Rappahannock County Commits to be Fit

‘Our winner lost 60.2 pounds and decreased her body mass index by 23 percent’

By Madison Stevens

Special to the Rappahannock News

By all measurements, Commit to be Fit in a short amount of time has become an essential program for the Rappahannock County community. The program not only offers free health and fitness classes to all Rappahannock residents of every age, its founding team is extremely active in both the elementary and high schools in promoting educated and healthy lifestyle choices.

The unique program, which has been in existence barely a year, is school-sponsored and grant-funded. Indeed, an impressive one-year $250,000 grant was awarded to Commit to be Fit by the Warrenton-based nonprofit grantmaking organization PATH Foundation, with more support in the pipeline.

Classes are held at the high school and elementary school, allowing easy access to weekly workshops and exercise. Incredibly, when the program began, the organizers had a goal of creating just eight classes, workshops and events. They couldn’t help but to laugh when they topped the 340 mark.

But the program’s beneficial impacts are best reflected through the participants.

“Our combined totals from the 2016-2017 6-Month Challenge was 333.8 pounds lost and 522.45 inches lost,” says Community Wellness Integration Specialist Holly Jenkins. “Our winner lost a total of 60.2 pounds, and lost 6.5 inches in chest measurements, 10 inches in waist measurements, and 8 inches in her hip measurements. The winner also decreased her body mass index [BMI] by 23 percent.”

Commit to be Fit’s success thus far would not be possible without the contributions of Jenkins, Amanda Grove (Nutritionist/Director of School Nutrition), Jackie Tederick (Wellness Integration Coordinator), Jacqui Lowe-Barton (Wellness Integration Specialist), Shannon Grimsley (Superintendent/C2BF Grant Writer and Researcher), and Stacey Whitt (Chief Financial Writer).

Grimsley says the idea for Commit to be Fit materialized two years ago, as a way to take on the challenge of wellness, health and nutrition in schools. But there wasn’t much money for everything the organizers sought to accomplish.

“We wanted to make it fun,” she points out, “and take on school food, classroom movement in regular school day classrooms, and also engage the community in fitness and tackle a community issue.”

Grove and Whitt play a major role in not only involving the students, but educating them about making healthy lifestyle and food choices. The ladies work with nutrition demos and food samples distributed in the cafeteria. Grove also works with nearby Waterpenny Farm to obtain fresh produce, which provides delicious menu options — like hummus — for kids to try.

“All of the students were given surveys to see what produce they liked the most and this got them excited about eating locally because they were all very involved,” Grove points out.

Lowe-Barton works with students in the classrooms, including helping them understand how important it is to accomplish at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. She is a licensed teacher focused on fitness, including exercise movements in the classrooms during the school day.

Tederick’s connection to the school system was vital for the growth of the program. She spent 18 years teaching health and nutrition to high school students and is also a certified health coach and personal trainer. With her experience, she was able to get the high schoolers excited and involved in the program.

Jenkins, meanwhile, is a certified health coach and personal trainer. Her passion motivated her to start a one-on-one business teaching clients to be healthier and helping them through their weight-loss journey.

It was Jenkins and Grimsley who concentrated on reaching out to the community — not to mention brainstorming on how to raise the money to launch Commit to be Fit, which was no simple feat. In the end, Grimsley managed to pull everything together and after conducting a fair amount of research was able to write a proposal and secure the impressive $250,000 dollar first-year grant from the PATH Foundation.

Grimsley says the entire team of ladies could not be more thankful for the generous donation from PATH, as well as myriad contributions of the community.

But it was the number of community and staff members who became involved in Commit to be Fit, as well as their unexpected dedication to the classes and health plans, that surprised the organizational team more than anything else.

The plans for the future are to grow, and then some. The program has new classes lined up such as MMA (mixed martial arts) cardio and group-strength training. The team has also been working with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, reaching out to senior citizens, and coaching the girls empowerment program “Girls on the Gun” team.

While growth is very important, the main focus for the team is to set a good example for the community — and act as a model to inspire other schools to replicate. Based on the results of the Rappahannock Commit to be Fit, reaching that goal can’t be too far off.

Visit www.rappc2bf.com to start your journey.

— Madison Stevens, a senior at Rappahannock County High School, is an intern with the Rappahannock News.

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