Where there’s a will, there’s a weigh(-in)

Helping yourself while helping others is an irresistible combination.

Just ask the 120 participants (myself included) who have signed up for the “Lighten Up Dunkirk-Fredonia” weight loss challenge. All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

A surefire sign of success in any first-time community event is when the public starts clamoring for more. Such is the case with this fundraiser. Many area residents who missed the initial round of weigh-ins last weekend have been asking for an additional weigh-in opportunity. And their request has been granted.

The Lighten Up committee will hold a “second chance” weigh-in this afternoon from 4-6 p.m. in Dunkirk’s Clarion Hotel lobby for any latecomers interested in coming aboard. This competition is open to all weight-conscious persons regardless of where they live. The fee is $10. The weigh-outs will take place nine weeks later on May 23, 24 and 25. What happens in-between will be largely left to good old-fashioned willpower and determination.

Because of the tremendous response, Lighten Up organizers are currently looking into helping participants along the way by hosting free informational fitness and nutritional seminars run by local trainers and professionals. Chautauqua Health & Fitness has already committed to one program which will be conducted at the Clarion. Zumba classes at the hotel also may be in the offing and free of charge to all participants.

According to Lighten Up promoter Jason Schmidt, “The event’s higher than expected participation and support affords us the opportunity to offer our participants helpful resources to assist in achieving their weight loss goals to which they might not otherwise have access, and it simultaneously serves as a vehicle for promoting our local health and fitness-oriented businesses. Together, its a win-win for all involved.”

Lighten Up is a “fun”raiser as well. To spark some friendly competition guaranteed to bring out the mercenary side in all of us, an array of fitness-minded prizes will be awarded. Keep in mind this is a competition where the biggest loser is also the biggest winner. Top prize is a $500 gift certificate to TJ Maxx for a new wardrobe to replace those oh-so-baggy clothes. Five one-month memberships to Chautauqua Health and Fitness, a one-year membership to Darwin’s Health Club courtesy of Lakeside Precision Inc., a GNC certificate, free zumba classes, T-shirts and other non-caloric goodies await those who have lost the greatest percentage of their weight.

To level the playing field, seniors will not be made to compete with 20-somethings as over-40 and under-40 age categories have been created. And for this, I give much thanks.

The other objective of Lighten Up is to battle the formidable foe known as cancer by making a sizable donation to cancer research as well as promoting the concept of proactively taking better care of one’s health and body to ward off the dreaded disease.

Schmidt emphasized that “100 percent of all entry fees will be donated to the American Cancer Society. All prizes were contributed by the sponsorships and the administrative and promotional costs associated with the event were incurred by the promoters and are not in any way expensed against the entry fees received. With Relay for Life fast approaching, we are hopeful of making a meaningful contribution to assist in substantially increasing the numbers raised here in Northern Chautauqua County so that our local community can be further recognized for its contribution to the Relay for Life drive. In this regard, too, it’s a win-win for all involved.”

Cancer is the notorious equalizer; it is no respecter of age, wealth, status or celebrity. Witness its recent recurrence in former Bills’ quarterback Jim Kelly. Or how pancreatic cancer claimed Apple co-founder and multi-billionaire Steve Jobs at age 56. Let’s not forget TV and movie stars Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Landon, among countless other well-known movers and shakers whose lives were cut short.

My late father was fond of saying, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” These words recently hit close to home when a cancer scare involved a family member. Thankfully, this insidious bullet was successfully dodged. Winning the Mega Millions jackpot pales in comparison to being told by your doctor that you don’t have cancer after all. What good is all that money if you don’t have your health?

Knowing all too well how difficult it can be to stick to a weight loss regime, I am looking for a diet buddy or buddies for the duration of the Lighten Up program. Fellow participants who prefer not to go it alone are welcome to contact me at the email address below. Encouragement and support can be offered in a number of ways, including email, phone, in person, or through group meetings.

I agree wholeheartedly with Jason Schmidt. Simultaneously fighting the battle of the bulge and the war on cancer is a win-win for all involved.

Mary Ann Herrington is an OBSERVER staff writer. Comments may be sent to mherrington@observertoday.com.