Altoona Area School District students and employees got a bit healthier this winter by raising funds for Operation Our Town.
According to school officials, 85 five-member teams equaling 525 high school students walked a collective 51,350 miles while about 220 district employees held a "Biggest Loser" weight loss contest to raise a total of $14,477 for the community-based, anti-drug nonprofit.
"I just love to walk," said senior Josh Berkheimer, 18, who logged 428 miles during the second annual AAHS Goes Global event. "I wanted to help the community. I'm glad the school lets us do this to help out."
On Wednesday, students and staff, along with representatives from Operation Our Town, took a ceremonial lap around the AAHS intramural field, followed by games and activities in the Fieldhouse.
"I'm really proud of the students and teachers," said school board member James Walstrom, who is also a regional supervisory agent with the state Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation.
Walstrom said he was pleasantly surprised when Operation Our Town was chosen as this year's beneficiary for the Going Global event.
"Certainly, [the donation] is going towards making our community a better place," he said, adding that Operation Our Town's three-prong approach at dealing with drugs is through law enforcement, rehabilitation and education.
Math teacher Chris Strawmier lost 79 pounds in 91 days to raise money with his team.
The 43-year-old came in at his final weigh-in at 197 pounds, a feat he said wasn't easy. Strawmier said he
didn't starve himself and ate three meals a day, but he did watch his portion sizes, cut out snacking between meals and exercised.
"[I did] a lot of treadmill, ate very, very healthy and stayed dedicated to it," said Strawmier, who walked about 16 miles each week.
Students raised money by paying a $100 team entrance fee, through pledges and other activities.
Staff who participated in the Biggest Loser contest paid $25 and also raised extra money for Operation Our Town. In all, the staff lost 2,640 pounds and logged more than 63,400 exercise miles, school officials said.
Zachary Eshelman, 18, said he walked last year to raise money and said since it was his senior year, he wanted to do as much as he could.
"It's for a good cause," Eshelman said.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.