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Seven women have been chosen as the first class of Spirit Award winners, a new part of the McKnight’s Women of Distinction program.

The Spirit Award recognizes inspirational caregiving deeds and other noble gestures by women who have demonstrated acts of bravery, courage, perseverance, dedication or determination. Honorees were chosen via a nomination process.

“These winners are a true inspiration to us all. They personify passion, commitment and service,” McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor said. “We are humbled to be in their presence.”

This year’s honorees:

  • Christina Harris, Regional Clinical Care, Meridian Senior Living, Bethesda, MD

Harris performed above and beyond during the pandemic. One example: When one of the Meridian communities had an outbreak, Harris was the first one on site. A resident who had just lost her husband to COVID-19 and had tested positive herself broke down in grief. Harris, dressed in full personal protective equipment, proceeded to lie down next to her, listen to her story and provide the comfort she needed.

  • Nancy McCune, Healthcare Systems Administrator, Westmoreland Manor, Greensburg, PA

Despite being able to retire whenever she chooses, McCune has pushed out retirement indefinitely to better serve her facility, colleagues and residents in navigating the pandemic. With her extensive experience leveraging technologies, she has introduced numerous efficiencies into her own facility and has volunteered to guide peers at other organizations as well.

  • Cassie Morris, Assistant Director of Nursing, Mayfield Health and Rehabilitation, Mayfield, KY

Morris was the highest-ranking staff member at Mayfield Health and Rehabilitation on a Friday evening in December when she called for a practice tornado drill. Several hours later, the real thing hit, leaving a deadly trail that killed at least 70 through a multi-state swath of the Central U.S. All 74 residents survived, even though the facility itself around them was totaled.

  • Barbara Richards, Licensed Practical Nurse, Monette Manor, Monette, AR

When a deadly series of tornadoes ripped through Arkansas and five other states in December, Richards and colleagues moved residents to safer positions in their now-wrecked facility. They draped their bodies over residents and patients and sang hymns, saving dozens of lives, as the funnel cloud churned through the doors of the facility. She now works at another nearby facility until the destroyed one is rebuilt.

  • Lena Robinson, Lead CNA/Medication Technician, Benchmark Senior Living, Brighton, MA

Robinson is a shining example of what it means to selflessly care for others. In 2021, after 25 years as a certified nursing assistant, the 76-year-old was set to retire. COVID-19, however, still was a reality, so she decided to stay with the residents who needed her.

  • Rosita Taylor, Health and Wellness Director, Brookdale Senior Living, West Boynton Beach, FL

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor packed her bag and moved into a senior living community. She remained there for two weeks to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents and employees. “A spirit like no other” is how Caroline Sprouse, Brookdale’s senior director, communications, describes Taylor’s dedication, courage and passion.

  •  Lynn Weidner, Home Care Worker, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA

A home care caregiver, Weidner is a rising star in advocacy. Through her activism related to caregivers, she has met President Joe Biden, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and others, and even traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak at a rally attended by leaders in Congress.

To be honored May 12

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree and inductees in the Hall of Honor, Veteran VIP and Rising Stars categories previously were announced.

The Spirit Award winners and all of this year’s other honorees will be celebrated at a Thursday, May 12, ceremony in Chicago. That celebration will be followed the next morning by the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum, which will feature a trio of sessions through which participants can earn continuing education credits. Everyone is welcome to attend all events. Tickets and more details about the awards and forum, as well as a gallery of photos of this year’s honorees, are available at

PointClickCare is the Diamond sponsor of this year’s event. OnShift and PharMerica are the Silver sponsors. Table sponsors include Gojo/Purell and Sound Physicians.

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