Lesa Boettcher leaving Healthy West Orange

Her successor is Krista Carter, a longtime West Orange County resident who already is familiar with the nonprofit movement and its goal to be the healthiest community in the nation.

Lesa Boettcher and her team have spent six years building the brand and promoting healthy behaviors and programs with the help of local health organizations.
Lesa Boettcher and her team have spent six years building the brand and promoting healthy behaviors and programs with the help of local health organizations.
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Since 2017, Healthy West Orange has been championing the goal of making West Orange the healthiest community in the nation by providing tools and social connections to help residents eat well, stay active and enjoy life. The movement works by inspiring healthy behaviors, promoting healthy programs, uniting health-minded organizations and advocating for healthy community decisions.

Lesa Boettcher has been at the core of it all and is proud to look back on all she was able to accomplish. After six years with HWO, Boettcher is leaving the organization because her family is relocating to Washington, D.C.

When the HWO movement first was introduced, health care professionals struggled to find a way to promote the brand and help people understand its purpose. Enter Boettcher, who was hired as senior manager in 2018 to try to encourage people to reach for the nonprofit’s lofty goal and to have fun while doing it.

“In the beginning it was the challenge,” she said. “I believed in what they were trying to do, and I liked the idea of nobody else is doing this. I’m a lifelong learner. I think I dug into every bit of data there was. That challenge is extremely fun. How do you take something that’s an idea and bring it to life?”

It all started with a conversation among members of the West Orange Healthcare District, who said, “We can help build hospitals, and we can help people get access to care,” Boettcher said.

But, they realized, they also needed to get behind a fitness and wellness program to encourage folks to make better food choices and to get their bodies moving.

As Boettcher built her team, starting with marketer Kyle Martin, she admits it was difficult at first asking businesses to partner or sponsor HWO when the brand wasn’t widely known.

She and her team have spent the last six years creating awareness and giving the community opportunities to embrace health and wellness in a fun way.

It’s been a gratifying thing these six years seeing come to life the things we talked about,” Boettcher said. “It was really a transition because when I started and had ideas, I really wanted to look at the ‘why’ of health and how healthy habits can influence your long-term health outcomes. Eighty percent of diseases are preventable, yet in this wellness space, it’s a lot of beauty and a lot of weight loss, and neither of these is what being healthy is.

“Some people think of healthy as absence of disease, but we see healthy as your ability to thrive: Eat well, stay active, enjoy life,” Boettcher said. “It’s about meeting people where they are.”


The first event under Boettcher’s leadership was the inaugural Westly’s Virtual 5K in 2018. Residents registered to complete a 3.1-mile walk or run on their own time — but Boettcher wanted to have a live component to the event, so they gave registrants the option of participating in person.

“We packed our oranges and water, and … 24 people showed up at the 5K,” she said. “Our seventh annual virtual 5K was this January, and we had more than 600 people. So, there’s something extremely gratifying; it’s working.”

Boettcher has helped build the Westly’s Mile before- and after-school running program, which started with five elementary schools and next year will have 16. Boettcher formerly was a public school teacher in Seminole County, and she can think of many of her students who could have benefitted from Westly’s Mile.


HWO had amassed thousands of resources for the community, but they were not all together under one umbrella. The HUBB resource center changed all that, allowing residents to visit kiosks in West Orange County to find physicians, health care providers, specialists, mental health counselors and more.

Last year, more than 10,000 individuals used the HUBB resource center, Boettcher said.

To go from, like, 35 users to thousands of users, it’s been humbling,” she said. “I have been happy and proud to be steering and helping, but it’s everybody on the team’s passion. I give Tracy Swanson (CEO of the Foundation for a Healthier West Orange) and the foundation board credit. They aren’t afraid of trying something new. When I say, ‘We’re going to try this and we have this vision to bring it out into the community,’ you have to have a board that says, ‘OK, let’s do it.’

“Everybody here values what we’re doing,” Boettcher said. “We take it seriously trying to build the healthiest community in the nation. … That’s what everyone is committed to. It starts with the person, the individual, and then grows.”

Boettcher said she’s excited to pass the torch to Krista Carter — former longtime vice president of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce — and to watch the HWO team continue to grow and make a difference in the community. This includes Heather Lamson, who is in charge of social media; Peter Palfi, who handles inhouse graphics, creative design and videography; Ingrid Warren, who takes care of community engagement, such as coordinating festivals; and Erika Feazell, who was hired in 2020 when the HUBB idea was launched.

HWO does not prescribe medication, and it does not endorse a one-size-fits-all diet.

“Broccoli is good for you, but if you’ve got gastrointestinal issues, broccoli is not healthy for you,” Boettcher said. “A healthy diet — you can’t just say there’s one answer. But we have to empower people to find their answer and help them find resources we can trust.”

HWO is all about having fun while getting healthy, and Boettcher and her team have created dance challenges and splash challenges in addition to the 5K events.

“How do we have fun and make it not so serious,” she said. “It’s about feeling good. How do we cheer people on instead of tearing people down?”

One exciting aspect of the job has been recognizing participants through the years.

“We have a family who has done the splash challenge for six years,” she said. “The baby is now 6 years old. Families are growing up with Healthy West Orange. It floors me. It makes me so proud. … It’s what we said we wanted to be, and it’s so exciting.”

Boettcher said the silly moments are the ones she will miss most.

“It’s recognizing that not taking ourselves seriously and going for it (is what) connects to people and it allows other people to not take themselves seriously,” she said. “I will miss that authentic caring that this community has. You see those moments of caring — and we get to be part of that.”


“I joke, because of Taylor Swift, where I was in years one to five, it was our Awareness Era,” Boettcher said. “This right now, these next five years, it’s the Engagement Era. How do we get every resident engaged? I think we’re on the path for it. We’re building plans in elementary, middle and high school.”

Boettcher’s last day is July 12. She’s confident she’s leaving HWO in excellent hands.

“Here’s the path, and here are the seeds that were planted, and now it’s up to Krista to water,” she said. “This community has a heart for the nonprofit community. It has been impactful, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it and have so many positive experiences.

“How exciting it’s been to be a part of establishing the Foundation for a Healthier West Orange community, but all the growth we talked about … wouldn’t be possible without the strategic focus on community health that is done at the foundation level,” she said.

Boettcher is exiting the nonprofit as COO of the Foundation for a Healthier West Orange, the umbrella organization over HWO.


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