News & Info
Sunflower Foundation hires longtime newspaper journalist Brett Riggs as new director of communications
May 12, 2022

Sunflower Foundation is pleased to announce the hiring of longtime Kansas newspaper journalist Brett Riggs as its new director of communications. He started in his new role on April 6.


Riggs joins the foundation after having spent most of his 29-year career in the newspaper industry, including 24 years covering southwest Kansas news and sports at The Garden City Telegram, where he was managing editor for 16 years. He brings extensive multimedia, social media, media relations, communications, marketing and leadership experience to Sunflower Foundation, a statewide health philanthropic organization with a mission to serve as a catalyst for improving the health of all Kansans.


“We are excited to welcome Brett to the Sunflower Foundation. His background and passion for storytelling aligns with our longtime advocacy work in elevating the voices of Kansans who are making a difference in their communities,” said Billie Hall, president and CEO of Sunflower Foundation. “Brett not only brings a strong background in media and communications, but he also brings innovation, a commitment to learning and humility. We are proud to welcome him to the Sunflower team.”


In his new role, Riggs will develop and implement the communications and marketing strategy for the foundation, including the Sunflower Nonprofit Center. He will lead the creation, coordination and implementation of communication strategies that inform and educate key audiences about the foundation’s mission, initiatives, programs and activities.


“I am excited to be part of an organization that is committed to investing in programs, projects and initiatives aimed at improving the health of Kansans and the communities in which they live,” Riggs said. “Sunflower Foundation partners with many organizations and people across the state who are doing great things in their communities, and I can’t wait to share their stories.”


Riggs grew up in Garden City, Kan., and has lived there most of his life. After a stint as a news reporter for the Blue Springs Examiner in Blue Springs, Mo., he returned to his hometown, where he started with The Garden City Telegram as a sports writer, then later became sports editor. He went on to serve as the newspaper’s assistant managing editor, before being named managing editor in 2003. In that role, he oversaw the daily news operations for The Telegram for 16 years.


After leaving the newspaper, he served as a communications advisor for Centura Health, a Colorado-based health system serving Colorado and western Kansas. In that capacity, he managed media and public relations, internal communications and social media for three hospitals – St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City, Bob Wilson Memorial Hospital in Ulysses, Kan., and St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, Colo.


While at Centura Health, Riggs helped promote health awareness campaigns on such topics as COVID-19, suicide prevention, cancer screening, diabetes, flu vaccinations, childhood immunizations, food security and wellness.


Most recently, Riggs worked in the automotive industry as marketing director for Western Motor Co., in Garden City, where he handled marketing, advertising, social media and community relations for one of southwest Kansas’ most successful and recognized auto dealerships.


Riggs, who graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, was born in Oneonta, N.Y.


He and his wife, Dawn, are in the process of relocating to Topeka. The couple has two children: a son, Evan, 27, of Lawrence; and a daughter, Sage, 18, who will be a freshman at the University of Kansas in the fall.


Riggs can be reached at 785-232-3000 ext. 113, or by emailing

Sunflower Foundation hosting Powered by Trails event April 27
April 25, 2022

Groups, state agencies with interest in trail projects to attend

TOPEKA, Kan. – All trails lead to Topeka and the Sunflower Foundation Nonprofit Center, which next week is set to host a one-day learning opportunity for trail builders and enthusiasts, as well as groups, agencies and other stakeholders from around Kansas with an interest in the development and use of public trails.


Powered by Trails: Day of Learning @ the Powerhouse, will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at the Powerhouse Education Center on the Sunflower campus, 5820 SW Sixth Ave., in Topeka. The Powerhouse, which specializes in holding events for nonprofit organizations, has been holding events since October 2021. This will be the first event hosted by Sunflower at the new center.


The event will include expert speakers, discussions, networking and the sharing of ideas related to trail projects and their benefits to the health, well-being and vitality of communities. It also serves as the culmination of a 14-week program in which trail-building groups from around the state learned advanced strategies for trail user assessment, economic impact analysis, and messaging and communications around the value of trails.


