Westerville Senior Olympics Moving Full Speed Ahead

In his third year planning the Ohio Senior Games, Westerville Senior Center Program Supervisor Chris Shirring says, “It is all the stories, moments and encounters that make this event truly special for so many spectators, participants and myself.”

And successful. For the first time this summer, the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department is hosting the Ohio Senior Olympics State Games for the entire state of Ohio. This will nearly triple the attendance in years past bringing in an estimated 600 athletes.

The Ohio Senior Olympics State Games give adults ages 50 “or better” the opportunity to compete in a variety of athletic and artistic events during a three-week period starting Saturday, June 6.

“There is something for everyone,” says Shirring. “If you like a little friendly rivalry, the Games give you a chance to get on the track or stage again and even try something new.”

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John Sherman Receiving an Award from Chris Shirring in 2014 Central Ohio Senior Games

That’s a driving force behind 84-year-old John Sherman’s consistent participation in the Senior Games.

“I was quickly drawn to the sense of community that comes from the tournament. I’ve been participating in the Senior Games on and off since 1990, depending on whether it was available. Every time, I’ve had a lot of fun playing and visiting with old and new friends,” said Sherman.

Sherman has tried his hand at nearly every sport over the years, from track and field to cycling and volleyball. His strongest sports have always been table tennis and pickleball.

“I like the paddle games where I can smack the ball,” he says laughing. “I thrive on the competition; it makes me better.”

In 1999, with his family there supporting him, Sherman took home the gold medal in table tennis at the National Senior Games in Orlando, Florida.

“I don’t have to win to enjoy the games. Don’t get me wrong, winning does help, but my family is a powerful motivator too.”

And that’s apparent as Sherman’s face lights up talking about his loved ones.

“I have four wonderful children and a wife who I’ve been married to for more than 50 years. I want to spend as much quality time with them as I can. I’ve had some heart issues in past, but for the most part, I’m pretty healthy,” he said.

DSCF5167  brightenedThe veteran athlete attributes his good bill of health to his training regimen and discipline as a former Columbus firefighter.

“My Fire Chief wanted his unit to be in good shape. We had to do a half hour workout each day, and that led me to feel better and in turn exercise more. When I retired, I wanted to stay strong and fit. I still aim to do 75 minutes of physical activity three times a week.”

As Sherman prepares for the 2015 Senior Games, so is one of this year’s oldest competitors, 93-year-old Virginia Sterkel. She is getting ready for several matches with the help of her grandson and trainer, Ryan Jaroncyk.

“When Grandma turned 90, I knew she needed a change, something to get her moving,” said Jaroncyk. “I did a Google search and found the Senior Games. She can be stubborn, but she trusts me. I asked if she was willing to give it a go and to my surprise she said let’s try it.”

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Virgina Sterkel with her grandson Ryan Jaroncyk at the 2014 Central Ohio Senior Games

Since then, Virginia not only won the gold in corn hole, but the hearts of many fans. Last year, family and friends from her retirement village came out in “Team Sterkel” T-shirts to root her on.

“It take guts to compete. My grandma is a realistic representation of people that age. She is making the conscious decision to still to be active whether she is feeling up to it or not,” said Jaroncyk.

The time they have spent training together has not only strengthened Sterkel, but their relationship as well.

“It’s alright when he is nice. But he knows to be nice,” jokes Sterkel. “He is a good teacher, I don’t like to lose and can get pretty competitive during the Games.”

Jaroncyk says it’s another way to bond and make memories. “She is naturally a very active person. During the Games, she is really happy and gets a thrill out of beating younger folks. That tenacity has moved others we know to sign up for the senior games. And I’ll be entering as soon as I turn 50.”

Both Sterkel and Sherman are grateful to have the Senior Games held so close to home in Westerville the past few years. It’s the kind of feedback Westerville Senior Games organizer Shirring loves to hear.

“It been exciting to see how the Games have grown in Westerville in such a short time. We coordinate 24 events over the course of 20 days. Those contests are further separated by age range and gender into heats. And Westerville is the only location in Ohio to offer an arts portion, including numerous categories from pottery to dance,” said Shirring.

TT & F 2014 (45)he Games in Westerville have a bright future ahead. In 2016, the Westerville site will act as the state qualifier for the National Senior Games drawing more than 1,400 players to the area.

“It is a powerful opportunity to show off our facilities and the City to people that aren’t from here. And at the end of the day, it is worth all the planning when you see the smiles, inspiring performances and overall positive attitudes that surround the games each year, ” says Shirring.

The Ohio Senior Olympics State Games Opening Ceremony is set for June 6 at 12 p.m. 1972 Swimming Olympic Gold Medalist Jennifer Kemp will be kicking off the festivities. Those interested in competing can register until May 22. The public is also invited to come watch the free events throughout the month .

For registration details and general information about the Games presented by Senior Star at Dublin Retirement Village and Dublin Living and Memory Support, visit www.westerville.org/seniorgames.

Healthy Active Lifestyle

Employee Wellness Scores Big with Healthiest Employer Nomination

What is your definition of a healthy lifestyle?

You don’t have to be bodybuilder or a vegetarian to make choices each day that promote a healthy active lifestyle, says City of Westerville Wellness Committee Chair Mike Herron.

“Health is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone is at a different level,” said Herron. “For one person the decision to quit smoking or taking a 30-minute walk everyday could be a huge step in their journey toward better health.”

Herron is also Fitness Manager for the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department. He explained these types of healthy actions are just what the City of Westerville hopes to promote not only to residents, but employees as well.

“We provide numerous opportunities for the public to take advantage of Parks and Recreation facilities, parks and wellness programs. It is vital this focus is carried throughout the entire organization, starting with our own City employees.”

In 2012, the City assembled a Wellness Committee comprised of a representative from each of the 10 departments. Their mission: to develop stronger internal health initiatives centered on physical, mental, financial, medical and occupational wellness.

“Once a year, we do free health screenings for employees. These collective test results, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helped us understand we needed to better engage our employees in more preventative opportunities,” said Ann Lund, City of Westerville Human Resources Manager.

2014 City of Westerville Employee Health Fair

2014 City of Westerville Employee Health Fair

Through the work of the committee, workshops ranging from cancer prevention to office ergonomics and even financial planning are exposing employees to well-rounded approaches to wellness.

“Health is not just about being fit or eating right,” said Herron. “We strive to provide resources on a variety of health topics. For example, if you are stressed about your finances then that stress carries with you to work and continues to weigh on your overall state.”

Beyond frequent wellness workshops, the City organizes a fitness class for employees at the Community Center and the Electric Division.

“About a year and a half ago, we started doing high-intensity training in the electric building twice a week, and I have tried to make every class possible since,” said Dan Amato, Engineering Technician.

During that time period, Amato has seen measurable improvement in his overall health by cleaning up his diet in addition to exercising with coworkers.

“For the first time that I can remember, my cholesterol and BMI are within the good range and I have lost 14 pounds,” he said.

The positive changes Amato has experienced are more than numbers on a chart.

“These classes set the pace for my day and wake me up. I have more energy to power through that afternoon slump; and I am sleeping more soundly. Overall, I am more focused and am maintaining higher quality work. I feel great and people notice it,” he said.

Amato isn’t the only one seeing results from the wellness initiatives. The effects of his transformation have inspired others around him.

“One of my coworkers is consistently working out at these classes with me. He is trying to bring down his high blood pressure and slowly but surely he is making progress,” said Amato. “And my daughter is now living and breathing fitness too.”

This snowball effect is just what the City was striving for.

“We value our employee’s health and happiness, so it is important that we invest in them now. It benefits the employee, their families and the City to have a better quality of life, be able to get off unnecessary medications, be more productive and even take less sick days,” said Lund.

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2015 Winter Olympics Hockey Skills Shootout

The City aims to keep wellness activities mostly fun and games. For three years, the City of Westerville has hosted Summer and Winter Olympic Games among the departments, who are organized and grouped into “Nations.”

