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You have a healthy idea that you want to put into action, just like WebMD’s Health Heroes do. Be ready to use your heart and your head.

The experts we asked for advice put passion and planning at the top of their lists. Find something you want to do, then figure out how to do it.

“If you have already figured out what you’re passionate about, you are halfway there,” says Laura Turner Seydel, who chairs the Atlanta-based Captain Planet Foundation, which funds green projects in schools.

Seydel knows what she’s talking about. She runs the Captain Planet Foundation, which her famous father Ted Turner founded along with producer Barbara Pyle. She also helped start Mothers and Others for Clean Air and is a trustee of the Turner Foundation, which makes grants to green groups.

Decide What You Want to Do

“It has to be something you couldn’t live without doing,” says Tiffany Denyer, a 2010 Health Hero who trains service dogs. “It has to be a calling.

“Figure out whether it’s time, talent or treasure you can contribute,” Seydel says. She believes working as a volunteer with a group is a great way to learn -- and give back -- while planning your own project.

Take the Leap

Katherine Stone, a 2008 Health Hero who started the blog, knew there was a real need for news about postpartum depression.

“It’s easy to wait around. I waited two years after recovery, when I got better from my illness,” she says. “I kept thinking, ‘Who am I to do this?’ Don’t bother asking that. You are you. You will learn more along the way. If you see a need out there, you can do something.”

Know Your Strengths

Richard Siravo, a 2012 Health Hero, says your project should be something that uses your passion and your skills. Siravo started The Matty Fund with his wife, Debra. It honors  their son, Matty who had epilepsy and died from a seizure.  Some people want to be the public face of a cause, he says. Others want to work behind the scenes.

Make Time to Plan

Manny Hernandez, a 2013 Health Hero, works on behalf of people with diabetes. He says you need some planning to go along with your passion. 

“Start by focusing,” he says. “Be very specific about what you want to accomplish. Look at what others are doing.” Think about asking other groups with similar goals for advice or even working with them.

“Establishing a nonprofit brings a lot of responsibility,” he says. “You should be aware that it may grow and demand more time and energy.”

If you’re raising funds, Hernandez says, you’ll need a lot of sources to draw from instead of just one or two. In other words, don't put all your eggs in one basket. You'll need a wide base of support to help if there's a downturn in the economy and to compete against other groups.

People's Choice Finalists

Voting for the WebMD's 2014 People's Choice Health Hero is now closed. The winner – chosen from among these 10 celebrity health activists – will be announced here Nov. 6, and in the November/December issue of WebMD Magazine.

September 2014


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