- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

With the lazy days of summer behind us, it’s time to get up, get going and walk for a good cause, because philanthropy is taking a decidedly physical turn.

On Sept. 12, Dr. Ian Smith, a well-known author and VH1 “Celebrity Fit Club” personality, will join about 1,000 walkers in Alexandria via satellite for the first Challenge Walk-Off to bring attention to the nationwide problem of obesity, especially among children. According to Dr. Smith, “Sixteen percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19 in this country are overweight or obese.”

He tells The Washington Times that people in more than 50 cities are joining those in Alexandria for the event. He will be in Richmond.

“Small changes can make a big difference. … If you make small incremental changes, you are more likely to keep the weight off,” he says.

Dr. Smith started his self-help Web site (www.50millionpounds.com) in 2007 after average Americans wrote to him, pleading for the weight-loss instruction he gives celebrities on TV. The site offers dietary plans, exercise tips and healthy lifestyle encouragement in an effort to see Americans collectively shed 50 million pounds.

In the past two years, 1.4 million people have registered on the Web site and joined the more than 38,000 online teams.

Because of the excitement generated by the Web site, the Challenge Walk-Off was created for families to have fun together while enjoying physical exercise and for local communities to evaluate their commitment to physical wellness in children.

Outraged by cuts in funding for gym class and physical education in public schools, Dr. Smith is partnering with mayors in all of the cities that are hosting the walk-off to ensure their support for mandatory recess or play time, especially in grade schools.

“Study after study proves that the more active children are, the better they perform in school and the more self-confident they will be,” he says.

One of the leaders Dr. Smith has recruited is Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, who will be among those walking Sept. 12 at Alexandria’s Charles Houston Recreation Center. Mr. Euille says he met Dr. Smith in January and immediately signed on to include Alexandria in the walk-off.

“I try to lead by example. Over the past two years, I have lost about 60 pounds through cardio exercise and watching my diet,” Mr. Euille says.

Mr. Euille and Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, have engaged in a friendly rivalry to see who can lose more weight. They plan to have their next weigh-in just in time for the event, and Mr. Euille will be speaking via satellite with Dr. Smith and other city mayors at the beginning of the walk-off.

Registration is free and open to everyone at www.50millionpounds.com. Greater Washington residents are encouraged to join Get Healthy Alexandria, Mr. Euille’s walking team.

Run, walk or wheel

The pavement-pounding continues Sept. 13 with the fifth Super H 5K Run, Walk & Wheel beginning at 7 a.m. at Tysons Corner Sport & Health Club in McLean.

In 2004, Harry “Super H” Freedman, then 55, was run over by a front-end loader while working for his family’s salvage business, nearly losing his life.

“I am just lucky to be alive to see the clouds on a day like today,” he tells The Washington Times.

Mr. Freedman’s left leg was amputated after 17 surgeries, but that did not end his life-long passion for bicycling, swimming and running.

With help and encouragement from his wife, Renie, and his friends at the health club where he had been working out since the early 1980s, Mr. Freedman started the race to raise money for amputees to buy prosthetics and to provide hope and encouragement to them and their families.

The event raises funds via corporate sponsors and private donations for the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s chapter of BlazeSports America, a national sports program for children and adults with physical disabilities.

Mr. Freedman has set a goal of raising $50,000 this year and recruiting 300 to 400 participants, including those in wheelchairs or using prosthetics.

“I will be using my cheetah legs,” Mr. Freedman says, describing the special prosthetics he uses for running.

For more information or to register for the event, visit www.nrhrehab.org/SuperH5k. Registration is $25.

Fashionable fun

Speaking of sports, the SneakerBall, the annual fall gala that celebrates the best of athletics in the region and benefits the Greater Washington Sports Alliance Foundation, will be off and running on Sept. 15 at the National Building Museum.

The foundation, which comprises six local charities, paves the way for sports-related philanthropy to be incorporated into area sports programs and facilities for young people.

They don’t call it SneakerBall for kicks. Guests don their sneakers with black-tie attire as they brush shoulders with members of Washington’s athletic elite, including professional athletes and team owners.

For more information, visit www.gwsportsalliance.com/sneakerball.html. Tables for the event are available by calling Keri Ann Meslar at 202/857.5979 or sending e-mail to kmeslar@gwsports alliance.com.

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