The Sunflower-led Trail Champion Cohort (TCC) program, which began in January and continued into the spring, provided participants with virtual and in-person learning opportunities, one-on-one coaching and networking with state agencies and nonprofit organizations. The TCC consisted of 16 groups from around the state representing such sectors as local government, business, health, community improvement, advocacy, and under-represented populations in their respective communities.


Since it began in 2005, the Sunflower Trails program has partnered with and invested in communities, nonprofits and schools to help build, expand, enhance or connect Kansas trails.


“Sunflower Trails has been a hallmark program for the past 17 years,” said Billie Hall, president and CEO of Sunflower Foundation. “Public trails can be a powerful strategy in providing safe, accessible venues for outdoor physical activity, as well as the ability to connect with nature and community – all elements that contribute to better health and well-being. It is very fitting that trail champions from across the state should join one of the first events at Powerhouse.”


The following groups participated in the TCC: Ad Astra Trail Collective, Independence; Columbus Trails Committee; Friends of Lawrence Area Trails; KCK Heritage Trail/Groundwork NRG, Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas


Alliance for Wetlands and Streams; Friends of the River/Friends of Land Institute, Salina; Liberal Area Coalition for Families; Lindsborg/Meadowlark Trail, McPherson County; Manhattan/Flint Hills Coalition; Osawatomie


Trails Task Force; RISE Cowley County; Topeka/Shawnee Co/Kanza Trails; Special Olympics Kansas; Thrive Allen County; Topside Trails, Goodland; and Wichita/Prairie Travelers.


The TCC, designed to expand participants’ knowledge and connections so they can better champion trails in their communities, included opportunities for participants to engage with state agencies and nonprofits that have potential to partner with trail groups.


“The primary goal of the TCC is to provide high-level training and information to benefit and grow trail-oriented projects,” said Elizabeth Burger, Sunflower senior program officer. “While building the trail is clearly the first step, there are opportunities to advance this work through assessment, analysis and messaging. Trails can provide many economic and quality of life benefits, and we want to position communities to generate and provide that data in ways that are relevant to decision-makers and residents.” 


Sunflower Foundation worked with Michele Archie and The Harbinger Consultancy, a group nationally known for its integrated approach to community and economic development, to develop the TCC curriculum. Topics included community benefits of trails and assessing their economic impact, how to survey trail users, telling your trail’s story through social media and other messaging, communicating the value of trails to external stakeholders, and how to effectively recruit volunteers.


Archie, co-chair of the National Geotourism Council, will be speaking virtually at the Powered by Trails event. Her presentation is titled “Using Trail Data to Change Bodies, Hearts and Minds.”


Other speakers and sessions include:


  • Amy Camp, founder of Cycle Forward, a consulting agency that supports trail communities across the United States and Canada, will virtually present “Cultivating a Trail Town State of Mind.”
  • Mike Goodwin, of the Kansas Trails Council and Get Outdoors Kansas, will speak about the “Trail in a Box,” a mobile toolbox with everything a group needs to create a nature trail.
  • Dustin Gale and Kayla Savage, of the Kansas Department of Commerce, will provide an overview of funding available to trail groups.
  • A resource roundtable to connect participants with various state agencies and nonprofits.
  • A session on increasing accessibility to trails to underserved populations.
  • Each TCC group will highlight ongoing trail work in their respective community.


The event is free and open to all TCC team members. Other participants and trail champions who were not part of the TCC have been invited to participate or speak at the event. Registration for the event is closed.


To date, the Sunflower Trails Program has partnered on more than 210 trail projects in almost 80 counties.


“During COVID, we have learned just how important access to the outdoors and trails could be for not only physical but mental health,” Burger said. “To this end, we strive to create a culture of trails that supports their use by everyone, regardless of age, ability, income or background.” 


For more information on the Sunflower Trails program and the Powered by Trails event, contact Burger at or 785-232-3000, or visit




Sunflower Foundation was established in 2000 as a statewide health philanthropy with a mission to serve as a catalyst for improving the health of all Kansans. The foundation believes that a thriving, sustainable nonprofit sector contributes to healthy communities, and we are committed to investing in mission-aligned nonprofits through grants, education, advocacy, collaborative learning and capacity building. To learn more, visit the Sunflower Foundation website.