“We have different competitions throughout the week that promote team building and appeal to people of all fitness levels. This winter, our challenges included a hockey skills shootout, HORSE basketball and an aquatic obstacle course to name a few,” says Herron.

The Winter Games just wrapped up and “Nation Electric, Water & Service” took home the traveling trophy this time.

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Nation Electric, Water & Service Win 2015 Employee Winter Olympics

“Every time I participate in the Olympics, it cultivates a really good sense of comradery with coworkers. We laugh, joke around, cheer each other on and even get some exercise. How many work environments truly try to build up their employees like this?” said Electric Utility Finance Manager Chris Monacelli.

All these wellness efforts are now being recognized. The City of Westerville was recently nominated by Columbus Business First as one of the 2015 Healthiest Employers of Central Ohio for the first time. The honor was officially announced at the Healthiest Employers Awards Program and Wellness Expo on Tuesday, March 10 at COSI.

“We know that our efforts have been making a difference in the lives of our employees, but it is wonderful to get that validation from an outside party that we are on the right track in comparison to other businesses and municipalities in the region. We’re very excited to see how our wellness initiatives will continue to positively impact Westerville,” said Lund.


Healthy Active Lifestyle Uncategorized

Let’s Roll

It is described by many as a historic sport for modern times. But the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department sees log rolling as a competitive way to have a lot of fun too. This spring, the department is offering a new course on log rolling.

You may be asking: “What in the world is log rolling?” 

Log rolling has a history that dates back more than 100 years. As America was growing, the need for lumber grew as well. Lumberjacks transported logs down local waterways and frequently jumped from log to log on the rivers to keep wood moving downstream. The challenge and skill developed from rolling logs quickly turned into a sport outside the work day.

The popular sport in Wisconsin and Minnesota has transformed in recent years to become more accessible and user-friendly. At one point, 500-pound cedar logs were smoothed out and carpeted to be gentler on feet. However, this didn’t solve the issue of transporting a very heavy log. A synthetic log was later developed by the company, Key Log Rolling. This new type of log weighs only 65 pounds before it is put into water, making it much more mobile.

With the addition of a key log, the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department is one of the first to offer log-rolling courses in central Ohio. 

The man behind this new class is Parks and Recreation Program Supervisor Darcy Baxter. 

“We’re always looking to bring new adventure programs to the Community Center,” said Baxter. “I was at the Ohio State Fair last year, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had this cool log-rolling exhibit. I had never seen the sport in person before, and a light bulb went off…our camp kids would love this.” 

And so far the Parks and Recreation employees training on the log are loving it as well. 

“You might be a little nervous the first time you get on the log, but you have to be able to laugh at yourself,” said Parks and Recreation Facilities Supervisor J.R. Fourqurean. “I fell off within two seconds of jumping on the first time. Now that we are all getting better, we are battling it out on our lunch breaks to see who is the best lumberjack. It really brings out the competitor in you in the best way possible.” 

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Beyond the fun factor, log rolling proves to be a well-rounded workout, improving balance, coordination, endurance and foot speed. 

“Since you are having a good time, the physical fitness aspect of log rolling sneaks up; and you end up getting a really good workout. Your legs are constantly moving while your core is stabilizing the rest of your body,” explained Baxter. 

Log rolling also strengthens mental focus and concentration. 

“You might think you just jump on the log and go. But, just like any other sport, log rolling takes specific techniques and strategies to be successful,” said Baxter. “For example, unlike a balance beam, you don’t look down at your feet and instead focus on the opposite end of the log. 

The four-week course starting April 12 is intended to teach beginners the basics, including safety, stance, timed trials and even some matches to try to knock other class participants off the log. To make it easier to learn, the log comes with different “training wheels,” which slow the log down so anyone can give it a spin.

Earlier this winter, ABC-6 Good Day Columbus Meteorologist Dana Turtle escaped the cold and tested his log-rolling skills at the Westerville Community Center pool. Check out his experience in this video.

