Tag Archive | "health"

Pierson Students Lobby for CPR to be Taught in New York Schools

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Pierson students Emma Romeo, Arlena Burns, Joseph Carlozzi and Alex Toscano and their health teacher Sue Denis met with Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. in his Albany office June 3.

Pierson students Emma Romeo, Arlena Burns, Joseph Carlozzi and Alex Toscano and their health teacher Sue Denis met with Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. in his Albany office June 3. Also pictured are Barbara and John Schmidt, who attended the event in memory of their 14-year-old grandson, Ronan Guyer, who tragically passed away after suffering a heart attack during a practice for a state cross country championship in November, 2012. Photo courtesy Assemblyman Thiele’s office.

By Tessa Raebeck

Madison McCarthy was just 5 years old when she went into sudden cardiac arrest in her kindergarten classroom in upstate New York. The principal of her school held Madison in his arms for 18 minutes waiting for help No one checked her breathing, no one performed CPR and Madison died waiting for help.

Pierson Middle-High School Health teacher Sue Denis and her student CPR instructors, backed by the American Heart Association and supporters like Madison’s mother, Suzy McCarthy, are now lobbying state politicians to ensure tragedies like Madison’s don’t happen again.

Having taught CPR at Pierson for 20 years this spring, Ms. Denis has instructed  hundreds of students—who have saved  16 to 18 lives—to be instructors, but at schools across the state, CPR programs are neither mandated nor funded.

Sue Denis's first CPR class at Pierson in the spring of 1994.

Sue Denis’s first CPR class at Pierson in the spring of 1994. Photo courtesy Sue Denis.

That could change very soon. After years of teachers, survivors and mourning relatives asking legislators to back a bill to require kids in New York to learn CPR before graduating high school, a bill passed the state Senate last week and the state Assembly on Tuesday, June 17. It is now waiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature. If the governor signs the bill, it will then go for final approval to Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents, who will be responsible for whether CPR training is actually implemented into educational curriculums statewide.

“One step at a time,” Ms. Denis said Wednesday, June 18.

The American Heart Association says the requirement could help to save thousands of lives across the state each year. Nationwide, according to the AHA, approximately 424,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year—and only about 10 percent survive.

The survival rate fluctuates between 2 and 10 percent across New York State, Ms. Denis said, adding that in the 16 states where CPR certification is mandated for high school students, that survival rate can be as high as 50 percent.

A cardiac arrest can be brought on by 14 different causes, including drowning, getting hit in the heart, smoke inhalation, loss of blood and heart attacks, the latter which occur about every 30 seconds in the United States.

“There’s just so much in our diet and the way Americans live these days is just so unhealthy, that it’s a common occurrence to have a heart attack,” Pierson senior Caleb Atkinson-Barnes  said while in Ms. Denis’s CPR instructor class Friday, June 13. “You could be anywhere and a person could go down—and knowing CPR will save that person’s life.”

Sue Denis's elective class of 10th, 11th and 12th grade CPR instructors at Pierson Friday, June 13.

Sue Denis and her elective class of 10th, 11th and 12th grade CPR instructors at Pierson Friday, June 13. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Ms. Denis and four of her Pierson students—Arlena Burns, Joe Carlozzi, Emma Romeo and Alex Toscano—traveled to Albany Tuesday, June 3, to ask for the bill’s passage. They heard from Ms. McCarthy, Madison’s mom, and other families who lost loved ones who could have been saved had someone started CPR earlier.

Alex Toscano, a senior at Pierson and a CPR instructor, told state lawmakers that Ms. Denis has been teaching CPR since before she was born and that she cannot understand why every school doesn’t teach the life-saving skill.

Teaching students to save lives seems like a political no-brainer, but legislators have stalled bills in the past because they are hesitant to put another unfunded state mandate on New York’s already fiscally tight school districts.

“You would rather not support the bill then—God forbid, you’re ever in that situation where you need someone’s help—there’s less people around that know what to do?” Pierson senior and CPR instructor Emma Romeo said of the politicians in class Friday, prior to the bill’s passage. “Because I know if I was in that situation, I would want as many people around to help as possible.”

“You’re going to feel safer in any situation,” added classmate Sheila Mackey. “The fact that most of the teachers in our school don’t know CPR or in other schools don’t know CPR—I’m just surprised the bill hasn’t been passed, it’s a chance to save lives, why wouldn’t they go for it?”

