Bryant resident, facility named by Governor’s Council on Fitness

LITTLE ROCK — Betty Williams of Bryant and the City of Bryant’s Bishop Park Community Center have been selected as recipients of the 2013 Leadership in Fitness Awards by the Arkansas Governor’s Council on Fitness.

Dr. Blair Dean, chair of the Council on Fitness announced the recipients today.

“We salute this year’s recipients for exemplifying the mission of the Arkansas Governor Council on Fitness which is to encourage the citizens of Arkansas to participate in more health and fitness activities and help them live healthier, happier and more productive lives.”

Recipients were nominated by their peers, co-workers, themselves and/or companies.

This year’s recipients in the Leadership categories are:

Individual of the Year- Bernadette Gunn Rhodes, North Little Rock
Senior of the Year– Betty Williams, Bryant
Physical Educator– Pam Keese, Searcy
Built Environment to Increase Physical Activity– City of North Little Rock’s Fit2Live Health                                                                                                                 Initiative AND City of Lake Village
Outstanding Group– Adaptive Physical Education Methods Class, Ouachita Baptist University
Health & Fitness Center– The Center of Bryant, Bishop Park Community Center
Corporate: Simmons First National Corporation, Pine Bluff
Government Agency– Central Arkansas Water, Little Rock
Trails– City of Batesville

Senior – Betty Williams

The winner in the senior category is Betty Williams. To say that Betty Williams is active would be an understatement. At 76, Betty has completed seven marathons, 40 half marathons and numerous other races, all after retiring. She is an active member of the Saline County Striders Running Club, running races in sand, along mountain trails, through streams, alongside bears, in a storm and in just about every temperature you can imagine.

In 2013, Betty took on the challenge of mentoring new runners in the Women Run Arkansas clinic, a 10-week running program culminating in a 5K event. Many new runners credit Betty’s encouragement to their ability to complete their first 5K race. Betty’s family will attest that her fitness enthusiasm is contagious. She often runs races with grandchildren and great grandchildren, with the whole group dressed in crazy costumes. Betty is an

inspiration to her family and the community.

Health and Fitness Center – The Center of Bryant, Bishop Park Community Center

The winner in the Health and Fitness category is The Center of Bryant, Bishop Park Community Center. Known around Bryant as simply, “The Center of Bryant,” it is the center of community activity and an advocate of health and wellness across all ages, demographics and special populations. Through a variety of associations that specialize in youth sports, adaptive recreation, adult sports and senior activities, The Center offers both accessibility and breadth. Bryant Park’s mission to deliver effective, courteous, and responsible leisure services for all of the community is evident. From its senior center activities, sports leagues, fitness classes and healthy campaigns to partnering arrangements with the Boys and Girls Club, Saline

Memorial Hospital and Little Rock Parks, The Center of Bryant is a community jewel.

Individual – Bernadette Gunn Rhodes

The winner in the individual category is Bernadette Gunn Rhodes, coordinator of North Little Rock’s Fit2Live program. In her role as coordinator, Bernadette works to improve the health of all North Little Rock citizens. She has been instrumental in creating a healthier environment at the city offices, the development of community gardens on city property and educating neighborhood associations about how to make their streets safer to walk and bike.

Bernadette is a big picture thinker, a successful planner and relationship builder. She serves on numerous state and city committees, task forces and work groups focused on promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles. In the words of one of her supporters, “Bernadette has a special knack for bringing together the people and resources necessary to get an idea off the ground.” You are likely to see Bernadette biking or walking to work and meetings, or on KATV’s morning show providing viewers with examples of ways to be active. It’s not just a job to Bernadette, it’s her passion.

Physical Educator – Pam Keese

The winner in the physical educator category is Pam Keese. A “go getter” by nature, Pam’s goal is to instill lifelong fitness habits in her students through a comprehensive physical education curriculum. Beyond regular classroom instruction, she created a before-class running club to facilitate students’ participation in the Little Rockers Marathon Program. The class became so popular the “100 Mile Club” is now a year-round program of enthusiastic students.

The Arkansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance named Pam teacher of the year in 2008. She has conducted numerous workshops statewide, worked as a content instructor for the State Department of Education’s licensure program and even taught physical education classes in West Africa and South Sudan orphanages. Personally, she ran a marathon to raise money for the American Diabetes Association and was awarded Cooperative Teacher of the Year for her work mentoring student teachers. Pam is a valued leader, teaching the next generation how to be physically active.

Built Environment to Increase Physical Activity – City of Lake Village

Lake Village is a delta city literally on the move. As part of the “Let’s Move” initiative, a call to action by First Lady Michelle Obama, Lake Village is working hard to improve the health status of its citizens. In the heart of Chicot County, the city maintains four parks offering a wide array of fitness, sports and physically active leisure activities. In 2008, Chicot Memorial Medical Center, UAMS Delta AHEC, and the City of Lake Village formed a partnership to open the Community Outreach Center. This center offers free fitness classes, monthly health screenings, weight management programs, and fitness equipment. A formal walkability assessment occurred approximately two years ago by local health officials and members of the Chicot County Hometown Health Improvement Coalition. The information collected has been used for planning purposes. As a result, sidewalk and road enhancements to improve walkability in several areas have recently been completed and a

formal re-assessment is planned for 2014. More recently, the City embarked in a more concerted health improvement effort through a 25-partner community wellness initiative called Healing Hearts. Since its launch, the partners kicked off a free, citywide, 10-week Get Fired Up Fitness Program with a community walk led by the Lake Village Mayor and Chicot County Judge. The Healing Hearts movement along with other collaborations shows great potential for sustainability and health improvement in Lake Village and surrounding areas.

