If you grew up in Selah, you are undoubtedly familiar with Howard’s Drug. This local pharmacy was established in 1959, and was the first place that Aleah Mickelson’s father, David Thome, worked after finishing pharmacy school. In 1999, David purchased Howard’s Drug and has owned and run it since.

“By 2004, with the rise of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the consolidation of nationwide pharmacy chains such as Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS, independent pharmacies were struggling to stay afloat,” Aleah said. “Looking to diversify his revenue stream, my father decided to expand into durable medical equipment (DME).”

This is where Aleah and her husband, Erik Mickelson, made their entrance into the business. After a few years living outside of the state while Erik was finishing his master’s degree, they decided to make the move back to Yakima with their baby daughter, Kara, in tow.

“Erik launched Howard’s Medical Supply in a tiny corner of the pharmacy, offering home medical equipment like walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds, lift chairs and diabetic shoes,” Aleah said.

After a steep learning curve their first year, and tough competition from other local businesses, Aleah and Erik found their niche within their industry.

Since 2004, from that tiny corner of the Selah Howard’s, there are now five locations across Central Washington (Yakima, Selah, Ellensburg, Sunnyside and Richland). Taking care of the community one person, one patient at a time, and giving them the tools and services they need to live the best lives they possibly can — that’s this family’s goal. And it’s a goal they achieve every single day, the owners say.

“Erik and I have a heart for the Yakima community and see Howard’s Medical as a way to invest in and serve our community,” Aleah said. “People have a deep need for connection, and the products and services we provide help to give our customers the tools to remain active and mobile at home, at work and beyond.”

To this day, Howard’s Drug and Howard’s Medical Supply are very much a family-run and -owned business.

“My dad still can be found behind the counter at Howard’s Drug six days a week,” Aleah said. “My brother and his wife are both pharmacists and plan to eventually take over the pharmacy side of the business. Erik is CEO of Howard’s Medical Supply, and I oversee the rehab department and help with marketing. Three of our kids also work for the medical supply and pharmacy during the summer.”

Sun City HarriersIn middle school, Aleah discovered her passion for running. “I started running track as a sixth-grader and found immediate success as a sprinter and long jumper,” Aleah said. “I enjoyed winning races but I also loved how running made me feel — strong, powerful and confident.”

As she got older, Aleah moved into longer distances, joining the cross country and track teams at Eisenhower High School. After impressive accomplishments throughout her high school career, Aleah went to the University of Portland on an academic and athletic scholarship. But after a rough first year, she transferred to the University of Washington.

“Initially, I wasn’t planning to run for UW, but when the coach reached out to me, I decided to give college running another go,” Aleah said. “I’m really glad I joined the team because I met my future husband, Erik, on the UW team.”

Since Erik and Aleah had both run in youth cross country programs, they wanted their own kids to be involved in these sports at a young age as well.

“We were shocked to discover there weren’t any (USA Track and Field) club teams in existence in Yakima,” Aleah said.

So, in the spirit of entrepreneurship, they decided to start their own.

Sun City Harriers was established in 2013 — and in that first season, they recruited more than 60 kids ages 5-14.

“We designed a program with a primary focus of having fun, but also on learning proper technique,” Aleah said. “In our own experience of youth running, we had seen too many stars flame out or grow to resent the sport by the time they reached high school. Erik and I decided we’d rather err on the side of having under-trained but healthy, motivated athletes.”

Sun City Harriers just finished its 10th season, and over that decade, the club has qualified well over 100 runners to compete at the USATF national championship. Next year, five former Sun City athletes will compete as Division I NCAA athletes.

“But more importantly,” Aleah said, “we’ve handed out tens of thousands of popsicles at the end of each practice to tired, happy faces.”

This is what seems to set Aleah and Erik apart as coaches — their ability to inspire and coach youths in a positive, fun-filled environment.

Family always firstAlong with the medical supply company and Sun City Harriers, Erik and Aleah have four children: Kara, 19, a freshman at the University of Arizona; Mary, 17, and Katherine, 15, both at Eisenhower High School; and Nils, 11, in fifth grade at St. John’s Orthodox school.

“I love the flexibility of running a business,” Aleah said. “It allows me to be there for those important moments in my children’s lives like track meets, swim meets and field trips. The downside is that the work still needs to get done and it’s on me to ensure things get done. Sometimes that means I’m on my laptop at 8:30 on Friday night getting work done. Or getting up at 4:30 a.m. to squeeze in a run. It’s about choosing my priorities and making necessary trade-offs.”

But as with many of us who juggle work, family and all of the other goodies in between, Aleah comes back to one of her first passions to give her mind and body the break and strength she needs to be successful in every aspect of her life.

“I still love to run,” she said. “I’ve run 10 or so marathons in my adult life and enjoy the challenge of pushing through the wall — but as fun as competition is, it’s not where my main focus is. Some of my closest, most dear friendships have been forged on the trails and roads — early in the morning or in the middle of the day in between the juggle of work life and mom life. This time helps me to find my center, and it’s time that I will forever be grateful for.”

The Mickelsons are proving that through our passions, we can make a difference in our communities and in the lives of our youths. We can do it all while also raising strong, respectful, adventurous children of our own.

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