January 2016




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70 Campers Register for Fit 4 You Retreat

Story By Celeste Ryan Blyden
Photos by Mark Mahan

Seventy campers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Washington, D.C., Delaware and as for away as Bermuda and the Bahamas found their way to Pine Forge, Pa., Sunday for the 32nd Annual Fit 4 You Retreat. "Congratulations on making the choice to be here," said A. Leah Scott, MPH, Allegheny East Conference Health Ministries director. "You have 200 bones and 700 muscles, and it's time to move them. That's why our theme is “'Ain't No Stoppin' us Now … We're on the Movvve!'"

Joanne West, camp director, explained that the two-week event will require will-power, perseverance and patience. "The first three days is like going to detox,” she said. “We're all making a lifestyle change—staff included—and your body will talk back to you. But hang on because in a few days you'll start seeing results and feeling better."

A. Leah Scott, MPH, Allegheny East Conference Health Ministries director

Campers are supported by a staff of more than 30 professionals who volunteer their time and talents to operate the camp. They serve as cabin counselors, check blood pressure, lead walks, teach fitness classes, give health lectures, pamper campers and serve gourmet vegan meals three times a day. Each long day of activity starts at 6 a.m. with the camp song, a challenging cardio walk and the only beverage available on campus—water!

To get campers motivated, Scott invited scientist Sherrine Brown, PhD, to open the retreat with a charge. “Health is mine, health is mine, I’m at fitness camp and it is right on time!” Brown chanted as her audience clapped along. She then encouraged attendees to take the “MOVE” part of this year’s theme literally: “M is move and change; O is overcome obstacles; V is keep in mind a vision for what you expect to get out of this experience; and E is encourage yourself and someone else,” she said enthusiastically.

Campers were then welcomed by Pottstown, Pa., Mayor Bonnie Heath, who shared that she has been a healthy lifestyle adherent for 30 years and is glad to see so many attendees. “They can ingrain habits here that will last a lifetime and yield health, fitness, vitality and happiness,” she said.

I Can Walk!

In dramatic fashion, Scott introduced Donna Riley who first attended camp last summer. Dressed in canary yellow from head to toe, Riley stood beneath a photo of her former self and recounted her amazing transformation. A year ago she could hardly walk, had fluid built up in her legs, her immune system was shutting down and her doctors didn’t expect her to live. She reluctantly attended camp at the suggestion of the Health Ministries director at her West Philadelphia church. Within two days she noticed a marked difference. “I couldn’t find the pocket of fluid anymore, and it hasn’t returned to this day,” she testified drawing applause from her rapt audience. “I can walk, even in high heels!”

Cassandra Freeman

Marvin Duncan

Sara Osi