Melanie Seiler’s life is very much about wellness.
Having a little fun doesn’t hurt either.
In uncertain times like the Covid-19 pandemic, many have pointed out that being outdoors is one of the best remedies for fighting the spread of the disease.
“The Covid-19 pandemic was very difficult to navigate, but an extremely important time to continue health education campaigns and creative ways to keep people active,” said Seiler, Executive Director of Active Southern West Virginia. “We relaunched the organization in 2021 to bring the programs back in person.”
Although her mother Susie Hofstetter’s family is from Ohiopyle, Pa., And her father Bob Seiler’s family is from the Cumberland, Md. Area, Seiler grew up in Fayetteville. It allowed him to appreciate – and understand – how much outdoor fun can be discovered in southern West Virginia.
Prior to his affiliation with Active SWV, Seiler worked for Adventures on the Gorge following the merger of the family rafting business, Songer Whitewater with AOTG in 2011. At Songer, Seiler was responsible for the river for several years and responsible for the river. vacation cabin, and she also spent a lot of time dealing with accounts receivable and human resources.
She has also been a certified ski instructor for 20 years and a member of the National Ski Patrol for 10 years.
“Growing up in the outdoor industry made me feel like everyone had the opportunity to raft and paddle white water or meet friends on bike trails and rock climbing routes. She said. “What motivates me is to later realize the lack of access and interest in outdoor recreation on the part of my peers and my generation.
“I want to express and share opportunities to experience the benefits of being active in the outdoors. “
Her days at Active SWV currently include “a lot of paperwork to keep track of funding requests and reports,” she says. “I really try to provide my people with all the tools and resources they need to do a great job.
“I spend a lot of hours on my computer, but I love going out and talking to groups about our work and free events,” she said.
Active SWV has made huge strides in recent years, Seiler believes.
“Active SWV was formed in late 2014 with a non-profit status, then I was hired as a sole employee in February 2015,” she said. “We quickly acquired a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA service and took to the streets recruiting volunteers to run programs.
“The first two years were tough structuring each program area and building a brand, but it paid off and in 2016 we entered into a cooperative agreement with the New River Gorge National River (today the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve), many county parks and had a handful of children’s clubs in elementary schools in the area. In 2019, we had the highest number of volunteers with over 200 people across our four program areas: Community Captains, Kids’ Running Clubs, Workplace Wellness, and SWV Bike / Walk.
“I am very proud of the trusted partnerships, of the people who have improved their lives through the activity and of the staff who remain cohesive and dynamic,” she added.
As the battle continues to urge children – and adults for that matter – to stay active and not focus too much on computer or phone screens and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle, Seiler says that ‘Active SWV has made progress.
“Active SWV is seeing progress in youth through our Kids Run Club grant program. Surveys before and after show that children achieve the recommended amount of daily physical activity, have less screen time, and 75 percent report being able to get someone home more active with them.
“The progress we are seeing in the region is more collective resources from agencies, organizations and the faith community to reach underserved families and individuals. One collaboration being Adventure Fayette County providing substance abuse prevention and the Icelandic youth model combining survey data with programming solutions. It means finding populations at risk, understanding their challenges in accessing healthier choices, and creating programs with a strong group of volunteers and mentors.
“Throughout the pandemic, Active SWV continued to work with companies as members of the Active SWV Workplace Wellness program. We spend many hours of the day at work or on our computers working remotely. Implementing changes to policies, systems, and the environment to make healthy choice an easy choice has shown results in employee morale, productivity, and increased buy-in to other investments in well-being at work.
Each year, Active SWV – in partnership with WV Health Promotion and Chronic Disease – awards a series of workplace wellness capacity building grants to businesses across the state. This year, they searched for 20 workplaces, each of which will receive $ 1,000. The mission of these grants is to increase access to healthy foods, physical activity and other supports to improve employee well-being. The application period is closed and the winners will be announced on October 1.
The agency created the Kids Run Club program in 2015 with a pilot club, and the program has since grown to reach more than 30 schools and community groups across West Virginia, Seiler said.
“With our comprehensive Kids Run Club manual providing structure to all clubs, trained volunteers lead groups of children through the activities described in the manual,” she explained. “Through these activities, children acquire lifelong skills and strengthen their confidence in their physical activity abilities.
“The goal of the Kids Run Club program is for children to have fun with physical activity and have a positive team experience. It is important to Active SWV that the program is offered free of charge so that all children have the opportunity to participate.
To apply, go to https://activeswv.org/2021/07/fall-kids-run-club-mini-grant-is-now-open/.
Active SWV also sponsors an adult / family / multigenerational program known as the Community Captain program. This is a volunteer-led activity that usually meets once a week. Weekly programs in locations such as Summersville, Fayetteville, Oak Hill, Beckley and Williamson focus on running / walking, Pilates, youth disc golf, Refit, yoga, stand-up paddleboarding and paddling. cycling / walking.
For example, a Wednesday run group from Fayetteville that Seiler and his friends participate in will meet as a three-year free run group in December.
“We started the winter of 2018 thinking that we would come together every Wednesday in December to get through the dark days of winter,” she said. “So we started to meet at 6:15 pm when everyone got out of work and ran down the sidewalks of Fayetteville with the street lights and headlamps.
“Well, the group decided to continue meeting in January, then February, and so on. Every three months or so, we move to a different location and usually end up in a restaurant to eat together. Many people have joined the group over the years and we continue to welcome new people.
“Group responsibility helps keep people and myself,” Seiler said. “You know that your running friends are waiting for you and making the activity more fun in good company.
“Even when it rains and snows, we dress appropriately and go out anyway. Physical activity is good for the body and the mind, and the social connection is good for the mind.
To learn more about the Community Captains program, visit https://activeswv.org/community-captains/.
SWV’s active staff and volunteers have “made a difference in the lives of individuals and improved the health culture in Southern West Virginia,” said Seiler. “This was accomplished by normalizing beginner activities like walking and hiking, and having easy ways to volunteer increased the ways to be active.
“These efforts have been well received and volunteers find that their friends, family, neighbors and coworkers are helping each other remove barriers to an active lifestyle such as transportation, skills, equipment, child care. children and fear of injury. This work is even more important during the pandemic to help people stay healthy and active. “
Seiler, of Fayetteville, is married to Travis Hames and has daughters-in-law Kalila and Delaney.
His favorite outdoor hobbies are telemark, a skiing technique that combines elements of alpine and Nordic skiing; paddleboarding and surfing.
Her hobbies and interests also include raising chickens and adventures with her bird dog.
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