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The log roll will be utilized at camps, community events and Highlands Parks Aquatic Center in the future. You’ll even get the chance to see the log roll in action at Party at the Creek on May 28.

For more information on log-rolling classes or to register beginning March 6, click here.



Healthy Active Lifestyle

One Step at a Time

It is that time of year again. The time when you promise yourself you will get back on the wagon: start eating right, exercising more and refocus your priorities.

But what keeps you from breaking those resolutions? So many people start the new year strong, then fade out of a good routine.

This vicious cycle was one with which Westerville resident Bill Streetman was more than familiar. In 2010, he weighed 404 pounds.

106a[1]“I was at the end of my rope,” said Bill. “I felt like I had tried everything to lose weight. I couldn’t ride a bike anymore, sit comfortably on an airplane or in a booth at a restaurant, so I would make up excuses of why I couldn’t do something all because of my size.”

While temporarily living in Michigan, Bill elected to have gastric bypass surgery.

“I was working as a project manager, and the project I failed at was myself. Something drastic had to change; and I decided surgery was the best tool for me to do that,” he said.

From the start, Bill approached his weight loss journey methodically. Exactly one year after gastric bypass surgery in October 2011, Bill was half his size, down to 202 pounds.

DSCF9148 edited for blog“Before I even underwent surgery, I made a pre-surgery and a post-surgery diet and exercise plan. It didn’t go perfectly, but I learned that I had to be honest with myself and take control of my daily routine.”

And that first year was not without many more transitions.

“It was more than diet and exercise. From your relationships with family and friends to work, you can’t lose that much weight and not have it affect every part of your life,” said Bill.

A little more than a year after the operation, he sold his business in Michigan and moved back to Westerville.

“I couldn’t work 120 hours a week anymore. I had to make myself a priority in order to serve my family and community. I loved Westerville and wanted to come back home.”

Once settling back into the area, Bill knew his next step was to get plugged back in at the  Westerville Community Center.

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“I just had to start. I signed up for aerobics classes and ended up sitting through half the work out in the beginning. But it was a snowball effect. Once you get moving, you gain more endurance and confidence, and before you know it you are taking classes several times a week.”

The friendship, accountability and flexibility that come from group fitness classes have kept Bill motivated.

“It is one thing to lose the weight, but it is another thing to maintain. This is not your typical gym, there are so many options to keep your workouts fresh. The people who go to the Community Center are fantastic and encouraging. And no one is there to judge, we want to see each other be successful.”

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And Bill took to one fitness instructor in particular.

“You know a great instructor when you work very hard in a class but it doesn’t seem like it. That is Lynn Aventino. She is an inspiration to me. She wants to help you get stronger and healthier while having fun,” he said.

Lynn, a Group Fitness Instructor at the Westerville Community Center, reciprocates the admiration.

“When I see someone like Bill and how far he has come over the last few years, it makes me want to be better,” she said.  “Bill gets it. He knows how difficult it is to start a new routine and he will go out of his way to make new people feel welcome and break the ice.”

Bill loves sharing his story, and even created a website to write about his weight loss experience.

DSCF9067 edited for blog“It is not only a good form of therapy for me, but I want to be able to support others as well. It is important to know you aren’t alone during this process,” said Bill.

His positive attitude caught the eye of WebMD Magazine. In their January/February issue, Bill’s story will reach more than eight million readers in doctors’ offices across the nation and online.

Now what will your story be? No matter the time of year, your fitness level, shape or size, Bill would say, “What are you waiting for?”


For more information on group fitness classes and passes at the Westerville Community Center, click here.

Healthy Active Lifestyle

Energize the Holiday Season

The Holidays: shopping, parties, cleaning, baking, decorating…the list goes on. You may feel run down or left with little time to devote to yourself this time of year. Megan Arnold, Westerville Parks and Recreation’s Fitness and Wellness Program Supervisor, is here with a quick workout and a few other tips to help keep you going strong and healthy the next couple of weeks.

