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Celebrity ‘loser’ pumps up students

Austin Andrews had the gym rocking during his visit to Holladay Elementary.
A self-professed former fat kid stopped by Holladay Elementary School Sept. 20 to present an interactive assembly designed to help students avoid struggling with their weight as he did.

Austin Andrews, who lost more than 200 pounds as a contestant on NBC’s Biggest Loser 2011, had HES third-, fourth- and fifth-graders singing, shouting and dancing as he peppered them with information and questions about exercising and making good nutrition choices.

The visit was sponsored by Wholly Guacamole, which brought the “guac mobile,” a 55-foot trailer shaped like a bowl of guacamole, to Holladay from its previous visit to a Sterling school.

Wholly Guacamole staff members giggled as they described their travels down the East Coast in the brightly-colored, oddly-shaped truck.

“Driving down the highway, you see all the people hit their brake lights [as the “guac mobile” looms in their rear view mirrors],” said one staff member. “It’s a trip!”

Although there were no guacamole samples to be had (“The Baltimore Farmers Market cleaned us out,” said a staffer), students posed for photos with the truck and teachers were given coupons to distribute later.

From Richmond, the “guac mobile” was heading to North Carolina, where Andrews would take the “Check Your Choice Tour” and his presentation about healthy habits to additional elementary schools.

A finalist on Biggest Loser 2011, Andrews noted in an interview following the presentation that after feeling so badly about his size as a child, he can’t imagine a more rewarding pursuit than helping to curb the trend toward childhood obesity.

While other children weren’t necessarily cruel to him about his weight, said Andrews, “I felt bad enough just to go through that. . . . And I don’t want to see students go through it.”

He also pointed out that in addition to targeting children ages 6 to 14 “the range you have to make an impact” -- the campaign also is designed to educate parents and get them involved in anti-obesity efforts.

“If parents aren’t modeling good behavior,” said Andrews, “it’s hard to get [children to cooperate]. It’s good to see schools taking care of that.”

During his presentation, Andrews had two student volunteers hold up a t-shirt and pair of pants that he wore when he weighed more than 400 pounds, and pointed out that the weight equaled that of several third-graders.

To loud cheers, Holladay Principal Angela Allen then presented Andrews with a considerably smaller HES t-shirt emblazoned with the school motto, and inducted him into “The Dream Team” as students shouted the motto in unison: “Dream, Lead and Inspire!”

Wholly Guacamole staff members reported afterwards that they immediately began getting feedback from viewers across the country who were inspired as they watched the presentation on the “Check Your Choice” blog.

One viewer posted the message, “What a wonderful school motto! That is the kind of school I want my kids to attend.”

To see a brief video of Andrews’ Holladay visit, visit http://checkyourchoice.tumblr.com
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Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

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Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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