Built Environment to Increase Physical Activity – City of North Little Rock’s

Fit2Live Health Initiative

North Little Rock’s commitment to increase physical activity by transforming the built environment is expressed in ways large and small. At the heart of the transformation is the city’s Fit2Live initiative and leadership staff whose collaborative efforts have brought the right entities together at the right time.

The successes are many including 33.4 miles of paved bike and pedestrian paths, 53.9 miles of natural surface single mountain bike track, 4.8 miles of designated bike lanes, 26.7 miles of street with shared lane markings and 100 miles of signed bike routes. Bike parking is prevalent in North Little Rock with 88 new racks available for installation in front of businesses, churches, schools and recreation areas. Walkability studies have occurred in six North Little Rock neighborhoods resulting in short and long term recommendations and the formation of community workgroups. Repairs to sidewalks, streets and curbs to improve walkability have occurred citywide. The city has adopted official policies to support walking, biking and transit, allowing its citizens and visitors to incorporate physical activity in their lives.

Recognizing that a built environment involves more than the city structure and policies, the Fit2Live staff and its collaborators work with elementary schools to incorporate walking and bicycling education into the curriculum. The City also partners with neighborhood associations, public housing, ministries and non-profit organizations to offer educational programs, helmet fittings/giveaways at neighborhood festivals and special events. The City’s high level of commitment ensures continued positive results.

Group – Adaptive Physical Education Methods Class, Ouachita Baptist University

The winner in the Group category is the Adaptive Physical Education Methods class at Ouachita Baptist University. It is a powerful but true statement that the work of the Adaptive Physical Education Methods class is changing lives. At the direction of Dr. Terry DeWitt, the class partnered with Central Primary School to conduct organized and targeted recess activities for 175 second grade students. Students who might have spent their recess time sitting alone, talking to teachers or just standing around were involved in physical activities with well-prepared college students. As one teacher put it, “We immediately saw the benefits. Our students were having fewer behavioral issues during recess and overweight students who typically would not play at recess were up and moving. Children were having so much fun that they didn’t even realize it was exercise.” It was a win-win pairing the college students with the second graders, each taking away positive learning


Corporate – Simmons First National Corporation

The winner in the corporate category is Simmons First National Corporation. Simmons prides itself in cultivating a health conscious culture amongst its associates. Health related lunch and learns, health fairs and monthly wellness newsletters encourage healthy living, Company sponsored charitable walks also encourage physical activity. The organization makes fitness more accessible and less expensive by negotiating discount membership fees through payroll deduction at one of the leading Pine Bluff fitness facilities. Simmons’ efforts to promote physical activity are well documented in its multi-year success during the annual Blue & You Fitness Challenge, a three-month physical activity contest between competing groups. A two-time winner in their size category, over half of their 1,040 associates participated and almost 90% completed the challenge.

Government Agency – Central Arkansas Water

Central Arkansas Water is a government agency of 267 employees, committed to the well being of its customers and employees. Employees have access to a variety of different programs designed to improve health and increase physical activity including tobacco cessation, weight loss, the employee wellness program, annual health fairs, free health screenings and the Blue & You Fitness Challenge, a three-month physical activity contest. In addition to paying the program costs, the agency offers incentives for completion of certain programs. Over the past five years, 94% of employees have participated in at least one of the eight programs offered, demonstrating that Central Arkansas Water is indeed committed to its employees and on the right track toward health improvement.

Trails – City of Batesville

The winner in the Trails category is the City of Batesville. By design, the Greenway and Riverwalk trails are at the heart of the city of Batesville, connecting businesses, the medical center, parks and community gardens. All generations use the trails, from seniors in the city’s Senior Walking Program to young families and individuals. On any given day, there are walkers, runners and cyclists enjoying the outdoors in a traffic free environment. Activities on the trail vary including both leisure and those focused on training for athletic

events. A planned extension of the trail to the Batesville High School will provide access to an all-weather track, making the opportunities for physical activity even better.

An event honoring the recipients will be held Friday, Oct. 4, at Marriott Little Rock at 5 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased for $50 each by contacting Linda Kyzer at 501-378-6651 or by at email Include name, telephone number and how many tickets are needed by noon Tuesday, Oct. 1.

The Arkansas Governor’s Council on Fitness is a council appointed by the Governor of Arkansas. The Council educates and produces events such as the Great Arkansas Workout, where 4th graders participate in a day full of physical activity and education twice a year, the Leadership Awards in Fitness, honoring those who have made a difference in the health and fitness of Arkansans and support organizations promoting physical fitness.

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