by Nora Galley, Erie-Niagara Reality Check Advocate and Mount Mercy Academy Junior

I was very motivated to make the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of high school one of the best yet.

This summer, like the past 13, I spent a week in Allegany State Park with my family. I love hiking, swimming and building campfires in the fresh air all week long. During my visit this year, I noticed many signs around the park, promoting the health of both campers and animals by banning smoking inside cabins, at the beaches, and around the historic administration building. I was very psyched to learn that one of my favorite places on earth was going tobacco free, so everyone can enjoy the fresh air.

Signs at Allegany State Park

I decided to put this passion to work outside the park as well. I became involved with the Reality Check program after photographing the signs and sharing them with my aunt, media and communication specialist at Tobacco-Free Western New York (TFWNY) at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I’m glad to be contributing to a tobacco-free Western New York to benefit the health of my family and others in the community, as well as prevent young people like me from using tobacco products and getting caught up in an addiction. 

Who knew that in one of my first events as a Reality Check advocate, I’d get to hold an Olympic gold medal? That’s right, as I walked around with my peers educating kids and parents on the benefits of smoke-free living at the Buffalo Bisons game on August 30, we ran into Olympic rower and 2016 Gold medalist Emily Regan. She was so amazed by the work we are doing and encouraged us to keep up the good work.

My Gold medal moment
My Gold medal moment
Here are Reality Check members from Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany Counties with Emily and her Gold medal


















My aunt also took a short video of me talking about Reality Check and tweeted it out from the game. It captured 342 impressions and engaged many followers. Not bad for my twitter debut.

Next success story: I won a photo contest. Each year, an organization called Counter Tobacco (a resource for organizations like TFWNY working to counteract tobacco sales that bombard our youth at retail)  hosts a photo contest. These images we capture are important because they educate the public (and our local lawmakers) on how the tobacco industry targets kids at the point of sale. Here’s the winning shot I captured at a store near my school.

Winner in Counter Tobacco's 2016 Photo Contest in the Cheap Cigarette Category. Captured by Nora Galley in South Buffalo, N.Y.
Winner in Counter Tobacco’s 2016 Photo Contest in the Cheap Cigarette Category. Captured by Nora Galley in South Buffalo, N.Y.


I can’t wait to see what kind of tobacco-free wins we’ll accomplish this year in Reality Check this year. I hope you’ll all join me in working hard to create a #tobaccofreegeneration.


Nora Galley, Reality Check advocate for Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara, is a junior at Mount Mercy Academy. She loves reading, chilling with her dog Manfred and spending time in nature. Nora hopes to continue her work in public health advocacy when she pursues college studies in library science.