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Murray Journal

Murray High’s Georgelas works with students for heart fundraiser

Feb 05, 2019 03:13PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It was more than a competition for Murray High’s Keeko Georgelas.

Although Georgelas admits his competitive juices kicked in to try to win the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute teacher 2018 My Heart Challenge, he also wanted to educate and help those in the community learn the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.

While trying to increase his own fitness and health, Georgelas worked with their school’s culinary arts students to hold a fundraiser dinner for heart research for Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

About 20 teachers came to support his effort, which the student body officers promoted, and he raised $420.

“This could help pay living expenses for families of patients undergoing heart transplants,” he said. “I hope it becomes an annual event. It was a good way to give back to the community and gain support for what is needed.” 

Georgelas, who had a heart attack 12 years ago while coaching football, said between that and a back injury, he got sidelined from maintaining a healthy fitness level so he decided to participate in the challenge. Through it, he became accountable and more focused on the importance of healthy choices.

“I would post my workouts and what I did. I’ve never done that before. I had 120 followers. I tried some different activities, learned how to make better decisions and researched about heart healthy choices,” he said, admitting that beforehand he liked sweets and ate too much fast food.

While Georgelas didn’t win the competition, he said he succeeded in educating others as well as himself.

“This impacted my life as well as students and faculty at Murray.”

Many teachers agree that they were winners in improving their own health.

Through the program, all the teachers received individual coaching and counseling from heart experts at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, talking to exercise specialists, dietitians, counselors and cardiologists. They were introduced to various exercises, which they might not be familiar from yoga to boxing, and participated in weekly health assessments.

Together, they exercised 46,194 minutes and lost 212 pounds. Their cholesterol levels decreased 14 percent while their triglycerides dropped 32 percent. Through an increase of 18 percent of aerobic fitness, their body fat went down 19 percent.

The overall winner was Taylorsville High School English teacher Kevin Harwood, who used the book, “The Jungle,” as a platform to have class discussions about prepared and processed foods.

About 500 Taylorsville High students also listened to a Cornell University professor, who Harwood arranged to come to classes and speak about the ethics of farming, protecting the forests and environment, and heart disease associated with a red meat diet.

Harwood decided to take part in the challenge to be a more active grandfather.

“For me, participating in the challenge was a wake-up call. It got me thinking about what I’m doing and how it takes time to develop healthy habits,” he said.

Before the contest, Harwood admits he developed poor habits after running the 1994 St. George marathon and would eat weekly at a Mexican restaurant and turn on Netflix instead of hitting a treadmill and eating fruits and vegetables.

“I learned valuable information that transformed my life,” he said, adding that his family also participated, including the family dog, Daisy, who took him on four-mile daily walks.

The most improved award went to Mindy Wilder, of Corner Canyon High in Draper, who also received $1,000 for her school, along with a sash and crown. During the 100 days, she lost 44 pounds.

Wilder not only got her physical education students and volleyball team to participate, but she also introduced yoga to nearby Crescent Elementary in Sandy in early November, getting six classes of third- and fourth-graders to become active.

“Everything I learned, I took back to my ninth-grade class, including nutrition and exercise logs,” Wilder said. “They made a lot of progress. The volleyball team was very engaged and preferred fruit and vegetables over snack foods. The elementary kids became more flexible as they learned something new. I learned little things that will make a lifetime change for me.”

Other teachers shared what they learned to their classes and schools. Pepper Poulsen, at Bingham High in South Jordan, involved students, who performed a rap at the awards ceremony. 

At Jordan High in Sandy, Nicole Manwaring, who biked to work, had her school participate in tracking steps as well as having the chef program at the school prepare a healthy meal in December. She even got the preschoolers to learn to exercise while learning their letters, said Principal Wendy Dau.

Kristina Kimble, of Alta High in Sandy, said it was easier knowing other teachers also were committed to the program.

“I can email or talk to any of these teachers and known that we will continue to be supportive of one another,” she said. “It’s not over. It’s a lifetime commitment. We all succeeded in becoming healthier so we all won.”