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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

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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