A charity fundraiser brings new meaning to "worth your weight in gold."
Starting in September, area residents will have the opportunity to shed a few pounds in order to raise money for causes such as St. Susan Center, Chautauqua County Humane Society, The Salvation Army, Chautauqua County Rural Ministry and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Ellen Feldt, organizer of Lose For Change, decided to start the program as a way to motivate people to lose weight and help charities in the process.
"I'm a mother of three, and like so many other parents I'm a multi-tasker," said Feldt. "I'm a little overweight, and I wanted to work on that, but I never really had the proper motivation to do it. So, I had to come up with a better reason for me to do that."
That's when Feldt came up with the idea to have people get themselves sponsored to lose weight, and have the proceeds they earn per pound donated to a local charity.
"I originally wanted it to be that people lose weight and the money goes towards food pantries for people who don't have food because it seemed so poetic," said Feldt. "But, when I opened the idea up to my friends for advice, I found that there are other great charities that people wanted to help."
Those who wish to sign up should visit the program's Facebook page by searching for "Lose For Change" or go to one of the four weigh-in stations. The stations are located at Jamestown Nutrition, 304 N. Main St. in Jamestown, Thrive Nutrition, 27 W. Main St. in Fredonia, Strive Nutrition, 124 Chautauqua Ave. in Lakewood and Better Life Nutrition, 2 Main St. in Falconer.
According to Feldt, the stations are considered "shake-shops" or "nutrition clubs." In addition to serving delicious and healthy nutrition shakes, they also help members maintain healthy lifestyles, and host a number of their own weight-loss challenges. Participants are not required to buy or order anything from the clubs, but the workers may provide one-on-one weight-loss coaching.
"You fill out the sign-up sheet and spend the month of August searching for sponsors," said Feldt. "The sponsors choose which place they want to donate to and how much each pound is worth. Anyone can be a sponsor: friends, family, colleagues or businesses."
After finding at least one sponsor, participants do their first weigh-in at one of the stations on Sept. 1. Then over the course of the next 12 weeks, Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, participants lose as much weight as they can in a healthy manner. The more sponsors that people can round up, the more money they can earn for charity.
"People can use whatever weight-loss method they choose," said Feldt. "I'm no health expert, but everything I've heard was no more than two pounds per week. So, if people shoot for 24 pounds (over the course of 12 weeks) that would probably be in the healthy range."
According to Feldt, the idea behind having people find their own sponsors is that it allows participants to build a support system that can give encouragement throughout the process.
"You'll have people rooting for you when you're trying to summon that willpower," said Feldt. "At the end of November if you feel like you want to keep the weight off, a good place to start would be one of the nutrition clubs. They do a lot of nutrition education, and they do have a lot of tips on maintaining weight. Some of them even offer fitness programs."
The participant who raises the most money throughout the 12-week period will win a prize. And, if someone signs up and for some reason does not manage to lose any weight, there are no repercussions. Depending on the success of this year's program, Feldt hopes to turn the fundraiser into an annual event. So, those who enjoy it or cannot lose weight this year can give it another shot next year.
"It's a fun way to lose weight, and it is a win-win situation," said Feldt. "If any participants want to lose weight then a good idea might be to go online and do some research on the five charities. If people understood what these places do for our community, and that all they needed to do was lose weight and get healthy, they'd reach out to all these organizations."