Ms. Denis started at Pierson in the fall of 1993 and had convinced the administration to let her teach CPR by the spring of that school year. Her first graduates in 1994 are now among hundreds of students she has taught, “thousands probably,” she said.

“I’ve been so lucky here at Pierson and fortunate that I’ve always had the support of the whole administration—the principals, the superintendent and the board,” said Ms. Denis.

To her knowledge, about 30 of her students have performed CPR and 16 to 18 lives have been saved.

While working at the Bridgehampton Club, Ms. Romeo saved a little boy who was choking on a Goldfish cracker by performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Ms. Denis’s former student, Rich Simmons, now a fireman in the village, years ago performed CPR on a 65-year-old man whose boat capsized in Sag Harbor. He saved his life.

In September, Erick Saldivar, another former student of Ms. Denis, saved his aunt’s life when she went into respiratory arrest.

“She started seizing and I thought back to Ms. Denis’s class about what to do,” Mr. Saldivar told the Sag Harbor Express last October.

“You obviously are going to feel more confident in that situation knowing that you’ve been taught by someone who knows it so well like Ms. Denis, so you know exactly what to do,” Ms. Toscano said.

“What we always tell the kids,” said Ms. Denis, “is you’re never going to do CPR when it’s a nice, comfortable, relaxed environment. You’re going to do it in a really stressful, critical situation.”

“It’s a scary thing,” added student-instructor Zach Depetris. “It’s not something that you’re going to be able to do no matter what; it’s a life or death situation.”

Speaking of those who have died from cardiac arrests who were not aided by CPR, Ms. Mackey said, “They were just normal kids. They just went into cardiac arrest, just no one knew how to help them or what to do.”

“Our kids,” Ms. Denis said, “have shown again and again that they’re willing to step up to the plate and do it.”

Tribe Fitness Instills Commitment and Delivers Results

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Trainer Rebecca Calvente Penteado demonstrates a plank pose at Hamptons Gym Corp. Photo by Emily J. Weitz.

Trainer Rebeca Calvente Penteado demonstrates a plank pose at Hamptons Gym Corp. Photo by Emily J. Weitz.

By Emily J. Weitz

With all the seductive ways to get active on the East End, from kayaking to swimming to biking, gyms have had to fine tune their marketing technique to bring in clients. At the Hamptons Gym Corp, they’ve found their sweet spot: commitment.

Just about everyone wakes up with the intention of becoming more active and making good health decisions, but often those intentions fall to the snooze button or the deli counter without much of a fight. That’s why the Hamptons Gym Corp has instituted programming that encourages people to show up, not just for themselves, but for their instructors and their peers. “Tribe” programs, which are brand new this year, offer the benefits of a personal trainer relationship and the natural support that comes from taking part in a team activity.

There are three levels of entry (Fit, Core and Life) for different workout personalities, and each team has its own trainer who will commit to that particular group for the duration of the program. Each program is six weeks long, and Tribe Fit meets three times per week. Tribe Core and Tribe Life both meet twice a week.

“Each team has a minimum of seven people and a maximum of 10,” said Rebeca Calvente Penteado, the Tribe head trainer who’s been at the Hamptons Gym Corp for seven years. “This is enough people so that they come to rely on each other, but not too many.”

Ms. Penteado said that one of the primary reasons people are excited about Tribe is its community aspect, which instills a level of commitment.

“If you like exercise, but don’t love it,” she said, “there’s no commitment. But if I tell you you are paying for six weeks of training, and there are nine other people waiting for you to be there, you are going to show up. The idea is working together and progressing as a team.”

The six-week program is set up in such a way that each class is different and builds on the one before it. You can come into the first class with absolutely no experience, and learn how to do something like a squat. Then you can expect that in the next class, you’ll be using that first skill and building upon it.

“We have a whiteboard,” said Ms. Penteado, “and every time you come into class, you’ll see the new move written in red. Then I’ll demo how to do it, and you’ll incorporate it into the workout. It’s great for clients because if you come in the first day and you’ve never done a squat, the second day I’ll have my eyes on you to make sure you’re doing it right.”

The Tribe program is open to members and non-members alike, which means you don’t have to join the gym to participate. You can sign up for a six-week program, which is like working with a personal trainer in a group setting. Ms. Penteado helps people figure out which Tribe is right for them.

