Community centers help locals battle weight, cancer



Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation shared these two stories of patrons who found recovery and strength through the resources available at local community centers:

Merle Roberts

After winning his fight against cancer, Merle Roberts decided to tackle another obstacle — getting fit. Three years ago he joined Firstenburg Community Center.

“When I first started coming, I could barely make it around the track,” Merle said. “I was in pretty sad shape.”

But since then, he’s increased his endurance, added strength training and has shed 65 pounds with motivation from his wife, Lynn.

“What appealed to me about Firstenburg is that everyone is friendly, the place is well taken care of and for the average person, you don’t have to deal with the big muscle intimidating people — it’s a family place,” he said.

He believes anyone can successfully follow his lead.

“I tell people that it’ll be tough at first, but the rewards are worth it. I can’t believe how much better I feel.”

Cecily Bequette

Cecily Bequette had spent a lifetime struggling with her weight. When she stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office in Sept. 2007 and gasped as the numbers 375 appeared, “I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself,” she said. “That’s when my journey toward a healthier life began.”

She started doing water aerobics for two hours a day, five days a week at Marshall Community Center. She has since lost half of her body weight — 187 pounds!

“I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been in my entire life,” said Bequette, who now teaches aqua classes at Marshall. “I found something I love to do and I did it.”

In her role as an instructor, she thrives on helping others get motivated to eat right and get in shape. Her advice is simple: “Stop making excuses. Take that first step today and keep taking steps every day. Push yourself through the hard times and don’t give up.

“A healthier you is worth more than anything money can buy! So get up and go for a walk or come to the pool. Take that first step and keep walking until you are able to run and achieve great things.”

Pete Mayer is director of Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation and a member of the Live Well advisory board. Mayer is a past president of Washington Recreation and Parks Association and a native of the Northwest. He has served in variety of park and natural resource management positions with city, county, district, state, military, and federal park and recreation agencies for the past 20 years. He enjoys mountain biking, racquetball, soccer playing and officiating, hiking, camping, and traveling.