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John D. Johns
Honorary Chair


John D. Johns is executive chairman of Protective Life Corporation. He joined Protective in 1993 as executive vice president and chief financial officer. He became the company’s president and COO in 1996; president and CEO in 2002; in 2003, he became chairman, president and CEO, and executive chairman in 2017. Prior to joining Protective, Mr. Johns served as general counsel of Sonat, Inc., a diversified energy company. Prior to joining Sonat, Mr. Johns was a founding partner of the law firm Maynard Cooper & Gale.


Throughout his career, Mr. Johns has been actively engaged in community and philanthropic service. He has served as the chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, the McWane Science Center, the Greater Alabama Council, Boy Scouts of America, Innovation Depot, Alabama’s leading business incubator, and the Birmingham Business Alliance, the umbrella chamber of commerce organization for the greater Birmingham region. He has also served on the boards of the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. He is past chairman of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) and currently serves on its executive committee. He is a member of the Financial Services Roundtable in Washington, D.C.

 

Mr. Johns currently serves on the corporate boards of Regions Financial Corporation, Genuine Parts Corporation and Southern Company. In October 2013, Mr. Johns was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor.

 

Mr. Johns was awarded a B.A. degree from the University of Alabama in 1974. He also received a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, both in 1978.



 
Kevin Sullivan
Corporate Compliance Officer
Protective Life Corporation
Corporate Co-
Chair


Kevin Sullivan has been employed by Protective Life Corporation for the past nine years as the corporate compliance officer overseeing the corporate level compliance programs. Prior to Protective, Kevin was a senior audit director at Regions Financial Corporation for seven years and was with ALFA Insurance managing their Program Office for 15 years.

 

While in Montgomery, Kevin worked 17 years as a volunteer for the River Region United Way. From being a loaned executive to chairman of its budget and allocations committee his last three years, he was able to attain excellent community and philanthropic experience through the United Way.

 

Kevin has served on the Protective Life Foundation Advisory Council for the past seven years. He currently is the chairman of the executive board for Triumph Services, a non-profit that serves adults with disabilities and also is on the Arthritis Foundation’s local board.

 

Kevin, his wife Paige and his three children have been residing in the Birmingham area since 2003.



 
Sandi Falkenhagen
Adult Honoree 


Sandi Falkenhagen was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) following the birth of her son in 1978. She was 32 years old. Instead of taking care of the baby she prayed for, she found herself virtually helpless, requiring assistance for even the simplest tasks, including personal hygiene and feeding herself. Treatment options were limited at best, mostly steroids and anti-inflammatory medications. With a series of splints, braces, surgeries, and massive daily doses of medication, she gradually reclaimed her life to care for her family and maintain the job she loved.

 

From the day she received her RA diagnosis, the Arthritis Foundation became Sandi’s strongest ally. As a volunteer, she was on hand for the first Birmingham Jingle Bell Run, and over the years served both the local and national Arthritis Foundation offices in a variety of leadership positions. At the end of 1999, when it became obvious that RA was not going to allow her work much longer, she retired from the company she had worked for most of her adult life to join the Alabama Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation as director of public health and advocacy. It was supposed to be a part-time position, but that lasted only two or three months. She retired from the Arthritis Foundation in 2008 as chapter president, and is now happily a volunteer again, serving on the current leadership board from its inception. Thanks to critical arthritis research in development of the amazing biologic drugs, Sandi is healthier and more active now than she’s been in decades.



 
Cooper Wallace
Youth Honoree 


Cooper is now eleven years old. He was diagnosed with pauciarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when he was seven years old. He had a major inflammatory event when he was five years old. The skin on the inside of his hands and feet peeled off. He ran a fever for a month and was hospitalized for a very swollen lymph node, photophobia and an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein. It was then that he met his rheumatologist who began testing for JIA. Since then his symptoms have included knee and ankle pain with running and walking long distances. He has extreme difficulty with fine motor skills, especially writing. Something as simple as writing a list of spelling words can be very stressful and bring lots of tears and frustration.


We are very grateful for ongoing research and for medications that are effective in diminishing Cooper’s daily struggles and protecting his joints from permanent damage. He has learned to be quite tough in dealing with regular blood draws, MRI’s, IV’s, doctor visits and physical and occupational therapy. We are fortunate to have wonderful medical care at Children’s of Alabama and are grateful to have a pediatric rheumatology group in our home city.

Thanks to effective medications, most kids with JIA look healthy. However, this can cause a great deal of frustration. Teachers, coaches and peers often don't understand that kids with JIA are unable to meet expectations that are standard for healthier children. Cooper, like other kids with his disease, has tried multiple sports and activities that have left him feeling defeated. We have worked hard to help him find confidence in what he can do on his own. He finds great joy in literature, writing, swimming, legos and playing with friends. We have learned to advocate for him with teachers and to ask for accommodations, so that school has become less stressful.

Cooper’s weekly regimen includes several sessions of pool therapy, an oral DNA inhibitor and a biologic shot. Without our insurance coverage, his monthly medications would cost $4,500. He starts his school days with a hot bath to loosen his joints and medications to reduce and inhibit inflammation, and to treat the side effects of his compromised immune system. He has missed 117 days of school in the past three years due to rainy days when his pain could not be controlled or due to a residual illnesses brought on by his compromised immune system. Parents of kids with JIA require very understanding school administrators, nurses and teachers to help their kids thrive and keep up with the curriculum.

Cooper spends a lot of time at Lakeshore Foundation where he swims and does recreational therapy. He has learned that everyone has “their thing” that they struggle with on a daily basis. Some kids have very visible physical disabilities. Others have invisible, emotional or mental challenges. But, he is lucky to understand at an early age that everyone has a struggle.
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