“I love having nonmembers come in for this,” she said. “A lot of people don’t want to join the gym because they don’t know if they’ll use it enough.”

This is their opportunity to commit to an affordable six-week program that works for them.

“For Tribe Fit, we are getting people who love the challenge and love to train,” she explained. “For Tribe Life, we are getting people who don’t like to work out but who know how important it is. And then for Core, we have people coming in who want a six-pack, or want to be strong, or women who just had kids and want to tone that area.”

But as Ms. Penteado helps people figure out where they fit, she is more interested in their lifestyle and how they feel about working out than anything else. This way they will be able to connect with other people in their group and they’ll be able to face the challenges of the program together, with the support of the instructor.

“There’s always an excuse not to go to the gym,” said Ms. Penteado, “but when you commit to six weeks, and you know I’m going to be waiting for you, you’re going to get there. It’s great for our business because we know we’ll have those members coming in every time. It’s great for the trainers because they know who’s going to be there. And it’s great for the clients because they’ll see results, and how it can change their lives. That’s our main goal.”

For more information about Tribe or any of Hampton Gym Corp’s other offerings, visit www.hamptonsgymcorp.com .

 

 

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital Honored

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Stony Brook Children’s Hospital was presented with the Medical Visionary Award on May 8, at Make-A-Wish Suffolk County’s 20th Annual “Bouquet of Wishes” spring dinner. The Foundation presented this award to Stony Brook Children’s for the institution’s meritorious leadership in advanced and innovative pediatric specialty care.

“It is an honor to receive the Medical Visionary Award from the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County,” said Margaret M. McGovern, M.D., Ph.D., Physician-in-Chief, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “At Stony Brook Children’s we value our partnerships with organizations like Make-A-Wish that help us to care for all the needs of the sickest children. It is an organization that does an extraordinary job granting wishes to so many of our pediatric patients.”

“Stony Brook Children’s Hospital is Make-A-Wish Suffolk County’s largest referral source for wish children,” said Karine Hollander, President and CEO, Make-A-Wish Suffolk County. “We see firsthand the results of the treatment Stony Brook provides; enhancing children’s health both physically and emotionally. Together, we work in partnership to heal a child’s spirit.”

Lyme Disease Bill Advances

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced this week that the New York State Assembly has passed a bill he co-sponsored which would protect licensed physicians who prescribe long-term antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease from disciplinary action by the New York State Board of Professional Medical Conduct.

Throughout New York and East End of Long Island, there has been a dramatic increase in Lyme disease cases, which are often difficult to test for and even harder to treat. The bill would protect health care professionals with the authority to prescribe medication from disciplinary action against solely for prescribing, administering or dispensing long-term antibiotic therapy to a patient clinically diagnosed with Lyme disease.

“The extent and severity of the Lyme disease cases on the East End has escalated to the point of a public health crisis,” said Mr. Thiele in a press release. “Physicians should not be afraid to offer proper treatment. Early treatment can save lives.”

A senate version remains under review in that chamber’s Health Committee.

Citing Exhausted High Schoolers, Sag Harbor Parents Ask for Later Start Times at Pierson

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Susan LaMontagne addresses the Board of Education Monday, February 10.

Susan Lamontagne addresses the Board of Education Monday, February 10.

By Tessa Raebeck

By 7:25 a.m. when many adults are either still asleep or just getting up, Sag Harbor teenagers are in class, solving math problems, writing chemistry equations, and, some say, struggling to stay awake.

Since the mid-1990s, school districts across the country have taken measures to push back morning start times for high school students, citing research that says early times interfere with the natural circadian rhythms of growing adolescents, who require more sleep than adults and naturally have more energy at night and less in the early morning.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced his support for later start times, posting on his Twitter account in August, “Common sense to improve student achievement that too few have implemented: let teens sleep more, start school later.”

Despite the research and growing public support, however, many school administrators are wary about changing start times due to potentially detrimental effects on student athletes, who practice and play games after school. Administrators also cite the logistical concerns of having enough sunlight for outdoor games and the inherent difficulties of competing against schools with different hourly schedules. Later times would also require transportation schedules to change, an obstacle with undetermined costs.

At the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting Monday night, several parents showed up to advocate for later start times, present the board with supporting research and offer their help in determining how such a change could be implemented in Sag Harbor.

