With the goal of making Glen Rock “500 pounds lighter by June 28,” a determined borough contingent has joined the second annual Bergen County Weight Loss Challenge, according to local program “champion” Mary Ann O’Rourke.
The first-time entry of 55 Glen Rock participants – with many more expected – expands the burgeoning health and fitness “contest” to 14 area towns.
Paramus Health Officer Judith Migliaccio spearheaded the initiative in 2013, aiming to get a group of town residents to shed that amount of weight over the course of about 12 weeks. She then brought the idea to Bergen County’s Community Health Improvement Partnership – 50 to 60 community partners representing local hospitals, municipal health officers and members of boards of health.
The 18-and-over program, and its expansion throughout the county, is a response to a 2013 community health needs assessment by local hospitals, identifying obesity prevention, chronic diseases and physical activity as key health issues facing county residents.
Although the various components of diet/exercise/wellness activity differs across communities, most ask participants to register, weigh in each week and take part in some form of health and fitness regimen or education.
Despite a late entry into this year’s challenge, Glen Rock involvement started strong and appears to be building.
“I knew nothing about the county program, or even that there was anything similar going on in other Bergen County towns,” said O’Rourke, who heard about it from local residents who saw a recent North Jersey Media Group article on the Paramus effort.
“They decided that Glen Rock should get involved, volunteered to organize it, and that’s how our committee was born,” O’Rourke said. “Forty-five people showed up for our first weigh-in on Saturday, April 5; we’re now up to 55 and more are signing up each day.
“It so happened that I had also decided to get serious about losing weight and getting fit,” O’Rourke said. “I saw this as the perfect opportunity to jump in there and not only help myself, but help others get healthier. So I volunteered to coordinate the effort. My goal is to lose 25 pounds by June 28, and by being so publicly involved, I am going to be obligated to do exactly that.”
The committee’s goal is to draw at least 100 participants, said O’Rourke, advising anyone interested to sign up at the group’s information and registration website, glenrockchallenge.com. She said those who sign up now will receive a special appointment at the challenge’s local weigh-in center, Volt Fitness, located at 566 S. Broad Street. Additional information on the program is available at facebook.com/glenrockchallenge.
O’Rourke said challenge weigh-ins are required once every two weeks.
“We have them scheduled on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Volt, but we can arrange alternate days or times for those who can’t make that time slot,” she said. “We don’t want to exclude anyone.”
Citing strong support from Glen Rock businesses, O’Rourke said “Biggest Loser” prizes will be provided by two sponsors.
“Bellula Salon is offering a free makeover to the winner of the women’s division, including hair styling, color, highlights and makeup. Volt Fitness has offered a personal training package to the winner of the men’s division,” she said.
Prizes for winners of a challenge raffle drawing include dance lessons from Moonlight Ballroom, fitness classes at Barre Fusion and the Fitness and Movement Company, gift certificates from Francesca’s, a pasta party at Savory Thymes, a Psychology of Wellness consultation with Dr. Kevin Brennan, a free one-hour supermarket tour with Holistic Health coach Erica Danziger, and a one-month family membership at Gary Stevens Tae Kwon Do.
To be eligible for the drawings, entrants must complete the 12-week challenge, weigh in every two weeks, and lose at least one pound, O’Rourke said.
Additional prizes and challenge-related offers from local businesses are listed on the website.
“We’re still looking for more prizes for our grand finale on June 28,” she said, noting a website link enabling businesses to contribute.
O’Rourke said fellow committee member Nicole Rubackin Hayward organized a concurrent “Couch to 5K” fitness program that is free to challenge participants. She saluted Hayward and fellow committee members Gary Stevens, Barbara and Andrea Sellitti, Iris Saar, Howard Spaeth and Joe Rogovich for their organizing efforts.
Due to the relatively late start, the group “had only about a week to prepare before we had to launch the program. Without such a great volunteer team, it wouldn’t have happened,” she said.
O’Rourke also praised the municipality’s cooperation and support.
“When I brought the county program to the attention of Mayor (John) van Keuren, he was extremely enthusiastic and supportive,” she said. “He helped us get the word out through the (municipal) GRINS network, which sent an email to all the residents who have signed up for the alert system.
“Paula Fleming was also really awesome in explaining how to work with the borough communications system,” she added. “At this late date, we could not have pulled it off without their support and assistance.”
Other Bergen communities taking the challenge this year are Bergenfield, Edgewater, Englewood, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Hackensack, Oakland, Paramus, Park Ridge, Ramsey, Ridgewood, Teaneck and Waldwick.