Staff o’ Mike


I’m Leslie Boyd. I was Mike’s mom. His life brought me incredible joy, and his death leaves a hole in my heart that will never heal.

I promised Mike before he died that his death would bring about something positive, so I am trying to collect the stories of people who have lost loved ones because they didn’t have insurance and couldn’t get the treatment they needed.

That number is 45,000 a year and doesn’t include the people who die because one in five insurance claims in this country is denied by the insurance companies. The sad thing is that every one of those people meant as much to someone as Mike meant to me and all the other people in his life.

I was a veteran newspaper reporter when I decided to leave and do this advocacy full-time. I covered social justice issues for more than 25 years. I wrote about the issue of health insurance since 1992, when there were only 16 million people who didn’t have health insurance.

Today more than 50 million people don’t have health insurance. Millions more have coverage that leaves them thousands of dollars in debt every time they have any illness that requires hospitalization or surgery.

I want to put faces on these statistics.


I’m Janet Danforth, designer and webmaster for Life o’ Mike. My design shows different aspects of Mike. The plaid is for the flannel pajama pants he wore most of his last few years. Blues and greens were two of his favorite colors. He enjoyed working on black and white photos in the darkroom when he took a college photography class.

Mike and I were married for nearly seven years. Even though we were divorced, we were still very close. After all, I was his favorite ex-wife. I spent his last few weeks at his bedside helping Leslie take care of him. It’s still difficult for me to realize that he’s really gone. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and be halfway to the phone to call him before I remember.

To be as young as we were, and facing the possibility of your imminent death on top of college and money struggles is just too much for most people to deal with. When you’re a full-time student just trying to make enough money to pay your rent, expensive medical procedures just aren’t a priority. I wouldn’t wish what Mike went through on my greatest enemy.

That’s why I’m helping Leslie create this site: so no one else has to go through what we did.


  1. Posted by George Frady | September 11, 2009, 11:32 am

    Mrs Boyd
    I seen your story on the news last night and was very moved. I know what Mike went through. Im trying to get help for a couple major medical issues and every where I turn I hit a dead end. I’ve filed for SSI and Medicade but I keep getting turned down. I guess they will approve me once Im passed on to be with the Lord. If I can help you in any way let me know.. I would love to do something to help keep Mikes memory alive here in the mountains..


  2. Posted by leslie | September 11, 2009, 11:36 am

    George, if you live here in Buncombe County, please go to one of the free clinics and see if they can get you help through Project Access. If you’d like, you can e-mail me at and I’ll see if I can help you get some care.

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Visit our new web site

It's official! We are WNC Health Advocates.
Please visit our new web site, Visit WNC Health Advocates
The new name reflects what we do -- advocate for health care for everyone and help people access and navigate our current health care system.
While we still hold onto the memory and the generous spirit of Mike Danforth, we need people to be able to see our name and understand who we are.

Help Life o’ Mike

We need your help now more than ever. Your tax-deductible donation will help us get Patient Pals and Family Friends to more people in need of peer support. Please consider a gift in honor or in memory of a loved one.
Donate here or mail your donation to Life o' Mike, PO Box 1213, Asheville, NC 28802.

Patient Pals & Family Friends

Life o' Mike has a peer support program for people with one or more serious or chronic medical issues or disabilities.

We aim to reduce isolation and fear among people who have conditions, including psychiatric illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, mild dementia or other cognitive disorder or disability, thereby reducing depression and complications as people learn to improve self-management of their medical conditions.

Patient Pals help alleviate feelings of isolation and frustration. They can help people develop a list of questions to ask the doctor and then accompany the person to the doctor to make sure all the questions are answered, taking notes to be sure the person understands the doctor’s answers.

Our trained volunteers also accompany their “Pals” to art exhibits, movies and walks outdoors, meet for coffee, call to check in and more.

Our Pals have experienced weight loss, improvement in diabetes, HIV, psoriasis, depression and more, just because they have someone who cares about them. Some relationships develop into longer-term friendships; other Pals move on to more independent lives.

Family Friends are there to help caregivers and other family members grow into their new role.

We need volunteers, who are asked to donate a minimum of one hour a week. Training is free and includes information on active listening, ways to help and when to know more help is needed.

And of course, we need funding.

To learn more, call Leslie Boyd at 828-243-6712 or e-mail

Life o’ Mike honors Joe Eblen

Life o' Mike presented its first Michael T. Danforth Community Service Award to Joe Eblen at a luncheon on June 8, in the Friendship Hall of First Congregational Church, 20 Oak St., Asheville.
Joe, seen here with Leslie Boyd, left, and his wife, Bobbie, has spent his life helping children and families, both as a coach and game official for more than 60 years, and as founder of Eblen Charities.

Start From Seed

Life o' Mike has a new program- Start from Seed (SFS).
SFS is a volunteer doula program aimed at providing non-medical, comprehensive support to low income, high-risk women and families of Buncombe County focusing on three areas:

1. We help new doulas with certification and training in return for their participation as a volunteer doula for SFS

2. We mentor volunteer doulas with their first few clients

3. Our volunteer doulas provide birth and postpartum doula services to low income, high risk moms, providing support and tools to empower them as a new parent.

A birth doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; a postpartum doula provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Start from Seed clients are referred to us from the Buncombe County Department of Health’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program, Western North Carolina Community Health Services, and Mission Hospital. The Program is intended and designed for growing clients’ inner strength and helping them gain empowerment to help them cope with the emotional, physical and mental challenges of childbirth, labor, and motherhood.

Our new moms and their infants have many needs. If you would like to help them get off to a good start, please visit our Start from Seed web site: Start from Seed, or call Program Director Chelsea Kouns at 804-814-9946.

Events in the community

Free birth and labor classes

Peaceful Beginning Doula Services holds free birth forums, Peaceful Birth, 6:30-8 p.m. the last Thursday of every month (except November) at Spa Materna, 640 Merrimon Ave., above The Hop, in Asheville.
All are welcome, expectant women and their partners are encouraged to attend anytime during their pregnancy. We also encourage doulas and other maternal/child professionals to attend and share in the discussions. The forums are "birth circle" style, focusing on normal birth which follows the Lamaze Six Care Practices for Healthy Birth. The forums are led by certified and experienced educators.

NAMI Family-to-Family Class

NAMI of Western Carolina holds 12-week classes for families and caregivers of individuals with a severe mental illness 6-8:30 p.m. Mondays at Charles George VA Medical Center, 1100 Tunnel Road in Asheville. The course covers major mental illnesses and self-care. Registration required. Info at 828-299-9596 or

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