Live to Give: Debra Tendrich and Sandra Muvdi
Founder, Eat Better, Live Better
Healthy perspective: It started as a way to “shut people up” four years ago at the dental office she used to manage. Tired of her co-workers badgering her for drinking too much Coke and eating too much fast food, Tendrich agreed to exercise and eat right for 30 days.
The next time twice-a-year patients returned for a check-up, they didn’t recognize Tendrich. Not only did she drop 70 pounds by simply changing her diet and working out, the single mother who had battled childhood obesity was a walking billboard for the benefits of leading a fit, nutrition-rich life.
“I wasn’t an unhappy person being overweight,” she says. “But as I got healthier, I realized there were new levels of happy that I didn’t know existed.”
Today, Tendrich pays it forward to school children and adults throughout Palm Beach County with the nonprofit organization she started in spring 2016. Schools that contract Eat Better, Live Better receive multiweek programming for different age groups that covers everything from how to read a nutritional label to understanding the relationship between food and feelings. Tendrich also conducts half-day workshops with a registered dietician and a clinical psychologist that explore the tentacles of nutrition—and how a healthy lifestyle can lead to greater work productivity.
In the past year, Tendrich estimates she has spread the EBLB message to more than 1,000 children and parents through her school program—and another 5,000 people via her community outreach.
Educating the next generation: “Our programming helps with food and feelings. The kids leave a program knowing how to read a nutritional label; they know what hydrogenated oil does to your body—they get nutrition. For assignments, we’ll have kids go home and show their parents what’s in the pantry—how this can of food has too much sodium, how this has too many carbs, how these dyes in soda cause cancer … They’re going home and teaching their parents how to be healthy.”
What’s next: On the for-profit side, Tendrich is taking the ice cream truck concept and adding a nutritious spin. She’s hopeful that her business plan—to sell fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and healthy oils out of the trucks, at affordable prices, to lower income neighborhoods and senior communities—will debut in Atlanta and rural areas of Palm Beach County in early 2018. Her goal is go national within five years.
Words to live by: “I had no goals when I was overweight. Now, I thrive on goals, on the idea of being better than I was yesterday.”
Aqua gown, from Bloomingdale’s, Town Center at Boca Raton
Founder, Jessica June Children’s Cancer Foundation
The unthinkable: When her only child, Jessica June Eiler, died at age 7 from acute myelogenous leukemia—an aggressive blood cancer that took her life on Oct. 9, 2003, only four days after being diagnosed—Muvdi wondered what it would take to push her out of bed every morning. “I had lost my identity, my reason for being,” she says.
Within a year, Muvdi had found her calling, one that not only honors her daughter’s memory but has helped more than 4,000 people whose lives have been rocked by pediatric cancer. Through the Broward County-based nonprofit organization she launched in 2004, families already in crisis on several fronts can apply for financial assistance to cover basic needs.
“Families that are just making ends meet when everything is fine [quickly] reach a breaking point when their child has cancer,” she says. “At least one parent typically can’t work, so that income is gone. We try to help them maintain some stability by putting food on the table, covering a mortgage or rent payment, or paying medical bills.
“Just focusing on your child’s survival is overwhelming. … It’s important for these families to know they’re not alone.”
With the help of social workers at hospitals around the state, Muvdi identifies Florida residents who qualify for assistance. Over the past decade, the foundation has raised more than $2.3 million.
The organization in action: “We worked with a family at Joe DiMaggio. The mom was pregnant with complications; the baby was born weighing only 3 pounds. The father, a mechanic, had just lost his job. Their son, Angel, had brain cancer. He was 4. They needed way more than what we could do for them, so I became their advocate. We helped them with their rent, their electricity and their water bills. … Eventually, the mom went back to work with a medical company and is thriving. And their son’s cancer is in remission.”
On re-living the past through her charity work: “People have asked me why I want to be around something that, for me, turned out to be so tragic. To be able to give to these families is enriching, and it helps me with my grieving. It helps me to channel my anger, my emotions, into something positive. It’s the perfect medicine for me.”
Words to live by: “I live a purpose-driven life—and the tragedy of losing Jessica helped me discover that. Each morning, I wake up and I’m on it. I’m excited to make a difference in these people’s lives.”
Aidan Mattox gown and Kendra Scott earrings, from Bloomingdale’s, Town Center at Boca Raton