PUBLISHED: 2:35 PM on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
SEARHC program helps Angoon open new fitness, workout center

Photo courtesy of SEARHC
  Angoon High School Teacher Jim Parkin, center, and Harriet Silva, right, the Angoon Representative on the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Board of Directors, take test rides on two of the new stationary bicycles during Monday night's grand opening of the Angoon Fitness Center, while community member Annie Braley, left, tries out a stairclimber. Monday night's dedication ceremony was the culmination of a fitness center project that's lasted more than six years.
A new chapter of wellness began Monday night with the grand opening ceremony of the Angoon Fitness Center at Angoon's Eli Katanook Memorial High School.

About 50-60 residents (more than 10 percent of the village's total population) attended the low-key event, which took place at the Kevin O'Brien Memorial Gym. Chatham School District Superintendent Vance Rucker cut the ribbon and Angoon High School teacher Jim Parkin unlocked the door, then stood back as the community members began testing out the new machines.

"We've been building this thing for six years at least," said Parkin, who teaches eight subjects at the school including physical education. "It's done. It's a relief. Now all that needs if for the equipment to be maintained and used."

"It's awesome. It's been a long time," said Eli Katanook Memorial High School Head Teacher Ryan Dorsey, who already was talking about expanding the project.

"We'd like to take it further, maybe even get a separate building for the fitness center. The kids will get a lot of good use from the equipment."

Parkin said the school had an older Universal weight system and a few dumbbells in a back room when the project started, and his students held yard sales and a food sale to raise money for some free weights and a kick bag.

School officials and students laid down rubberized floor tiles and used sledge hammers to knock down a wall to expand the room, then the project really took off.

The Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program - which the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium runs as part of the national Steps to a Healthier US program, which targets obesity, diabetes and asthma - was able to secure a one-time-only permission from the national Steps program to use about $20,000 of its grant money to buy more fitness equipment.

That money helped buy a flatscreen TV for fitness videos, four treadmills, two crosstrainers, two upright bikes, two recumbant bikes, a stairclimber and a variety of dumbbells. Innofit Inc. of California added an extra stairclimber and a rack of dumbbells to the order, and Alaska Marine Lines donated free shipping to get the equipment from Seattle to Juneau.

"The Angoon Fitness Center is a wonderful demonstration of organizations and people coming together to help a vision become reality," Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska Grant Manager Krisanne Rice said. "The Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program is dedicated to helping people increase physical activity in their daily lives. All of us should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.

The Angoon Fitness Center is but one way for Angoon residents to reach that goal."

The equipment mainly will be used by students at first, but fitness center hours include times so all community members have an opportunity to use the equipment. Many of the people attending the grand opening said they liked the idea of having something healthy to do in a community that's so small it has no restaurant and where the extremely icy roads during the winter discourage physical activity.

"We were waiting for this day after Mr. Parkin shared with us what he was doing," said Harriet Silva, the Angoon representative on SEARHC's Board of Directors.

"A lot of families will use it. We're already fighting over the schedules, like when the men and women get their times."

"This is nice. You don't have to worry about the weather," said Doreen McCluskey, a Community Wellness Advocate with the SEARHC Angoon Medical Clinic.

For more information on the Angoon Fitness Center, contact Jim Parkin or Ryan Dorsey of Angoon's Eli Katanook Memorial High School at 788-3262 (Angoon) or Krisanne Rice of the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program at 966-8778 (Sitka).