As it stands, the bell rings for first period at Pierson Middle/High School at 7:25 a.m. The sixth grade eats lunch at 10:17 a.m., seventh and eighth grade students eat at 11 a.m. and high school students eat at 11:43 a.m. The last class ends at 1:49 p.m. and students have academic support, an optional period they can use as a study hall or to get extra help from teachers, until 2:26 p.m., when the academic day ends.

The Sag Harbor Elementary School starts at 8:35 a.m. and gets out at 3:10 p.m.

A parent of two children in the district, Susan Lamontagne founded the Long Island Chapter of Start School Later, a nonprofit coalition of health professionals, sleep scientists, educators, parents, students, and others “working to ensure that all public schools can set hours compatible with health, safety, equity, and learning.”

Addressing the board Monday, Ms. Lamontagne cited sleep research that has found teenagers’ changing hormones make it difficult for them to go to sleep earlier than 11 p.m. and wake up before 8 a.m. Some Pierson students wake as early as 6 a.m. to get ready, catch their bus and get to class in time.

Ms. Lamontagne referenced schools across the country that saw increases in attendance and test scores and decreases in failing grades, depression, sports-related injuries and teen-driving related accidents once later start times were implemented.

At Nauset High School in Massachusetts, after the start time was moved more than an hour later, to 8:35 a.m., the number of days students were suspended for disciplinary reasons decreased from 166 days in the first two months of the 2010-2011 school year to 19 days in the first two months of the 2011-2012 school year.

In 2011, the Glen Falls City School District BOE voted to change the high school start time from 7:45 to 8:26 a.m. effective September 2012. In an interview with PostStar, Principal Mark Stratton stood by the board’s decision, although he admitted some students, particularly those who play sports, were unhappy about getting home from school later.

According to Mr. Stratton, after a year of the later start time, by September 2013 the percentage of students who were late to school dropped by almost 30 percent. The number of students failing courses also decreased, from 13.6 percent to 8.6 percent.

Glens Falls City School District does not provide transportation for its students, removing one obstacle cited by administrators considering earlier school start times.

“We want to offer our help,” Ms. Lamontagne told the board Monday, adding that she and others are willing to walk the administration through the experiences at other districts, the logistics of changing times and “the full body of research.”

“All of the research that I’ve read indicates that there’s only benefit to the students’ health and performance,” replied Chris Tice, the board’s vice president, saying she would like to “at least put it on the table and hear back from the administrators on their thinking that—if that was going to be the will of the board—what would it take to make that happen.”

BOE member Susan Kinsella said, while other districts have lights on their athletic fields, Sag Harbor has no such means of finishing games in the dark.

“We have problems as it is finishing games in the fall,” agreed Todd Gulluscio, the district’s athletic director, adding that Sag Harbor students have longer travel times to and from games than other districts that have implemented later start times.

“For me,” added Mr. Gulluscio, “from an academic standpoint, if the kid’s going to miss something, I’d rather it be academic support than a class.”

Ms. Tice asked Mr. Gulluscio whether the district would be able to play schools that are closer.

He said no, “we can’t control where small schools are in Suffolk County.”

BOE member Sandi Kruel said that with the overwhelming amount of research in support of later start times, “the pendulum’s swinging backwards for us instead of forward.”

“I too have read and understand the research and it makes a lot of sense,” said elementary principal Matt Malone. “But there’s many, many factors that go into it.” He pointed to families who have structured their work schedules around the schools’ current times.

“We have to think about what’s doable,” agreed Pierson Middle-High School principal Jeff Nichols. He said the issue has been “brought up for years here” and it may be realistic to move the start time by 10 minutes or so, but in terms of athletics, the school cannot simply choose to only play schools with the same schedule.

Mr. Nichols said such a change might work with a larger school district, but not one as small as Sag Harbor.

“It would be a challenge,” agreed vice principal Gary Kalish.

Parent Diana Kolhoff said if she had to choose between having bus service and school starting later, she would choose the later time, but Ms. Tice informed her cancelling transportation is not a legal option for the district.

BOE member David Diskin said later start times “obviously” make sense in terms of the benefits.

“My personal transition—having my kids go from elementary school to [high school] time—it’s torture. I mean it’s so early, it’s crazy,” he added.