New funding and learning opportunities for trails and communities in the Sunflower State
September 21, 2021

Sunflower is offering two unique opportunities for Kansas communities and trails:

The first is a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Trail Builders. This grant opportunity will provide funding to improve the health and well-being of Kansans by supporting the development of public trails. We are inviting communities of all sizes, locations, and backgrounds to apply, but priority will be given to underserved areas with no existing trails and projects with an explicit intention of increasing diversity among trail users. 

We have also extended an Invitation to Apply for the Trail Champion Cohort, which is designed for community teams ready to take the next step in enhancing the value of existing trails. Priority will be given to proposals working to diversify their trail base of users, supporters and volunteers.The cohort will take place January-April 2022; selected teams will have access to high-level expertise, technical assistance and coaching around topics such as economic impact analysis and trail user evaluation.

For more information about these opportunities, click here.

Sunflower awards more than $800,000 in COVID-19 response grants
June 22, 2020

For more information about the COVID-19 Response Grants, click the image above or visit the grants section on our website. We have a designated resource page for COVID-19 grants.


Sunflower Foundation awards $1.3 million in grants to improve health outcomes for Kansans
November 20, 2019


The Sunflower Foundation is pleased to announce that nearly $1.3 million in grants has been provided to advance the collective efforts of 46 state and local nonprofit organizations working to address the social determinants of health and improve health outcomes for Kansans.

More than 100 applications were received in response to Sunflower’s Social Determinants and Social Needs: Moving Beyond Midstream Request for Proposals earlier this year. The Sunflower Foundation was pleased with the number of community-based organizations that recognize the connection of social and environmental factors to good health.

These grants not only address the immediate needs of individuals and families such as a lack of reliable food or safe housing, they build partnerships and community awareness leading to stronger systems and more effective policies. Those funded represent a diverse network of agencies, inter-organizational partnerships and policy areas, including access to care, affordable housing, community safety, economic opportunity, educational opportunity, parks and recreation, transportation options and many other considerations.

Featured News
Kansas Grantmakers in Health award $25,000 in grants to memorialize late colleague, Steve Coen
May 5, 2022

All of us at Sunflower Foundation are honored to join our colleagues with Kansas Grantmakers in Health in announcing the awarding of $25,000 in grants to a pair of organizations that work to address food insecurity and access to healthy foods – causes important to the late Steve Coen, the former Kansas Health Foundation CEO for whom the grants memorialize.


The CEOs of the Health Forward Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation, Sunflower Foundation, United Methodist Health Ministry Fund and Wyandotte Health Foundation – all members of the KGIH network of healthcare foundations in Kansas – have announced a $15,000 grant to Common Ground Producers and Growers in Sedgwick County and a $10,000 grant to Stafford County Economic Development.


The KGIH partners are providing the grants in memory of Coen, their longtime colleague and friend, and hope the grants express gratitude and appreciation for his leadership in helping bring attention to some of the most pressing health issues facing Kansans. The grants will be made through the KGIH Opportunity Fund, which was established by the funders at the Topeka Community Foundation.


“Steve cared deeply about food security and ensuring that all Kansans had access to healthy food. He was especially concerned about underserved and rural communities that had limited or no access to grocery stores,” said Billie Hall, Sunflower Foundation CEO. “Under his leadership, the Kansas Health Foundation established the Kansas Healthy Food Initiative, a public-private partnership that has been instrumental in increasing Kansans’ access to healthy, affordable food.”


Common Ground Producers and Growers collaborates with nonprofit organizations and a network of local producers who work to provide fresh, locally grown food for distribution in underserved areas of Wichita and Sedgwick County.


Stafford County Economic Development, a nonprofit organization, was instrumental in building a new grocery store in Coen’s hometown of St. John. The public-private partnership has helped the community maintain a local grocery store and improve the resiliency of the local food system.


During his years at the Kansas Health Foundation, Coen championed programs, initiatives and public education aimed at securing state and local policy change on child health and well-being, public health infrastructure, access to healthy foods and other critical health issues. He was a longtime member of KGIH, which collaborates on public policies, grants and projects with statewide reach and shared concerns.

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