Megan recommends a 30-minute format of High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) workout that’s easy to squeeze in before work or before the kids wake up and life takes over. With interval training, you focus on bursts (or periods) of intense work followed by complete rest or active recovery exercise. This kind of routine will give you a metabolism-boosting, energy-expending workout that will help burn off those Christmas cookies.

All exercises should be modified to your ability level, taking into account your fitness level, the time you have to exercise and personal goals. The workout below requires no extra equipment – just you, some space and some effort.

(The exercise provided in this article is for educational purposes only. Exercise is not without risk and if performed incorrectly this or any exercise program many result in injury. To reduce the risk of injury, before beginning this or any exercise program, consult your physician. As with any exercise program, if you feel faint, dizzy, or experience chest pain or chest discomfort STOP immediately and contact your physician. The City of Westerville assumes no responsibility for accidents or injury to persons or property that result in connection with this exercise program.)

If you are new to exercise, Megan recommends lower impact exercises (keeping one foot in contact with the floor at all times to better protect the lower back and joints.) Lower impact and intensity modifications are provided in parenthesis below. If you are more advanced, allow both feet to leave the floor when jumping for an increase in intensity. It is always important to listen to your body when exercising and take breaks accordingly. Perform all exercises with correct form. If you are unable to do so, reduce your workout intensity or take a short rest. When lunging or squatting, protect your knees by pushing your hips back and down and keep your knees behind your toes. And always remember to breathe!


Warm-up for two to three minutes by walking/marching/or jogging in place.

*Click on the exercise for more information on proper form and demonstration.*

1. 15 Jumping Jacks and 15 Squat Jumps (or Squats)

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Rest 30 Seconds

2. 15 Tuck Jumps (or High Knees) and 15 Push-Ups (or Modified Push-Ups)

DSCF0890    DSCF0829

Rest 30 Seconds

3. 15 Mountain Climbers (or Bench/Wall Mountain Climbers) and 15 Tricep Dips using a bench/chair/coffee table

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Rest 30 Seconds

4.  15 Jump and Reaches and 15 Glute Bridges

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Rest 30 seconds

5. 15 Prone (face-down) Supermans and 15 Switch Lunge Jumps (or Alternating Forward Lunges – No Jumping)

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Rest 30 Seconds

Repeat the entire series one to two more times, continuing to the perform the same amount of repetitions and breaks noted.

Holiday Dance Party 2014 for fb 2Make sure to cool-down by walking/marching in place for an additional two to three minutes (similar to the warm-up). Add in some mild stretching following the cool-down to minimize muscle soreness.

It can be helpful to have a workout buddy. If you need a little extra motivation and a good stress reliever, join us for our Holiday Dance Party fundraiser benefiting W.A.R.M. Sunday, December 21 at 2 p.m. in Community Center Aerobic Room. And don’t forget, the new year is right around the corner and you still have a chance to register for upcoming fitness classes.


Never go shopping without snacks.
Take a small bag of whole nuts, an apple, banana, or shaker with protein powder to keep your blood sugar stable while your body works hard running from store to store. If you go shopping without a plan, it is easier to become exhausted, hungry and make poor (and quick) food choices. Bring plenty of water, as dehydration can also make you feel hot and tired.

Have a holiday party strategy.
When you finally head to those holiday parties, don’t forget to eat beforehand and bring your own healthy option to fall back. Try using smaller plates and wait before heading back for seconds to curb overeating. Remember, it is okay to say no to Aunt Mary’s pumpkin pie too!

And lastly, don’t skimp on sleep.
There’s no doubt you might be up late wrapping presents before the big holiday, but on other nights try your best to get the amount of sleep you need. Research suggests getting enough Zzzs can help keep the pounds off, not to mention give you more energy throughout the day. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try turning off electronics in the bedroom or avoid large meals late at night.

Healthy Active Lifestyle

Make Lunchtime Work for You

Between work, running errands and getting the kids fed and off to bed, many days you are probably left wondering where the time is to recharge or even fit in a workout.

