Fitness Challenge teams rumble out of the starting gate

Jim Stitt, left, is weighed in Thursday by St. Joe's at the Mall manager Shirley Lisk for the 17th annual Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge.

Those grunts, groans and moans you hear… They’re probably emanating from the 9 1/2 tons worth of flabby fun rumbling into the 17th annual Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge.

“I came to get the weight off again,” said third year Fitness Challenge participant Dr. Jeff Patterson, captain of the Flubber Busters team. “Too many cookies over the holidays.”

He said he shed 30 pounds in last year’s weight-loss competition to benefit charity, but some of it somehow managed to find its way back home.

Still, Patterson said his starting weight this year is 20 pounds lighter than his starting weight three years ago. So, he’s ready to lose more.

For the next eight weeks, Patterson and 84 other players on the 17 teams communitywide will exercise themselves into a sweat, eat sensible, good-for-you foods and deflate that spare tire around their middles to both kickstart their own health goals and to fatten the coffers of their favorite service organizations.

The teams that lose the greatest percentage of their starting weights will gain the largest share of the prize money for their designated nonprofit groups.

Last year’s champion, Now U C Us, shed 16.9 percent of its starting weight to earn $1,155 for Cornerstone of Hope, a grief support group for parents who have lost children.

Unfortunately, not all of Jim Parry’s gang kept it off, so most of them are back for another go as U C Us Again. One of the new team members is Jim Stitt, principal of Mathews High School.

“There are some teachers over at Mathews — we decided we wanted to do a few things for our health,” Stitt moments after the initial weigh-in on Thursday. “My goal is to lose about 20 pounds.”

It’s his first time in the Fitness Challenge, but he said he has no problem joining the team.

“If you make it competitive, men will do it,” Stitt said.


For those of you who came in late, here’s how the Fitness Challenge works:

Each five-player team pays a $250 entry fee and designates a nonprofit service group that it will represent. All teams are guaranteed to send at least $225 of that money to their chosen service organization. The top 10 teams send more, up to $1,125 for first place. Or even more than that, with weekly bonuses available for the best seven-day performance.

The initial weigh-in was Thursday, and teams will continue to weigh in each Thursday through March 15 — two days before St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and green beverages show up on the menu.

Team standings will be posted every Tuesday here in the Tribune Chronicle, starting next week.


The 17th annual Fitness Challenge weighed in at a combined 19,043.75 pounds. That works out to about 1,120.25 pounds a team or about 224 pounds a player.

Actual weights vary wildly. Four of the 17 teams weighed in at less than 1,000 pounds, with the lightest team — Because We Can — starting at a svelte 947 pounds. That’s about 189 pounds a player.

The heaviest team starting this year’s challenge — with plans not to be the heaviest in two months — is Four and a Half Full-Grown Men, at 1,298.25 pounds. They just barely edged out the Faithful Five, which crunched the scales at a combined 1,295.5 pounds. That’s an average of 259 to 260 pounds a player for those two teams.

Come back in two months and see how the hefty have fallen.


Dominic Mararri of the Heavy Decisions team said that as the year rolls into the feastings in November and December, people tend to lose sight of their health. When the new year dawns, folks become more aware that they need to get back on track.

The Fitness Challenge helps.

“I think the Challenge really does keep you accountable,” he said. “It’s the camaraderie. It’s fun.”

Mararri said he upped the ante on commitment — he hired a personal trainer to work with him three days a week.

“My goal is to lose body fat, add muscle and just feel better. Since Jan. 1, I started walking and running, and that set the pace for the rest of the day. You do better during the day and make healthier choices.”

Experts from Mercy Health will offer tips and guidelines in these weekly updates to help all players to achieve their goals.

Dr. Steve Robbins, who took a lap around Eastwood Mall earlier this month in Mercy’s Walk With a Doc program, will return to St. Joe’s at the Mall 6 p.m. Jan. 31 to host a “Fundamentals of Weight Management” class. Robbins is a bariatrician and endocrinologist who will discuss dietary strategies, the role of exercise in weight loss, available medications and procedures, and the effect of weight loss on diabetes management.

When it comes to losing weight, reducing calories counts more than stepping up the exercise, he said. But instead of choosing one over the other, the tandem of healthy eating habits and common sense workouts together promotes better health.


This week’s service organization spotlight falls on Arianna’s Hope Chest, the organization for which the team Arianna’s Hope is playing.

“It’s something we’ve been doing now for the past five years,” Richard Cross, captain of the family team, said. “We decided to participate and donate our money to the Akron Children’s Palliative Care Center because of the outstanding care given to our family when our littlest jewel, Arianna Hope Thomas, was born six years ago (Jan. 19).

“We were able to hold her and hug her and love her for the hour or so until she left us due to the complications of Trisomy 18.

“So for the next eight to 10 weeks, this will be our goal,” Thomas said.

Arianna’s Hope Chest was established in 2013 by Cross, his wife, Beverly Cross-Thomas, also a team member, and their daughter, Savanna, in memory of Arianna. The organization aims to help families who face the loss of a child.


How did they come up with those creative team names?

“(Member) Frank Tempesta named the team because, then and now, it has consisted of four well-nourished males and yours truly, not so well nourished,” said Four and Half Full-Grown Men captain Mike Rossi.

Rossi is the only guy on the team starting out at less than 200 pounds. A couple of Full-Grown guys punch the peg a bit north of 300.

“We are not hell-bent on winning the golden ring this year but are shooting for something like a 12 to 15 percent loss of weight for each of us,” Rossi said.