Strong, smart and bold are you undoubtedly three words to describe the 2021 Girls Inc. Champion, Dr. Dolores Olivarez.
She joined Schneck Medical Center in Seymour in May 1998 and has been an integral part of the local community ever since.
As an oncologist, she helped develop the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center at Schneck, allowing patients to receive treatment closer to home.
For her contributions and support to Girls Inc. and the community, Olivarez was honored Friday night as Woman of the Year during Girls Inc. of Jackson County’s annual Celebration Gala: Champions Ball.
Dr. Amanda Dick, Olivarez’s co-worker at Schneck and president of the Girls Inc. board of directors, introduced her and presented her with the award. Dick received the same honor in 2018.
“I have no doubt that there’s probably not a person in this room whose life she has not touched in some way,” Dick said of Olivarez.
This year’s gala was once again held in person at The Pines Evergreen Room in Seymour after being virtual last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, which included a reverse raffle for $5,000, won by Paul Nay, a silent auction and a live auction, serves as a fundraiser for the club. The total amount raised was not available as of Monday afternoon.
Girls Inc. provides after-school programming and summer camps for girls and prevention programs in classrooms for students throughout the county. These programs have shown decreased teen birth rates, decreased use of illegal and harmful substances as well as increased confidence and the ability to keep oneself safe, said Ginger Schneck, executive director of Girls Inc.
“The Girls Inc. experience has proven results,” she said. “Our girls stand out as leaders, exhibiting strong, smart and bold skills, attitudes and capabilities to influence and improve their communities.”
One of those girls impacted by Girls Inc. is Kortney Unger Arnold, who attended the club as a young child and then served as a volunteer and staff member.
“It takes a tribe to be able to raise great, fulfilled, awesome adults,” she said. “Girls Inc. does just that.”
She went to Girls Inc. for the first time accidentally when she was just 5 years old after taking the wrong bus and ending up at the club. When her parents came to pick her up and saw how happy she was to be there, they decided to sign her up as a member.
“They saw the light on my face because I was surrounded by such a great community of people,” she said. “I spent the rest of my childhood growing up at Girls Inc.”
Through her involvement with the organization, Arnold was able to explore entrepreneurship and even traveled to New York City through Girls Inc.’s national Corporate Camp for Entrepreneurs.
“All because of Girls Inc., I learned that I wanted to build a business and I got strong enough, bold enough and smart enough to do it,” she said.
In 2018, she received a full-ride scholarship to Indiana State University to study business but then decided her passion was health care and she wanted to be a nurse, which grew into wanting to be a nurse practitioner, she said. She now runs her own nonprofit medical practice, YOLO Medical in Louisville, Kentucky.
She credits all of these achievements to the lessons she learned from Girls Inc. in how to be strong, smart and bold.
Before Olivarez received her award, Terrye Davidson, the 2020 Girls Inc. Champion, was introduced since she was unable to be recognized during a live event last year.
Olivarez said she was honored to be chosen as Girls Inc.’s Woman of the Year for 2021.
“I thank Girls Inc. and the Girls Inc. board,” she said. “When Amanda called me to get some background, she asked me if I had any female mentors whom I might want to mention.”
Olivarez said she had to think long and hard about that because there were just so many.
“There has been an entire community of women that has been so valuable to me along the way,” she said.
Her mother was one, determined that Olivarez would have a complete education.
The women at the community center in Germany where her father was stationed was another example.
“They encouraged me as a teenager and opened my eyes to the evolving and perhaps unlimited possibilities for women in a modern world,” she said. “Without doubt, Girls Inc. promotes just such an expansive vision for girls and young women in our community.”
As a student at the University of Texas and then Cornell Medical School, Olivarez had a number of female role models who taught her in the classroom.
“But more importantly, they demonstrated how to be strong and successful, how to compete in a world that often denies equal opportunities for women,” she said.
And that is why she supports the mission and purpose of Girls Inc.
“I love that Girls Inc. is a safe place for girls and young women to meet, learn and be encouraged to grow up healthy, educated and independent right here in Jackson County,” she said.
Many thanks are due to the trained staff and volunteers who serve as role models at Girls Inc. and who encourage girls to have high expectations of themselves, she added.
Olivarez and her husband, Dr. Christopher Bunce, who serves as the Jackson County public health officer, are both involved in and supporters of the community.
In 2014, Olivarez showed off her dance moves to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour and Seymour Main Street during the Dancing with the Seymour Stars event.
Dick said Olivarez “graces every room she enters, is tirelessly upbeat, dedicated to her patients and to her family.”
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving to be honored here tonight,” Dick said.
Going through the pandemic as health care workers has reminded Dick of the song “Into the Unknown” from the Disney animated movie “Frozen.”
“I just want to have everybody join me in expressing gratitude for Dr. Olivarez for every day going into the unknown for her patients and for her family,” Dick said. “So thank you for all of your support and your dedication.”
Having given so much to the community, Olivarez will be retiring this year to spend more time with her family.
“With more than a little sadness, I will be retiring,” she said. “I’m ever grateful to my community and the opportunities that have been offered to me.”
Olivarez said she is optimistic about her future in Jackson County.
“Because that future will be made better by the efforts of organizations like Girls Inc. and the dedicated people here,” she said.