A new class offered at the Westerville Community Center aims to help ease this juggling act… Mindbody Fusion. The class combines a mix of Yoga and Pilates during your lunch hour to leave you relaxed but ready to take on the rest of the day.  It provides a complete workout with an emphasis on improving posture, strength, flexibility and balance.

Mindbody Fusion Instructor, Amanda Smith, has been teaching group fitness for more than 25 years. She has found working out around lunchtime truly helps power you through the rest of the day.

“Many people start the morning with a lot of energy and then fall into that mid-day slump,” said Amanda. “If you are doing chores, have to sit for an extended period of time or lift a lot for your job, a class like this breaks up the routine and makes you feel better and more aware of your posture.”


This class goes beyond just a workout. “Our days are consistently focused on our responsibilities and other people. It gives you time to focus on yourself and take a mental break from all of the busyness around us,” said Amanda.

For those unfamiliar with Pilates or Yoga, both forms of exercise have similarities but use different techniques to work the mind and the body. Yoga, at its core, is a fluid way of moving that boosts strength while focusing on breathing and how you feel. Pilates is centered on practicing controlled movements that develop the core muscles and correct muscles imbalances that could lead to injury.

Mindbody Fusion is a progressive class, meaning it slowly builds on exercises throughout the hour, weaving in and out of Yoga and Pilates moves.


Amanda has seen improvements in class participants in just a few short weeks.

“People seem more comfortable with the poses and can hold them longer with the right form, which shows they are becoming more flexible and stronger,” she said.

Elena Akers, a Mindbody Fusion participant, is noticing a difference too. She has taken other classes with Amanda and was excited when she was able register for this new one.

“I was really happy when this class became available. I needed to tone my back muscles and I knew this class would help with that. I am feeling more balanced and healthier overall,” she said.


The benefit of this type of workout during your lunch hour is you won’t be left running on empty.

“It is not a high intensity class so you won’t walk away feeling exhausted. This class enhances small muscles and body awareness so everything you do outside of the class is easier on the joints and the body as a whole. You learn how to properly engage muscles for activities like mowing the lawn or doing a boot camp class,” said Amanda.

And you don’t have to be a Yoga or Pilates pro to try out the class.

“If it is your first time, you may feel a little uncomfortable at first, even humbled as you begin to adjust to the moves. But if you stick with it, you will feel empowered from the progress you will make,” said Amanda.

A new session of both Mindbody Fusion and another comparable class, Lunchtime Power Yoga, start at the end of October. If you are interested in joining a class, click here for online registration or you can sign up in-person at the Community Center.

MindBody Fusion for Blog

Healthy Active Lifestyle

Girls on the Run Promotes Confidence and Character Development

That first meeting. You may feel a little nervous; you aren’t sure what to expect. But you have the feeling it is the start of something new, exciting, even life-changing.

This was the energy at the first session of the Westerville Community Center Girls on the Run group.

The national program gets girls in the third through eighth grade active while developing their character and confidence. They are taught life skills through interactive lessons and running games over a 10-week period ending with a 5k running celebration. Last Tuesday night, seven girls in the third through fifth grade and three coaches at the Westerville site kicked off the season and began to learn about one another through a few ice-breakers.


For some of the girls, it is their first time participating in Girls on the Run. Fourth grader Janie Bowers (A.K.A. Joyful Janie, her new encouraging nickname at Girls on the Run) was inspired to sign up because of her mom, a marathon runner. She has cheered for her mom on the sidelines, but they have never done a race together.

“I really like to run and we have wanted to run a 5K together for a long time so we decided this would be the one,” said Janie.

Janie isn’t the only one new to Girls on the Run. The coaches are all first-time volunteers. Head Coach, Valentine Cabell, is excited to lead the group and see how everyone will grow along the way including herself.


Valentine is still pretty new to running.  Growing up, she struggled with her weight and thought she couldn’t run, but that all changed last December when she signed up for a half marathon on a whim. In just five short months, she trained and completed her first race ever in May 2014.

