The University of MichiganNews Services
The University Record Online
Updated 3:00 PM May 2, 2006




view events

submit events

UM employment

police beat
regents round-up
research reporter


Advertise with Record

contact us
meet the staff
contact us
contact us

Active U campaign
Active staff energizes first fitness challenge

The Active U campaign Feb. 7-April 3 to encourage staff to increase physical activity for better health, which also raised money for charity, turned out to be more successful than planned, organizers said.

On April 25, winning Active U team the Phat RD's took the Power Center stage with Dr. Robert Kelch, right, and left, Marilyn Knepp, associate vice president, University Budget, Planning, and Administration; and Laurita Thomas, associate vice president and chief Human Resource officer. The Phat Rd's are, from left, Darcy Ianni, Beth Weaver, Shannon Lyon, Jamie Krebs and Kristen Navadi. (Photo by Lin Jones, U-M Photo Services)

“There were 8,440 who registered for Active U, representing all U-M campuses, and that’s three times the number we expected. We were absolutely astounded,” said Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, at a noon program April 25 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate Active U and to honor teams and individuals who racked up the most activity minutes. “We’re setting a standard by creating a healthy workplace culture,” she added.

“This year just blows me away,” said Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs for the U-M Health System, noting that more than 12 million exercise minutes were logged by Active U participants, who also raised $35,000 for charity.

“Active U demonstrates how faculty and staff of the University of Michigan are taking care of their own—a concept that is very dear to me because it’s one of the seven strategic principles that guide the Health System,” Kelch said. “Taking care of our own means taking care of our faculty, staff, retirees, customers and community. It means having a high quality and cost-effective model health care system. And it means doing what it takes to have a healthy, safe and satisfied workforce.

“Even our small steps toward fitness can make a difference,” Kelch added. “Physically fit employees are happier in their jobs, more productive, absent less often, provide better customer service and have fewer job-related injuries. Additionally, by increasing physical activity in our daily lives, we make great strides in preventing future health problems, and we set an example for our children, families and friends.”

For each campus—Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn—organizers randomly selected one individual and one team to choose winning charities. The charity pot was divided by six, and $5,800 is being distributed to each winner’s charity of choice.

On the Ann Arbor campus, Active U participant Eric Timson, programming manager for Medical Center Information Technology, selected Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, dedicated to finding the cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The Fitness Posse, from the U-M-based Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life program, chose as its charity Alternatives for Girls, which strives to help homeless and high-risk girls and young women avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation.

On the Flint campus, U-M Flint alumna Clara Blakely of the Office of Educational Opportunities Initiatives chose the YWCA. Flint’s FAB5, one of several wellness teams from the School of Management, selected the Shelter of Flint as its charity. Ceremonial checks were to be presented April 27 at a recognition celebration in the Harding S. Mott University Center. In Dearborn, the Six Packers from the Office of Career Services selected the National Multiple Sclerosis Society-Michigan, while Christina Simon from the Henry Ford Estate chose Alternatives for Girls.

Before the event at the Power Center, members from many of the 545 teams that signed up for Active U gathered in the concourse to sample healthy snacks of vegetables, fruits, crackers and cheese, as Active U team photos were projected on a large screen on stage. Some team members filling the main floor of the auditorium cheered when their teams were shown.

The first-place team award went to the Phat RD’s in the dietetics department of the University Hospital. The team racked up 6,915 minutes over the eight weeks. “When we started off, we said we were going to do it,” said team captain Darcy Ianni. “We would take breaks together and walk.”

Finishing second was Team Vollano from the Athletic Department, with 5,460 minutes; Waste Reducers from the Plant Department finished third with 4,564 minutes; IMSB Rec Sports Puddle Jumpers finished fourth with 4,433 minutes; and Hearts Under Construction, from Facilities and Operations, finished fifth with 4,009 minutes.

The first-place individual award went to Theodore Beimel, staff pharmacist with Health Service Ancillary Medical Services, with 6,915 minutes. “I have biked to work everyday regardless of the weather for years and usually swim everyday at lunchtime,” he said. Finishing second was Dale Bahr, assistant director of athletics, 6,790 minutes; third, Kimberly Ellsworth, graphic designer, Law School, 6,780 minutes; fourth, Priscilla Rice, research secretary, School of Education, 6,710 minutes; and fifth, Sandra Short administrative assistant, M-CARE, 6,155 minutes.

Of those registered for Active U, 86.6 percent actively tracked minutes during the course of the program.

“I walk 2 ½ miles every day—I just got credit for it,” said Chinyere Neale of the Center for Population and Planning. Gwendolyn Tandy of University Housing wore her long-sleeve Active U T-shirt to the event along with two team members. “I joined because I’m interested in getting fit, feeling better, getting healthy and looking better. I started following the South Beach Diet, which I followed more than not,” she said, adding she has begun walking more—3-5 miles six days per week. “I hope it has become a habit now,” she said.

The Active U campaign is part of the larger Michigan Healthy Community campus-wide effort to encourage healthier living through increased activity, attention to physical safety in the workplace, and other means. The multifaceted program aims to promote discussion and motivate commitment to well-being by embracing health as a community. It includes the current Enhanced Ergonomic Awareness program, which seeks to boost awareness of, access to, and the effectiveness of ergonomic resources within the U-M community.

Active U participants can continue to track weekly activity on the Web using the Active U Personal Activity Tracker, or view final standings at

More information about all Michigan Healthy Community programs can be found at

More Stories