Sitka was notified on March 6 that it was one of 12 finalists for the 2019 RWJ Culture of Health Prize — the second time that it’s risen to the finalist pool (out of roughly 250 applicants). But Doug Osborne is not satisfied. “The third time’s a charm,” he told the Sitka Chamber of Commerce.

The Sitka Health Summit wants to improve the collective health of Sitkans, but it wouldn’t mind winning some cash along the way.

For the last two years, the collaboration has broken into the finalist round of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Culture of Health” prize, but has not been been one of the 6 winners of the $25,000-dollar cash award.

Sitka Community Hospital health educator Doug Osborne recently spoke to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce about the summit’s third attempt to be recognized as one of the nation’s healthiest communities.

So 12 communities made it to the finals and six of them were actual winners, and they made it sound like we were number seven or eight. Maybe they say this to everybody! But they said “It was a hard decision, you guys were close, you should try again.” So with the motto of If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again we did that. We made some improvements and tried again. We turned in our application, we made it to the next round, but again, we did not make it all the way. So we went with a new motto: Third Time’s A Charm. The two hospitals started the Health Summit Coalition years ago, and these other folks are in the coalition now. So we had five pages to write about our community. So we started with writing about this area. This is Tlingit Aani. This is Tlingit Land. We talk about people being here not for hundreds of years, but for thousands, and all of that wisdom to draw upon, that impacts our community now. And we talked about being the first sometimes. Sitka is a place that a lot of times has been the first in something that has spread throughout Alaska. Here’s an example from 1912 (displays photo of Alaska Native Brotherhood founders): Elizabeth Peratrovich’s father, Andrew Wanamaker, and Peter Simpson and some of the gentlemen in this photo founded the ANB Hall in 1912. If you look real close it says Camp No. 1. Now there are camps all over Southeast. We also have the first conservation society in Alaska, started here in Sitka, and then it spread all over. And that same spirit was really evident at Indigenous People’s Day, which we wrote about — changing the day from Columbus Day to celebrating indigenous people. UAS did this, and it was one of those events that felt like, as a community, we were turning a page.

Some other additions to Sitka’s application to the Robert Wood Johnson “Culture of Health” prize include plans to construct the final phase of the Cross Trail to the ferry terminal; the accessible Community Playground; the Sitka Carbon Offset Program; work toward becoming a “trauma-informed” community; and the Bicycle Benefits program.

If Sitka makes it to the top six this year, Osborne says there are no strings attached to the $25,000 cash prize. Said Osborne, “We can spend $24,000 on a party, a $1,000 on something else.”