“I learned if you push yourself, you can do anything you want. I want the girls to feel how empowering it is to set a goal and achieve it,” she said.


Many of the activities will focus on teaching the girls how to positively approach situations in their daily lives. Franklin County Girls on the Run Council Director, Jessica Sparks said one of the exercises they do early on is a visualization activity where the girls sit with their eyes closed and picture how negative talk affects them and then how positive words influence them.

“How you think about yourself affects how you think about and treat others. We want the girls to understand every action that involves someone else can be positive or negative. Children can have a powerful impact in small ways from simply saying thank you to the lunch lady who hands them a tray to abstaining from gossip when it is around them,” said Jessica.


The running portion of the meetings gives the girls another healthy outlet to work through life’s challenges. Coach Valentine has experienced the social, physical and emotional benefits of running.

“I look at things in a different light, and don’t get as angry. I now have this positive way to deal with stress. If I have had a bad day, I go for a run and it helps change my attitude,” said Valentine.

And many others around Franklin County are enjoying working out with Girls on the Run. In 2010, the organization had just 60 participants per season and now more than 700 girls are involved this fall.

These hundreds of participants will come together for the 5K run on Saturday, November 15 downtown at the Columbus Commons. The run is open to the public and rather than being a competition, it is a celebration.


Fifth grader Rori Draminski is in her fourth season with Girls on the Run; and her favorite part of the program is the 5K. “I am so happy during the run. It is really fun meeting new people, being cheered on and crossing the finish line,” said Rori.

Until 5K time, the girls at the Westerville Community Center will continue to get together twice a week.

“It is really neat to see how the girls and coaches bond after the ten weeks. Those relationships become such an important part of the program,” said Girls on the Run Director Jessica.

We’ll follow up with Girls on the Run later this season to see how the group has transformed from its first meeting. For more information on the program or volunteering, visit girlsontherunfranklincounty.org.

Healthy Active Lifestyle

Climb On

Every year, we scrub, wax and shine the Community Center during the annual maintenance period. You might see some of the more visual improvements like a fresh coat of paint, but there are other differences you may not notice at first.

Our Zenith Climbing Wall just got a face lift with a brand new arrangement of its handholds.


During our summer tune-up, the grips are taken down and cleaned and the rock wall is vacuumed; then the paths that a climber can take up to the top are re-routed. This may sound like a simple process, but it takes quite a bit of planning and the right person for the task. The Climbing Wall Guide making it all happen is Katie Bondy. She teaches classes at the Community Center and also trains the climbing wall staff. Katie has a special love for the climbing wall that shines through in her work for the city.


She first took up climbing when she was just 7-years-old, and quickly found it was something that not only challenged, but empowered her. Katie has spina bifida, scoliosis and leg length discrepancy that prevent her from being able to run, but not climb. “It didn’t matter that I needed to stay off my left leg, I was able to use my upper body strength to climb even though that is not the traditional way,” said Katie. ” I don’t go for speed and focus on power and technique instead.”

This type of exercise is good for her body as well. “If I’m not active then I can’t walk. I have to maintain a certain weight to keep pressure off my back and stay loose in my lower body so my legs don’t tighten up.”

Climbing continually pushes her, and she is in better shape now climbing five days a week then when she was playing college lacrosse. “There are moves you have to do where you need both of your feet, and I have to be creative to figure out how to climb using three limbs. I love the challenge of climbing, it gives me something to own and be proud of.”


Her passion makes her an asset to the Parks and Recreation team. “I came into the department wanting to work the climbing wall. It is a place where I can teach kids and adults something new and really see the outcome of their effort,” said Katie.

