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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


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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