Board member Mary Anne Miller asked Ms. Lamontagne, “if there’s a roadmap or some sort of a guideline that you could provide the board and the district with so we could keep talking about it, rather than closing the door and saying it’s too difficult, because most things in municipalities have many hurdles and obstacles.”

Ms. Lamontagne proposed the board put together a small group to go through the barriers and provide the board with recommendations.

“I’m comfortable with that,” said Mr. Nichols.

No decision was made and a group was not officially formed, but Ms. Lamontagne committed to continually updating the board.

Contract for Teaching Assistants

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Teaching Assistants Association of Sag Harbor, which has been without a contract for three years.

The contract is from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2016. It provides for 0-percent salary increases in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years, a .5-percent increase in 2012-2013 and again in 2013-2014, and 1-percent increases in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district, thanked the negotiating team, calling them “respectful, caring, very clear with their perspective [and] willing to listen to all perspectives.”

The board also granted the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) the right to include the title “Occupational Therapist” within their bargaining unit.

Bridgehampton School Ranks in Top 15 Obese Schools on Long Island

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Bridgehampton School personnel work in the district's new community garden last April, 2013. (Photography by Michael Heller).

Bridgehampton School personnel work in the district’s new community garden last April. (Michael Heller photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Although rates of childhood obesity in New York are showing signs of dropping, schools across the state are still reporting alarming rates of overweight students.

According to New York State Department of Health (DOH) data, Greenport is the most obese school district on Long Island, with Bridgehampton, Riverhead and Springs not far behind.

Between 2010 and 2012, 17.6 percent of New York public school students (excluding New York City) were considered obese, according to the DOH.

The Student Weight Status Category Reporting System, through which the data was compiled, was established in 2007 to support state and local efforts to understand and confront the problem of childhood obesity.

It requires students in kindergarten and grades 2, 4, 7 and 10 to have a student health certificate completed based on a physical examination, thus the data used in the DOH report only reflects students in those grades. Schools collect the health certificate information and the district then reports a summary to the DOH. The DOH does not receive data on individual children, only summaries of the district total and of students categorized by gender and grade groups, i.e. elementary versus secondary.

Although the appraisals used to collect the student obesity data are mandatory, parents can opt out of having their child’s data included in the school summary report sent to DOH. Approximately two percent of all parents opt out, according to DOH spokesman Dr. Jeffrey Hammond.

The percentages are therefore not definitive comparisons of districts’ obesity rates, noted Bridgehampton School superintendent Dr. Lois Favre.

Bridgehampton School, for example, is reported to have 15 obese children and a rate of 27.3 percent obesity. Both numbers are based on the 56 students in the grades for which data was submitted, not the entire district population.

Although the data is not all encompassing, it is nonetheless alarming.

According to the DOH, obesity is more prevalent among children raised in low-income households. Rates of obesity in New York are significantly higher in school districts in which a higher proportion of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

In Bridgehampton, 57 percent of students are on free or reduced price lunch, according to Dr. Favre.

“We work hard at Bridgehampton,” said Dr. Favre, “to assure that all students receive the state mandated amount of time for physical education [and] have daily recess that encourages movement.”

“We were one of the first schools on the South Fork to begin a school garden,” she added, “and pride ourselves on getting healthy foods to our students.”

In Riverhead, 315 students, or 24.7 percent of the sample population, were reported to be obese.

According to Superintendent Nancy Carney, 48 percent of Riverhead students are on free or reduced price lunch.

“With a poverty level of this rate,” said Carney, “families tend to rely on foods that are high in calories and low in cost to satisfy their nutritional needs.”

Riverhead schools offer low calorie meals of high nutritional value and encourage students to participate in the breakfast program, to save parents money and hopefully afford children the opportunity to make healthier food choices.

With 64 obese children in the sample data, Springs has an obesity rate of 22.9 percent.

Principal Eric Casale said although the school does not have its own cafeteria, the district works with parents to monitor students’ nutritional habits and a lunch cart filled with healthy foods is available. Its Springs Seedlings school garden has also been a success.

“Our mission as a district,” Casale said, “is to enrich the intellectual, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of our student body.”

Greenport School District had a reported childhood obesity rate of 33.4 percent.

The DOH rate of childhood obesity is 16.8 percent in East Hampton, 14.7 percent in Southampton and 9.9 percent in Sag Harbor, the lowest district on the East End

Ring in the New Year Right – and at a Discount – During Hamptons Wellness Week

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The organizers of Hamptons Wellness Week enjoy a healthy sunset. (Jenna Raynell photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

While many fitness regimes focus on getting a toned butt, a flat stomach or losing an inordinate amount of pounds in an impossible amount of weeks, Kiley Sabatino and Anastasia Gavalas don’t want to help you simply ‘get thin,’ they want to empower you to change your life.

With New Year’s resolutions still ripe in our minds, many East End residents are striving to be healthier. This Sunday, Hamptons Wellness Week, organized by Sabatino and Gavalas, is offering dozens of heavily discounted fitness classes, lectures and other events to kick start a year of good health.

“It’s touching upon all the important aspects that we want,” said Gavalas of the event. “It’s not just a get-on-a-diet plan, not just a crash course on getting thin. It’s not about that, it’s really a holistic approach to mind, body and soul.”

Gavalas, who lives in Bridgehampton, is a family life teacher and the founder of the Wing It Project, a social arts project that benefits children’s organizations worldwide. After meeting Sabatino, the founder of OneHealthyHamptons.com, they came up with the idea for a full week devoted to the local wellness community.

“We basically looked at each other and said, ‘What can we do?’” said Gavalas.

Anastasia Gavalas with a pupil and the wing she made through the Wing It Project. (Photo provided by Gavalas).

Anastasia Gavalas with a pupil and the wing she made through the Wing It Project. (Photo provided by Gavalas).

“I just think it’s so unique out here,” said Sabatino. “The health and wellness community out here is so amazing, so I wanted to empower it.”

Dozens of local businesses are participating in the event, which kicks off with a sign-up Sunday at Hampton Coffee Company’s Experience Store in Southampton. People who sign up will receive a gift bag (for the first 50) and a program outlining the variety of things they can do during the week.

Participants can pay $25 for three vouchers or $35 for seven. The vouchers are good for classes throughout the East End at a variety of studios, gyms and fitness centers.

From Pilates to CrossFit, there is something for everyone. Men and women, children and seniors, fitness experts or beginners can all find a suitable class, attend a relevant lecture or at the very least, enjoy the pizza party at the week’s end.

“It’s for people that want to try new classes but are hesitant to go in there,” said Sabatino. “They can go with friends, feel more comfortable. People don’t want to spend $40 [on a fitness class]…this allows them to try it for $5.”

Eighteen local fitness centers from Montauk to Hampton Bays are participating, including five yoga studios, Studio 89 in Sag Harbor, Exceed in East Hampton, BodyTech and the Ed & Phyllis Davis Wellness Institute at Southampton Hospital, to name a few.

Hamptons Wellness Week takes ‘health’ a few steps further than working out; it incorporates lectures from life coaches and other wellness experts, as well as fun promotions like facials from White’s Pharmacy in East Hampton and consultations with local nutritionist Tapp Francke.

“By healthy,” said Sabatino, “I really mean balanced. So a good life, not very strict, having fun and taking advantage of the awesome activities and events and parties and everything going on in the community and kind of intertwining it into a balanced, good life.”

Each night, a different local expert will lecture on a topic of their choice, ranging from stress management to life coaching.

“Basically,” said Sabatino, “it’s what experts would like to communicate to the community. They’re all doing it for free and they’re all really excited about it.”

Hamptons Wellness Week co-founder Kiley Sabatino.

Hamptons Wellness Week co-founder Kiley Sabatino. (Jenna Raynell photo).

Gavalas, who has five children ranging in age from seven to 15, will present “Rebalance your Family in 2014” on Tuesday.

The wrap-up party Friday is at Fresh Hamptons, where kids and families can make pizzas with chef Todd Jacobs and cloth wings with Gavalas, as part of the Wing It Project. Cocktails and food tastings follow.

In addition to empowering locals to get healthy, Hamptons Wellness Week aims to give energy to local businesses that are slower this time of year.

“The whole point,” said Sabatino, “is to celebrate health and wellness in this community, to make it available to people who are here all year round.”

“It’s about making really good change — and realistic change — that will guide them throughout the year,” added Gavalas.

Hamptons Wellness Week is January 12 to 17. For more information and a full schedule of offerings, visit hamptonswellnessweek.com.

Creating a Healthier School District from the Top Down

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Heller_BH School Wellness Challenge_6099

By Kathryn G. Menu

Bridgehampton teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz begins most days with a plate of eggs and cheese, “usually on top of something buttered.”
Until today, that is.