Katie tells a story of one teaching opportunity that has stuck with her this summer. “About a month ago, I saw a little girl with spina bifida. She wanted to climb the wall, and the answer was simple to me. Why not let her climb? She was so excited that someone told her she could do something, and did not judge her. She was with her grandma and I asked how bad her the curve of her spine was, and I was informed that she will have to have surgery. I told her to never let anyone tell you that you can not do something because you’re different. Always try to prove them wrong. She tried to make it up the wall and got about eight feet off the ground. So, because this little girl had a special place in my heart, I climbed with her. Even though she did not make it to the top, I was only one handhold away. The smile on her face made my week.” After that day, the little girl has continued to come back to the Community Center several times a week to climb. She hasn’t reached the top yet, but is getting close.

And it is not just Katie’s attitude that makes her a hit on the climbing wall, her strategical approach comes through in her work. Her method was different this year as she constructed all four climbing levels. It was based on handhold styles. For example, the first wall is tailored toward beginners and the style of the handhold is shaped like a cup, which is easier to grip. As handholds get smaller, they require strength in different muscles and force climbers to use the natural formation of the rocks as the route becomes more advanced.


As she began restructuring the climbing wall for a new year, you could see her mind creating a design. “I think of it is as a dance, a kind of art form. I want it to feel good as you’re climbing. I have to incorporate moves that everyone can do factoring in wing-span and skill level.” Katie even spelled out the words REC and TOP on the rock wall with handhold letters to make it more playful.

She is excited for people to try out the new course. “Everyone should try it at least once! It is cool to say that you beat the wall, conquered your fears. You will feel that excitement; it is fun!” 

And there are plenty of opportunities at Community Center to climb. Parks and Recreation is offering a climbing class just for adults for the first time this fall.  For more information on our open climb hours and programs, click on the highlighted links. So go ahead and climb on!

Healthy Active Lifestyle

Are you ready for the heat?

There are a ton of great benefits to exercising outdoors this time of year. When you run or bike outside, you typically get a more strenuous workout than you would on a treadmill or stationary bike. Your body has a chance to soak up more Vitamin D from the sun, and people report feeling less stressed and happier when they engage in physical activity in nature.

In typical Ohio fashion, the hottest days of the year still may be headed our way. As you take to a park, your neighborhood or the recreational path system, here are some things to remember from our Fitness & Wellness Program Supervisor, Megan, to have a productive, positive and safe workout.

  • Pick the right time, sunrise or sunset. Your best bet on a hot day is to head out in the early morning or evening when your shadow is twice as long as you are tall. According to the National Weather Service, exposure to direct sunlight can increase how hot it feels by as much as 15 degrees.
  • The more humid it becomes, the less your sweat evaporates from your skin. This means your body’s key cooling mechanism is disabled. Go easy or go inside.
  • Guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine say to stay well hydrated throughout the day by drinking at least eight cups of water, and then make sure to have eight to 12 ounces about 15 minutes prior to your outdoor exercise session. Sip three to eight ounces every 15 or 20 minutes as you exercise, and don’t forget to drink after you’re finished working out.
  • Don’t forget to use sunscreen and when possible take shaded trails or pathway.
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing to help keep you cool.
  • Eat snacks to maintain energy. Choose a juicy snack like fruit and avoid snacks like crackers that require your body to add water to consume.
  • Carry some form of identification on you. Ideally, you should have your driver’s license and/or a small card that lists your phone number and the number of an emergency contact. Additionally, bringing your cell phone allows you to stay touch with family and friends and, if necessary, connect you with emergency services.
  • Exercising with a partner or group can be a great motivator, but it also reduces your chance of being targeted. If one of you should get injured or sick, the other person is there to get help and reduce your vulnerability. If exercising alone, make sure someone close to you knows when you are exercising, where you are going and when you are expected back.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. It is best to be very familiar with your exercise route and know of any areas which may be potentially dangerous. It is great to get into the “zone” while exercising, but make sure to stay aware of where you are, who is around you and where you are going.
  • Listen to your body.  Stop immediately and take a break if you’re feeling dizzy, faint or nauseous.

If you are interested in structured exercise, each Saturday morning through November a group of walkers meets to jump-start the weekend with an hour walk and some sight-seeing along the way. For details on this program, click here.

Healthy Active Lifestyle