at 47. The company was in its infancy when he started.
“I was maybe the 99th or 100th employee hired,” he recalled. “I worked in the software area and wrote software for the system that connects to the New York Stock Exchange.”
Certain that he has been blessed throughout his life, he said working with the MSU is his way of doing something more.
“I’ll be honest. I have so much fun teasing and playing with these kids. It’s just great.”
That prospect of “fun” initially drew him to the MSU, but his involvement has evolved into something much more – a calling. During his busiest stretch – mid- August to March – Bennett, who receives some compensation for his time and effort, may be on the road five or six days a week.
“I try to schedule in geographic clumps so I can leave on Sunday, drive to where I need to be on Monday morning, screen through the week around that locale, and then either head home or go on to my next spot,” he said.
In addition to driving the MSU, he maintains the equipment, including several new handheld vision screeners that can test children as young as 6 months. He also conducts some of the testing and trains screening volunteers to do the same.
His wife and fellow Lion, Debbie, handles the mammoth task of scheduling. “I couldn’t do this without her,” he said.
Bennett believes everyone is capable of being fearless in their outreach – as long as they’re fueled by their passions.
“If it’s not your passion to help in a community garden, don’t do that. There’s all kinds of different ways to volunteer. Find your passion – and go with it.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same.
1 of 18
Mary Marion is more than a people person. She is a serving-people person. Her entire adult life has been spent caring for others – from the eight sons she raised to the neighbors she helps feed to the fellow seniors she impacts twice a week, every week at The Salvation Army’s Dora Bingel Senior Center. Click here to read the story.
After dealing with a painful loss, an Omaha musician's career is budding again — and he gives a lion’s share of the credit for his recovery to Grief’s Journey, formerly Ted E. Bear Hollow. Click here to read the story.
It’s not that we have a food production problem in our community. We have a food distribution problem," says Beth Ostdiek Smith, founder of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue, which receives grant support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Sharon Martin and Mike Hughbanks share a passion for advocacy and outreach related to dementia through Art to Remember, an interactive program at Joslyn Art Museum. Sharon is a docent; Mike has early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Click here to read the story.
Occupational therapist Diane Bemis is motivated by the “magic” of pairing horses and people with disabilities in a therapeutic riding program funded in part by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska grant. Click here to read the story.
Beth Kernaghan, left, has spent the past two years coaching Ana Pérez-Villagómez through College Possible, a program for low-income academic achievers. The program is funded in part by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska grant. Click here to read the story.
Adam Armstrong is giving back as a veteran support specialist with At Ease, a Lutheran Family Services initiative that is sponsored, in part, by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska grant. For him, it’s more than a job. It’s a call to service. Click here to read the story.
Lamya Ali has a garden plot through Community Crops and uses the Lincoln nonprofit’s mobile farmers market. The community garden program has been a godsend, she says, and now she’s quick to tell others about it. Community Crops is supported, in part, by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Molly Troxel is a visually impaired athlete who aspires to be a Paralympian. Here, the 15-year-old plays goalball, an intense Paralympic team sport that involves using one’s body to prevent a clanging ball from crossing the goal line. Competitive play is provided through Outlook Nebraska Inc., a nonprofit recipient of grant support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Tim Smiley answered a "driver wanted" ad that changed his life. Today, he's helping thousands in need, coordinating deliveries for Food Bank for the Heartland. Smiley's 12-hour days include the distribution of fresh produce to agencies across Nebraska and western Iowa in an initiative supported in part by a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Dr. Zach Meyer is a medical director at Third City Community Clinic (TCCC). TCCC was founded more than 20 years ago to serve low-income patients who could not otherwise afford basic dental and medical care. Click here to read the story.
Shelton Public School physical education teachers Matt Walter and Amanda Thober stand on a soft shredded rubber blacktop with new playground equipment. Shelton is a recent Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska Project Fit America grantee. Click here to read the story.
"Parents are our first heroes," says Vanita Jarmon, principal at Conestoga Magnet School in Omaha, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s Adopt-A-School Partner for more than 15 years. Her leadership approach celebrates their positive contributions to student — and teacher — success. Click here to read the story.
Rock Steady Boxing is paying off for John Coffey in improved balance, gait, activities of daily living and quality of life. Click here to read the story.
Louis "Big Lou" Parker is a mainstay at the Heart Ministry Center, paying back the help he got when he needed it most. “I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve always believed in going in all the way. And I’ve always had a heart to help people," he said. Click here to read the story.
Sharon Martin on manning the Boys Town National Hotline: “Every day when I leave here, I want to feel like I made a difference in a person’s life, even one person. If I’ve done that, then I’ve done what I needed to do.” Click here to read the story.
Partnership 4 Kids is providing life-changing experiences for JoAnn Robinson. This summer she's discovering that she's a natural leader in P4K University's team-building workshop sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Karlyn Walker and her daughter, Adrionna, 13, are faithful attendees of Wellbriety Family Nights at the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition in Omaha, where they enjoy making native crafts together. Wellbriety, Karlyn said, has helped her keep her demons at bay and see that “there is a healthy life out there.” Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska supports the program. Click here to read the story.