By John Burton
RED BANK – When residents see the mayor and council members during municipal functions, they’re usually in business attire but during a recent Saturday morning it was all shorts and T-shirts.
The casual wear – often featuring exposed knees and white socks – was the garb of choice as Mayor Pasquale Menna, elected officials and nearly 100 people participated in a mile-long walk from the borough’s Marine Park to its Riverside Gardens Park and back.
The walk was the kickoff event for the Mayors Wellness Campaign, initiated by Menna and the council to encourage borough employees and residents to lead healthier lives.
On the bright Saturday morning, Oct. 20, borough employees and others met at Marine Park to warm up, sign up and collect commemorative T-shirts and information about nutrition and health issues from booths manned by those from a variety of organizations.
Donna Smith Barr, director of the planning and zoning department, was on hand with Mary Kouvel, an administrative assistant for the department. “It’s a beautiful day and I’m due for a walk,” Barr said. Kouvel agreed.
Doreen Hoffman, the employee liaison for the campaign, said she has been taking advantage of the Community YMCA’s four-month free membership for borough employees. She said she felt “good about myself,” since she started working out at the 166 Maple Ave. facility. She plans to continue with her exercise routine following the four-month membership. “I want to add more years to my life,” Hoffman said.
Sandra Van Sant, a Monmouth County regional health officer, participated with Isabel Lopez, an outreach worker with the county’s chapter of Shape Up New Jersey, to get people to appreciate the need for making better choices when they shop for groceries. “Sometimes people don’t always understand about what is available and what they should eat,” Lopez said.
Free T-shirts, imprinted with the campaign’s motto, “Today, Tomorrow and Together,” were available. The goal is to have people live healthier now and in the future, said Councilman Michael DuPont, who proposed the idea for the campaign, which has been established in other communities around the state.
About 204 towns now have such programs, according to Melissa Kostinas, director of the State Mayors Wellness Campaign.
As an incentive, the participating employees also are competing for a $300 Red Bank gift card, which will be awarded to the employee who loses the most body weight percentage over the course of the four months.
Rick Ivone Jr., who chairs the campaign committee and is a motivational speaker and life coach on health issues, led the group at Riverside Gardens Park in what he called dynamic warm-up exercises. “Everybody is amazing,” in how they jumped in, “being healthy, getting to know everybody,” he said. “It’s a good day for the community.”
It won’t be the last, Menna promised, and said there will be other events to encourage people to continue.