MARQUETTE - The summer of 2011 and the past eight weeks have seen individuals from across the county working to improve their health through the Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge.
The most recent round of the challenge, however, has also been about encouraging two specific groups to participate - area businesses and area schools.
"Our goal was to focus on kids and families," said Jenna Zdunek, senior health and wellness leader for the YMCA of Marquette County and one of the wellness challenge organizers.
Members of the Marquette team for the Healthy Weight Journal Community Wellness Challenge sit for the educational portion of the challenge meetings before getting active for the exercise portion. This round of the community wellness challenge encouraged schools and work sites to participate in the community teams, with 14 schools and 13 work sites participating. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Although individuals were encouraged and welcomed to participate in the challenge, Zdunek said organizers made a special effort to involve groups of employees from local businesses and students from the county's schools.
At the wellness challenge weekly meetings, participants were asked to sign in, recording which workplace or school they were representing. Participating as a group from a single school or business allowed those participants to carry the motivation from the weekly meetings into their daily lives.
"It's motivation and accountability," Zdunek said. "I'll go tonight if you go. That motivation is huge. It carries it into your everyday life."
One work group participating in the current challenge is employees from the Marquette EconoFoods store. The challenge offers the employees a way to extend the store's employee wellness program outside of their work hours.
"It's in order to get us all healthy," said EconoFoods employee Karen Kuhnle. "The store is trying to get us all on the right track."
Although the store's wellness program offers everything from healthy snacks in the break room to regular meetings with a dietitian for employees who want to participate to a virtual walk to Las Vegas using pedometers, the wellness challenge gave the employees a chance to take their healthy living to their non-work life.
"This is very nice because it's not just your co-workers," Kuhnle said. "It gets me out of the house."
Kuhnle said she often works out at home using active video games, but enjoyed the community wellness challenge because it exposed her to different types of exercise.
"I've never done zumba until this class," she said of the popular Latin-dance inspired exercise class challenge participants tried during the exercise portion of the weekly meetings.
Participating worksites included EconoFoods, Marquette General Hospital, Wilder Glass Repair, the U.P. Catholic Credit Union, the Marquette Food Co-op, We Energies, Target, the Holiday Inn, Holli Forest Products, Bell Hospital, RioTinto, the city of Ishpeming and Northern Michigan University.
In addition to the worksite groups attending the meetings, the community wellness challenge also focused this round on making the meetings kid and family-friendly, encouraging families to attend together and schools to send groups of students to the meetings.
"We wanted everyone to be included," Zdunek said. "I think any children exercising with their parents is great ... We did have certain schools that really participated more than others."
In particular, Zdunek said one school had a nurse and gym teacher participate on the planning committee.
The school with the most students participating in the weekly meetings, to be announced Wednesday, will receive a new bike rack, to further encourage students to be active during the day.
Participating schools include Sandy Knoll Elementary School, the Marquette Alternative High School, Superior Hills Elementary School, Bothwell Middle School, Northstar Academy, Lakeview Elementary School, the Aspen Ridge School, Westwood High School, the Negaunee Middle School, Father Marquette Middle and Elementary schools, the Gilbert Elementary School and the Ishpeming Public Schools.
The winning school group and the community group with the highest consumption of fruits and vegetables and exercise minutes will be announced at a special community celebration closing the challenge at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Marquette-Alger RESA building at 331 E. Ohio St. in Marquette.
All participants at the closing celebration will receive a prize and healthy snacks will be provided.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.