Huntington sets aside June 21 to promote health

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - It doesn’t matter what your skill level or how old you are. Chances are Saturday, June 21, in Huntington will have something for you.

Several area organizations are teaming up that day to offer what they call the United Day of Fitness, kicking off with the West Virginia 5K in the morning, followed by St. Mary’s Senior Games and YMCA Family Fun Fest featuring kids olympics and activities as well as a concert.

Representatives of United Way of the River Cities, the Huntington Area YMCA, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Cabell Huntington Hospital, the city of Huntington and the Cabell County Commission gathered March 10 to announce the upcoming day of events, geared toward promoting health and fitness in the region. The initiative represents an unprecedented number of groups working together for the common cause of improving the health of the community, organizers said.

“Any time you collaborate, it makes everyone’s event better,” said Laura Gilliam, executive director of the United Way of the River Cities. “We’re co-promoting the events. … You can’t go wrong with that.” The best part is that there’s something for people of all ages and abilities, from small children to greatgrandparents, she said.

The events for the day will start at 8 a.m. with the fifth annual West Virginia 5K in downtown Huntington. The race, which drew 700 people last year, is an offering for the median age group, attracting a wide range of participants - from the fastest competitors in the region to first-time 5K runners, said race director Pat Riley.

It was started as a way to combat the Huntington metro area’s reputation as the unhealthiest in the country. In its first four years, the race has raised a total of $40,000 for United Way.

Race registration is $20 before June 5, and $25 after that.

The Senior Games were brought to Huntington last year by St. Mary’s Medical Center. They go on at locations throughout the city over four days, June 19-22. It includes activities such as swimming, track and field, basketball, golf, archery and more and are open to people 50 and older. There are 11 age categories, and this year’s winners will qualify for the national Senior Games in Minneapolis.

It’s open to participants from throughout the region, and is the only Senior Games event in West Virginia.

“Seniors are active people, and we wanted to find more ways for seniors to get active,” said Angela Henderson-Bentley, manager of public relations for St. Mary’s. “What we found last year is that this was a fun event where seniors were not only being active and competing against each other, but getting to know each other and making new friends.” The registration fee for the Senior Games is $40 per person for up to two events. Each additional event is $3 each, with additional fees for some events, such as golf green fees.

For the kids, the Y has a full slate of events planned June 21 at the 70-acre YMCA Kennedy Center, said Andy Fisher, vice president of the YMCA Board of Directors. The activities begin at 11 a.m. with kids olympics, for kids ages 5 to 14 years old.

That goes on until 2 p.m. and will be followed by a Family Fun Fest, featuring swimming in the pool, inflatables, concessions and more. At 5 p.m., Huntington native Rick Huckaby will perform a concert, as well as Jeremy McComb and City Heat. The fun wraps up when the sun goes down, Fisher said.

Cost is $20 for adults and $10 for kids for the activities other than the kids olympics, with proceeds going toward the YMCA’s Kids in Motion program and services for children with financial hardships, Fisher said.

Cabell Huntington and St. Mary’s are primary sponsors for the event, Fisher said, adding that they began planning it last year, before reaching out to United Way to partner for a full-day, communitywide celebration of fitness.

The day of events is indicative of what is special about Huntington - families coming together to have fun and celebrate wellness, said Mayor Steve Williams.

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