Family Fitness Night fosters wellness

Washougal businesses teach health, fitness

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Gary Fowler of Northwest Champions Martial Arts (left) instructs a group of students during Washougal School District's Family Fitness Night, held Feb. 28 at Jemtegaard Middle School and Columbia River Gorge Elementary School.

Washougal School District’s Family Fitness Night event was bigger than ever this year.

The event was held Thursday, Feb. 28 at Jemtegaard Middle School and Columbia River Gorge Elementary School, taking advantage of the schools’ shared campus.

In previous years, the event was held at the elementary school only.

“We wanted to bring the schools together, and we wanted to put on a family event for the middle school,” said Tracey Stinchfield, who co-chaired the event for the schools’ parent booster groups. “We knew it had been a successful event at the elementary level, and we thought perhaps it would be good to expand it and let middle school families attend as well.”

Stinchfield said the Feb. 28 event had a good turnout, with positive feedback from families.

“They enjoyed that they were able to do something with their younger kids and older kids all together,” Stinchfield said.

The other notable change to this year’s event involved the activities that were offered. Parent volunteers have been in charge of the activities in previous years, but this year’s event featured a variety of local fitness-oriented businesses, including Washougal River Crossfit (agility), Lone Wolf Ju Jitsu (strength and coordination), Champions Northwest Martial Arts (balance), All Pride Fitness (cardio), Body Bliss Yoga (flexibility), Empress Yoga (flexibility) and Ripple Wellness and Community Center (nutrition).

“I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the list of (businesses) that were going to be there,” said Northwest Champions sensei Gary Fowler, who ran children through a variety of exercises during the event. “There was more than I thought there was going to be. I was happy to see so much participation within the community.”

“The more we get the community connected to the schools, the greater the community will be,” Stinchfield said. “In previous years we’ve approached businesses to ask them for donations, but eventually they realized that they could participate even more by actually being there. We want families to recognize that they can have fun together while being active, and we want them to recognize how many different options there are in town to be active.”

Students and their parents rotated their way between the individual stations, performing the activities with the help of instructors. Participants were given a “passport,” which they had stamped after the successful completion of each event. After they received all of the stamps, they could enter a drawing for a variety of prizes donated by local businesses.

“It’s important to connect with kids. We need the kids in our community to be motivated with health and wellness,” said Ripple’s Emily Olson, who helped students and their family members identify certain vegetables during the fitness event. “They were exposed to a lot of different things, which was cool to see. (The organizers) did a great job with it.”

Fowler said engaging younger students in fitness can help them be healthier physically and mentally.

“I’ve had parents come to me and say that their child has been struggling with their weight, and after working with me for a year or year and a half they’re losing weight, gaining flexibility and becoming more confident,” Fowler said. “Martial arts works the whole body, and it prepares you mentally for anything out there.”

Erika Levy, one of the event’s instructors, works extensively with women and children at her job as owner of Empress Yoga. She also organized the Camas Wellness Festival, which was held in October 2018.

“(The fitness and wellness culture is) really on the precipice of booming here, but it’s slowly building (because) the community is changing. It’s different now,” Levy said. “People are moving in from all over going, ‘Where’s my studio? Where’s my yoga? Where’s my ski workout?’ I think it’s an opportunity for businesses in the wellness industry to step up. My goal (for the festival), more than getting people to come, was building awareness, and I feel like I achieved that. I didn’t know there would be such a need and the response would be so great.”

Olson, of Ripple Wellness, agreed, and said the wellness business community in Washougal tends to stick together.

“My husband and I say all the time that the business community here is amazing,” she said. “The (businesses) all support each other, especially in the health and wellness field. I’d say the community is pretty vibrant. For the population, there’s a high density of health and wellness (options) here, which is awesome.”