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| News & Know How | News | Clubs Making a Difference | Thorbeckes FitLife Centers A cartoon character promotes healthy lifestyles to 2,000 kids a year W hile celebrating Thorbeckes FitLife Centers’ 25th anniversary in 2006, founder and managing owner Dale Pullin and his leadership team were working on a plan for the next 25 years—and a major piece of that plan was finding new ways to serve their community of Lewis County, Washington. Two unique initiatives grew from that desire, fueled by Pullin’s longstanding commitment to creating opportunities for people to live active, healthy lives, and the strong connec- tions he and his staff have forged with local government officials, educators, and medical professionals. Because of the following, ongoing, socially conscious, and community-focused endeavors that it engages in, Thorbeckes, which operates full-service fitness clubs in Centralia, Chehalis, and Rochester, Washington, was named a finalist for the IHRSA Outstanding Community Service Award in 2013. Captain Thorbeckes champions kids INITIATIVE 1: Captain Thorbeckes, a healthy hero In 2006, unemployment in Lewis County was high and incomes correspondingly low. Of particular concern, says Jenni Bodnar, the club’s general manager, was “the high incidence of childhood obesity and type 1 diabetes. … We felt compelled to find a way to help.” Bodnar also serves on the board of the Lewis County Community Health Partnership. Enter Captain Thorbeckes—a nutrition superhero with an impressive arsenal of learning tools created by Bodnar— whose program for schools now reaches and teaches more than 2,000 kids from kindergarten through second grade every year. Two weeks before the Captain’s visit, teachers receive colorful interactive workbooks, written in English and Spanish, that are full of pictures, puzzles, and games, which they review with the children. Later, the books will be taken home to GM Jenni Bodnar be shared with parents. The teachers also receive a complimentary CD of Captain Thorbeckes Hop N Stomp theme song, which the children listen to and act out with their teachers (“I’m Captain Thorbeckes and I’m here to say/ Living healthy is the only way/Keeping fit is fun and easy to do/I’ll show you how to get in a healthy groove/Start your day with a stretch and a hop/That’s right, raise your hands up high/Hop till you drop!”). By the time the big day arrives, the kids are ready to stomp, hop, and shout out a host of answers about the Captain’s favorite foods, activities, and sports. At the conclusion of the 22 Club Business International | OCTOBER 2014 | assembly, every child receives a complimentary Captain Thorbeckes shirt. Now a “beloved local hero and inspiration,” this health ambassador makes public appearances at parades, festivals, and other area venues. Thorbeckes also hosts a series of reasonably priced children’s summer camp programs. INITIATIVE 2: Lewis County Community Trails Lewis County also has some of the highest rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease in Washington State, and it was clear that it was going to take more than a superhero to get the rest of the region moving toward healthier living. Reaching out to their network of “like-minded people” across the county, Pullin and Bodnar developed a nonprofit organization, Lewis County Community Trails (LCCT), to cre- ate an accessible, regional, multi-modal trail system through- out the county. The organization’s purpose was to help local citizens find “outdoor recreational options for leisure activi- ties,” and to provide them trails that could be used for trans- portation to and from work, school, and other activities. With the help of a startup grant of $300,000 from the TransAlta Corporation, a power company based in Centralia, Washington, LCCT has developed an extensive trails system throughout the county, and continues to raise funds and part- ner with municipalities and parks on other similar projects. The Thorbeckes FitLife Centers carefully evaluate the specific needs of the communities they serve in their drive to make fitness accessible to people of all abilities and cir- cumstances. Bodnar emphasizes how important it is for a club to be a part of the community, and to cultivate relation- ships with schools and the medical community. “Being aware of what’s going on helps you to understand the issues and identify what needs to be done.” —| Download the Free IHRSA App: