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Church members put on walking shoes to promote healthy living

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A UMNS photo by Millie Meese

Anita Henderlight, the Rev. Kevin Cole and Bill Stuart collect donations for the Holston Conference's Change for Children campaign.

July 8, 2005

A UMNS Feature
By Allison Scahill*

Attending annual conference means a lot of sitting, but more than 200 United Methodists meeting at Lake Junaluska, N.C., left their seats this year to “Walk for Change” and promote healthier lifestyles.

The Walk for Change highlighted the second year of Grand Camp, a promotion by the church’s Holston Annual (regional) Conference for all “grands”—grandparents, grandkids and honorary grands—to help the intergenerational church family grow. The first year of Grand Camp focused on reading and literacy, year two was dedicated to healthy living, and year three will emphasize mission work and volunteerism.

Anita Henderlight, children’s ministry coordinator for the Holston Conference, was pleased with the turnout at the June 14 health walk.

“It was great,” she said. “It was from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and when we got there to set up the tent at 5:30 a.m., there were already people there ready to walk.” 

Walkers and donors received green ribbons, and the walkers also were recognized by having their names placed on mini tennis shoes on a “Walk of Fame.” 

The Walk for Change raised more than $45,000. Half of that will benefit the conference’s Change for Children campaign, and half will go to help children in Africa, Henderlight said.

The Holston Conference, which covers parts of Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia, met June 12-15. All 63 of the church’s U.S. conferences held their annual meetings in May and June.  

Henderlight noted that obesity in the United States is increasing every year, and she wants to educate people about the importance of being healthy. 

“Among kids ages 6 to 19, one in six are overweight. We want to promote people to get out, get moving and get active,” she said. “Don’t sit on the couch and watch too much TV, don’t eat a ton of fast food or high-caloric food.”

Making healthy choices has long-term benefits, such as better stewardship of bodies, more energy, less stress, reduced illness, clearer thinking, improved communication, and more enthusiasm and optimism, she said.

“We want to encourage people to keep walking and keep a healthy lifestyle after this is over,” she said. “We want to keep promoting healthy initiatives in churches, specifically in the needs of children.”

Bishop James Swanson supported the Grand Health Campaign by co-starring in a video with two Holston children, Hannah Gamble, 10, and Erin Gamble, 5, Henderlight said.

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A UMNS photo by Eric Glass

Bishop James Swanson walks with Hannah and Erin Gamble to promote the Walk for Change at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

“Bishop Swanson has been great,” Henderlight said. “He has been such a force of support and helped to make the launch successful.”

Sue Isbell, director of children’s ministries at Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., said Swanson made quite an impact on Erin, a 5-year-old member of the congregation.

“One afternoon (Erin) was visiting my office and asked for a granola bar,” she said. “After carrying it around for about 20 minutes, she gave it back unopened. When I asked why she hadn’t eaten it she said, ‘The bishop said we should listen to our bodies and my tummy tells me it isn’t hungry anymore.’ Obviously, she recalled the thrust of the campaign and what Bishop Swanson had talked with her and Hannah about on the day they made the video.” 

The idea for Grand Camp came about as a way to bridge the gap between the young and elderly people in the church, Henderlight said. 

After the campaign was launched, a long list of people showed interest in doing something similar in their local church, she said.

“As a conference staff, our job is to be a resource to local churches and lift up ideas,” Henderlight said. “We encourage people to make things happen for the kids.”

Jennifer Hartwig, of Middlebrook Pike United Methodist Church in Knoxville, is putting together a 5K run fund-raiser for her congregation’s children’s ministry. 

“It’s more in my head than anything else,” she said. “Our church is blessed with a park with walking trails right across the street, so I wanted to make it a churchwide thing with a 5K run and a one-mile ‘fun walk’ for those who don’t want to run, and maybe even a 50-yard race for little kids or something.” 

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Millie Meese

Members of the Holston Conference display the names of participants in the Walk for Change.

Hartwig, who took time off from being an exercise physiologist to stay home with her daughter, said she thought of the idea as she was training for a half-marathon. 

Henderlight said she was excited about Hartwig’s efforts. “She wants to set an example for children. I want to do everything I can to help her.” 

Henderlight is working on phase three of the Grand Camp, which will focus on mission work and volunteering.

“Through the Grand Camp, we have tried to find ways to be in ministry in a practical way,” she said. “We want to change the world.”

*Scahill, a mass communications major at United Methodist-related Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., is an intern with the Convergence Team at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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