Carmack-Fayyaz is one of about a dozen members of the Bridgehampton Union Free School District participating in the Winter Wellness Challenge, sponsored and facilitated by the East Hampton based not-for-profit Wellness Foundation.

The Wellness Foundation, founded in 2005 by East Hampton resident Doug Mercer, is dedicated to empowering East End residents to live healthier lives through changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle by providing resources, hosting events like film screenings and lectures, as well as through initiatives like the Winter Wellness Challenge.

At its core, the Winter Wellness Challenge asks participants to engage in a vegan-inspired, whole foods diet, as well as increase exercise for six weeks. During the course of the challenge, groups will meet weekly for lectures on health, wellness, cooking classes and for general support.

This winter’s program has over 80 participants from East Hampton through Southampton, including Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton. The scientifically-based program is free, funded by the Wellness Foundation, which hopes to use the results of the challenge to further their research into the physical benefits of a whole foods, nutrient rich diet.

According to Wellness Foundation Outreach Director Barbara Kinnier, a Sag Harbor resident who will facilitate the wellness challenges in Sag Harbor and in Bridgehampton, blood tests were taken by all participants at the start and end of the challenge. Changes in cholesterol and glucose will be measured, along with each participant’s waistline — another indicator of good health.

Whether or not participants choose to share their results with the rest of the group is up to them, said Kinnier, as the foundation aims to protect privacy while encouraging changes in behavior.

According to Kinnier, the main goal is to educate participants about the benefits of a nutrient dense diet, made up primarily of vegetables and fruits.

“The thing about the body that is amazing is that it wants to heal itself and on the cellular level, the body is in fact healed through these foods,” said Kinnier. “And we make it taste good.”

Organizing a group at Bridgehampton School to join this winter’s challenge was the brainchild of new superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, who was inspired after school nurse Elizabeth Alves showed her the DVD “Processed People,” which the Wellness Foundation screened at the school earlier this month in the evening for community members.

Dr. Favre said in light of the new greenhouse on the school grounds — one that will soon produce salad greens and vegetables for the school’s brand new salad bar station — she felt the Winter Wellness Challenge presented the staff and faculty with an opportunity to set a good example for Bridgehampton School students.

Dr. Favre will take part in the challenge herself, along with about 10 members of the school’s faculty and staff.

“I also thought it might be a great way to get to know my staff in a different capacity, alongside them, getting healthy,” said Dr. Favre.

“I am hoping it builds the capacity for bringing more of what’s good for us into our program of studies for our students, into our cafeteria and ultimately to our families,” added Dr. Favre.

Carmack-Fayyaz said she was thrilled with Dr. Favre’s initiative, adding the program is very much in line with changes at Bridgehampton School — in particular the introduction of landscape design and nutrition classes crafted around an outdoor garden and now a greenhouse, which will be completed in March.

“We started our nutrition and culinary arts class here, and we have been teaching our students the Slow Food philosophy,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “It was striking because at first a lot of the students had this idea that being a vegan would be a very scary thing, that it was impossible to do, but we assembled some really great vegan salads in our class, and I think they were surprised by it.”

She said she hopes to chart some of the wellness challenge results for student’s to see, in particular how much each participant is logging on the pedometers they will wear throughout the course of the challenge.
“I think the biggest challenge will be re-conceptualizing what a meal is comprised of and giving most of the plate over to the vegetables,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “I know personally, it is a little scary — the idea of eating essentially a vegan diet for six weeks — but my hope is after the challenge I can cut down my meat consumption to one or two small servings a week and eat a more plant-based diet. I don’t think I will end up staying a full fledged vegan though.”

For Dr. Favre, fitting exercise into her busy schedule will be the biggest challenge, although she noted she will have the support of some staff members who aren’t even participating in the nutrition aspect of the program, but are committed to walking each day.

“I am hoping for renewed energy as is promised, and also gratifying will be the congeniality that will be built with staff around issues of taking care of ourselves, while we look after and inspire our students,” said Dr. Favre.
That is not to say the thought of cheesy pizza and a good hamburger will not haunt the superintendent as she embarks on this dietary challenge, although Dr. Favre said she was hopeful she would find new favorite foods in her vegan diet.

“I know that right now tofu is not on my hit parade,” she said. “But ask me later and I will share my new favorites.”