Barbara Jackson was shocked and ecstatic after a representative from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced that she had won first place and received a $500 gift certificate after losing the most weight during the Healthy Church Challenge 100-day weight loss competition.
The announcement of individual winners and churches that loss the greatest percentage of weight was delivered before hundreds on June 17 at the 19th Annual Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival in historic Douglass Park in the North Memphis community.
Jackson, a member of One Way Church of God in Christ, lost 32.2 pounds, followed by second place winner Anita Banks of St. Andrew A.M.E. Church, who lost 29 pounds. Marcus Maxwell Ross, a member of Mt. Sinai M.B. Church, lost a total of 27.6 pounds. (All participants who attended each monthly weigh-in received an additional 2 lb. credit at the final weigh-in on June 9.)
"I was so excited, I forgot how much I really lost," said Jackson, still feeling euphoric several days later. "When I got home, I told my brother that I'd won and he said, 'Shut your mouth.' I said, 'I got it open now.'"
Brenda Thornton said she's still "pumped" after learning that her church, Fullview M.B. Church in Bartlett, Tenn., won first place, which included a $5,000 gift certificate to the Sports Authority and nutritional counseling from Baptist Memorial Health Care. She also said she was "shocked, excited, overwhelmed and happy for the whole group."
"I was like, oh my goodness! I got home and couldn't go to sleep," said Thornton, who stayed the course until the competition ended. "I am so excited. This is the beginning of a new beginning."
The second place winner, The Healing Cathedral Christian Church, received a $2,500 gift certificate to the Sports Authority as well, followed by third-place winner St. Andrew A.M.E. Church, which received a $1,500 gift certificate.
Hundreds of Mid-Southerners from 36 churches participated in the weight loss competition and many of them participated in The Obesity Summit as well at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, which preceded the Healthy Church Challenge announcement of winners.
Internationally renowned fitness expert Donna Richardson Joyner keynoted the Summit along with Rosalind Kurita, policy advisor to the Tennessee Commissioner of Health. More than 275 people interested in losing weight and preventing the onset of obesity listened intently as Joyner and Kurita encouraged participants to eat healthy and exercise. Joyner started her presentation with a five-minute light workout.
The Healthy Church Challenge was sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, along with Baptist Memorial Health Care, News Channel 3, Hallelujah 95.7 FM, The New Tri-State Defender, and the Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival.
(For updates and photos of The Obesity Summit and winners of the Healthy Church Challenge, visit Facebook.com/TheHealthyChurch Challenge.)