Showcasing the Game Changers in Michiana

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2016

Have you ever met someone with a personality so contagious you couldn’t help but smile at his or her enthusiasm?

Oftentimes, these people are humble and shy when talking about themselves, but ask them about what they love and you meet a whole different person.

There is a certain sparkle in these individuals’ eyes when they talk about what they do and why they do it, not because they’re arrogant and like to brag about their accomplishments, but because they’re wholeheartedly passionate about their missions in life.

While preparing the latest issue of Michiana Life, I had the opportunity to get to know several people who fit this description.

Several months ago, we set out to create the inaugural “Game Changers edition” (our first themed issue). From cover to cover, the entire magazine features game changers in business, in the health field, in philanthropy and volunteer work and more. Every story included in the issue spotlights an innovative person, business or trend growing in Michiana.

As our newest edition distributes this week, you can read stories about a long list of these individuals, including Muffet McGraw, the Notre Dame women’s basketball coach who celebrated an inspiring 800th win recently, or Justin Maust, who launched the inaugural Lead Michiana event in 2015 and is on the path to hosting an even bigger event this May. Dowagiac’s Brian Anderson discusses his love for the region in the standing Why I Love Michiana feature and several mobile businesses talk about their road to success in the In the Biz section. Daysha Amster’s continued efforts to bring a healthy dining option to downtown Niles were featured in the In the Kitchen section.

Our main feature includes bios about 10 extraordinary game changers throughout the region.

Trish Gardini, a local softball coach, opened Dugout Dolls to train the next generation of athletes. Susan Sakara opened Kintsukuri, a beauty school in Niles that is on track to add high school students pursuing cosmetology careers. John Moultrie launched the Ship and Shore Jazz Festival in Harbor Country, and will expand to create several similar festivals in the coming weeks. Muta Mwenya planted Freedom Church (now Relevant Church) and has more than doubled his congregation in less than a year. Benjamin Anderson continues to draw young people out of the woodworks to participate in all Cassopolis has to offer, and Heather Hanson created a space for artists to collaborate and sell their work in Three Oaks.

I enjoy compiling every issue of Michiana Life as I learn the stories of great people all over the region, but this issue was even more fun than previous issues because I got to work with so many charismatic people dedicated to growing their communities.

It is because of individuals like these that every corner of Michiana — from the shores of Lake Michigan to rural Cass County, across the state line to metropolitan South Bend — continues to prosper.

These people are the epitome of Michiana Life’s purpose and mission. Showcasing efforts like these and the tremendous impact on the region is what we set out to do nearly two years ago.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to pick up a copy of the latest issue of the magazine. Find a list of pick-up locations at


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at