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Michigan Apple awards youth opportunity to make healthy choices, lose weight

Contact: Denise Donohue
(800) 456-2753

(DeWitt, Mich.) – According to family members, the “Get Fit With Michigan Apples” scholarship recipients are losing weight, exercising, having fun and meeting new friends this summer at Wellspring Fitness Camps.

The annual scholarship program, offered by Michigan Apple Committee (MAC) in partnership with Wellspring Fitness Camps, started in 2008 to help combat childhood obesity and improve the quality of life for a few deserving youth. 

In order to qualify this year, applicants, ages 11 to 18, had to submit either an essay (500-word minimum) or a video (3-minute minimum) explaining why they most deserve a four-week stay at the renowned weight loss and fitness camp designed exclusively for young people.  While the selection process was emotionally challenging, judges from MAC and Wellspring selected the following recipients:

 –Alexyss Gray from Cleveland, Ohio is 12 years old and weighs 282 lbs.  She told MAC that in the past year she as gained more than 60 lbs., and has not been able to focus on school work as much of her time is spent struggling to fit in with others her age.

Shania Arnold of Elk Rapids, Mich., is 12 years old and weighs 400 lbs. She has gained 80 lbs. in the past year.  With two younger sisters, Shania said she hopes her experience at Wellspring will allow her to set a positive example for her siblings.

Candace Dargan of Chapel Hill, N.C., is 15 years old and weighs 270 lbs.  Candace wants to lose weight because she has been teased relentlessly and no longer wants to rely on food as a crutch.  She has gained more than 20 lbs. in the past year.

Each scholarship, valued at $6,250, covers the cost of the four-week camp at one of the eight locations across the U.S.  Just a week into camp, Shania Arnold's school counselor shared a heartfelt thanks to MAC.

“She's just loving camp and having so much fun and doing so much that's been 'out of the box' for her,” said Jami Gray.

And Alexyss Gray's mom reported her daughter was also making progress.

“We are so grateful for the scholarship,” said Rhonda Gray.  “Alexyss is doing well.  As of last week, she had lost 10 pounds.”

Recipients chose a camp from the following locations:

  • California (boys and girls; ages 11 – 18)
  • North Carolina (boys and girls; ages 11 – 18)
  • New York (girls; ages 11 – 24)
  • Wisconsin (boys and girls; ages 11 – 18)
  • Florida (boys and girls; ages 11 – 18)
  • Texas (boys and girls; ages 11 – 18)
  • Pennsylvania (boys and girls; ages 11 – 18)
  • Vancouver, Canada (boys and girls; ages 11 – 18)

According to MAC Nutrition Spokesperson Judy MacNeill, a registered dietician, overweight children are at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, and social and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem. 

“It's great to see efforts like this contest from the Michigan Apple Committee that promote healthier lifestyles, especially for our children,” said MacNeill.  “Genetics, lack of exercise and poor nutrition choices can all lead to weight gain.  An opportunity to attend a camp like Wellspring is certainly life-changing.”

A panel of judges evaluated the entries based on:

  • Completeness – Did the entrant provide all that was required in the entry?
  • Potential – How could the entrant benefit from the programs offered during his or her Wellspring Camp experience?
  • Desire – Does the entrant really want to adopt a healthier lifestyle?
  • Financial Need – Entrants who could not normally afford to attend Wellspring Camp will be given priority.

Wellspring has a scientific approach to diet and activity management that helps campers change behaviors in order to adopt a new, healthy lifestyle.  Campers lose an average of 4 pounds per week.  Best of all, 70 percent of Wellspring campers maintain or continue losing weight at home.

“We believe the comprehensive and therapeutic nature of our fitness and weight loss approach is why our camp experience works so well,” said John Gordon, head of business development for Wellspring.  “We're excited to continue our relationship with Michigan Apples to offer three full scholarships as we both work to promote healthy lifestyles.”

This is the second year MAC has offered the contest.  Last year's winners were Kara Schumaker of Clinton Township, Michigan; Michael Craigmile of Atlanta, Georgia; Tevaris Nelson of Chicago, Illinois; and Isaiah Harris of Indianapolis, Indiana.

In addition to losing weight during camp, all four winners were able to maintain the healthy lifestyle after returning home.  So impressed with her son's progress, Kelly Craigmile said the entire family has adjusted their lifestyle.

“Now we all walk at least 10,000 steps a day, always wearing our pedometers and we have switched to a very low-fat diet,” said Kelly.  “I can't imagine any other program that could have changed things around like this one.”

A Michigan Apple logo from a bag of apples was encouraged with each entry.  Winners were responsible for their own travel expenses. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a dramatic increase in childhood obesity over the last 20 years.  In 2007, 30 states had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 25 percent; three of these states (Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30 percent, with Michigan coming in right below that mark at 28 percent.

Wellspring Academies, Wellspring Camps and Wellspring Fit Clubs are recognized as the leading weight loss treatment programs for overweight children, teens and young adults.  Founded in 2004 as Healthy Living Academies, the organization is now recognized under one name, Wellspring.  Wellspring offers fitness and weight loss programs across the United States, in Canada, and the United Kingdom.  To learn more about Wellspring weight loss programs, visit www.wellspringweightloss.com or call 866-364-0808.  Wellspring is a division of CRC Health.

The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded, nonprofit organization devoted to market development, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption by consumers in Michigan and around the world.