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Independence selects local nurses to honor through Celebrate Caring

2021 Celebrate Caring winners from left to right: Michelle Jackson-Ware, RN, BSN, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Steve Footit, RN, BSN, Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital; and Cookie Sanchez, RN, BSN, BAYADA Home Health Care.

This National Nurses Week, Independence Blue Cross (Independence) will shine a light on ten outstanding individuals through its annual Celebrate Caring campaign. This year’s campaign generated more submissions than ever before, with over 1,400 nominations for nurses who go above and beyond.

Celebrate Caring debuted in 2019 to honor nurses who provide superior care and compassion to their patients and community. So much has changed since then, but one thing remains the same: nurses are there when we need them the most. Independence is proud to recognize their bravery, dedication, and sacrifice.

The winners

Independence partnered with 6abc and iHeartRadio to share the winners’ inspiring stories throughout the region. Independence will also make $2,500 donations on behalf of each winner to nonprofit organizations of their choice. As a thank you, winners will receive a $500 gift card and enjoy dinner for two and a night’s stay in Atlantic City.

Steven Footit, RN, BSN – Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital

After serving for 27 years in the Army, Steve Footit chose nursing as a second career. After combat, he battled cancer – and joined the frontlines of COVID-19 as an ICU nurse. Recognizing the need for nursing staff during the pandemic, Footit began traveling between two states and three ICUs, including the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, St. Mary Medical Center, and Cape Regional Medical Center. Footit currently works at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, while continuing to pick up shifts at St. Mary and Cape Regional.

Footit is using a portion of his donation to support Head and Neck Cancer treatment at Penn Medicine’s Ruth & Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, where he was under the care of Dr. John Lukens. He’s also contributing to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and the School of Nursing & Health Sciences at Holy Family University.

Michelle Jackson-Ware, RN, BSN – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

Michelle Jackson-Ware has been a nurse for over 30 years. She began her career as an ambulatory nurse, and now works directly with families as an asthma educator for CHOP’s Community Asthma Prevention Program.

Her experience as a nurse ignited her passion for addressing issues that patients and their families face as a result of social determinants of health, like food insecurity. For decades, Jackson-Ware has helped organize food distribution programs in West Philadelphia. When the pandemic hit, she launched a nonprofit called Feed the People Philly to provide meals to local families. The donation from Independence on her behalf will help her continue this important work.

Cookie Sanchez, RN, BSN – BAYADA Home Health Care

Cookie Sanchez is a Bilingual Clinical Care Manager at BAYADA Home Health Care. A champion for Hispanic nurses in Philadelphia, Cookie is the former president of the National Hispanic Nurses Association’s Philadelphia Chapter. She also advocates on behalf of her community though efforts to increase access to and information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Sanchez has been a nurse for 27 years, spending more than ten years of that time in the intensive care unit (ICU). She moved into case management before working directly with patients at home. She’s passionate about breaking down barriers and empowering people to better manage their health through education.

Sanchez is using her donation to support the National Association of Hispanic Nurses Philadelphia Chapter, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The finalists

Independence will also recognize seven finalists who demonstrated exemplary care and compassion in their nursing roles. The finalists will receive a $100 gift card and will be highlighted on and IBX social media.

  • Justin Gavaghan, BSN, RN, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital

  • Dawn Loney, LPN, JEVS Human Services

  • Tammy Nealy, BSN, RN, Einstein Medical Center Montgomery

  • Marie A. Ranselle, MSN, BSN, Philadelphia Department of Health

  • Shannon Smith, RN, BSN, CSN, School District of Philadelphia

  • Kimberly Swartz, LPN, Compassus Hospice

  • Kelly F. Warren, MSN, RN, CMSRN, Virtua Memorial Hospital

All winners and finalists will receive plaques and a commemorative Celebrate Caring pin for their outstanding work and commitment to the nursing profession. Independence will also host a virtual celebration for the nurses and organizations involved in the campaign.

Visit for more about the winners and finalists.


Media contact:
Britni Zahodnick