OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The 20th annual Champions of Health Gala highlighted people and organizations that have made a positive impact on health in the state of Oklahoma.

Keynote speaker and Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin spoke about his horrific injury that almost took his life on the football field, and how he has battled to get back on the field with his teammates.

“I kind of got that feeling certainly once again, running through that tunnel on Sunday,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin described the sensation and the love for the game coming back to him after returning to the field Sunday, following an injury that almost took his life at the end of last season.

He suffered cardiac arrest and had to receive life-saving treatment immediately on the field. Nine months later and Hamlin is back playing the game he loves.

“It was just a joy, the energy, just trying to do my part and help in any way,” Hamlin said. “And I am glad we got the win.”

The event highlighted five organizations that provide a helping hand, often saving lives in their own way.

“We have nine caring vans that travel the state, providing preventive health services to children in marginalized communities, primarily immunizations, and we’ve been operating since 1999,” Brooke Townsend, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Caring Foundation, said.

Hamlin has been pushing his own initiatives on health like trying to get more people CPR certified, calling his injury a wake up call for more people to learn life saving efforts.

“My story is still being written,” Hamlin said. “It’s just a part of that journey, you know, that situation. It necessarily doesn’t define me. I’m blessed to still be here and still be able to leave a lasting impact through this situation.”

The 2023 Champions of Health are:

·       Rodney L. Huey Memorial Champion of Oklahoma Health: Neighborhood Services Organization

·       Champion of Children’s Health: Tulsa Public Schools

·       Champion of Senior Health: Calm Waters Center for Children and Families

·       Champion of the Uninsured: GRAND Mental Health

·       Champion of Community Health: Tulsa CARES

·       Heart of a Champion: Dae’Mar Nealy, Union High School