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Treasure Walk Challenge Saturday at Delaware, Como parks

Catholic Medical Partners will kick off its Summer Treasure Walk Challenge on Saturday, when members of the Catholic Health System-affiliated nutrition team will lead a 2-mile walk and treasure hunt in two local parks.

Similar events will take place later this summer.

Participants of all ages not only will be encouraged to walk, but also will receive clues at the start of each walk to help guide them on a treasure hunt.

“We’re trying to get people thinking physical activity does not need to be torture – it can be fun,” said  said Candi Possinger, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition services with Catholic Medical Partners.

The scheduled walks – all of which start at 10 a.m. – are as follows:

Today: Delaware Park. Meet near basketball courts at the Jewett Parkway entrance. Also Como Park. Meet near the flagpole at the Como Park Boulevard entrance.

Aug. 16: Niagara Falls State Park. Meet in front of Visitor’s Center.

Sept. 20: Chestnut Ridge Park. Meet at flagpole near casino.

The walks are free and there is no need to preregister. Those who participate will be given envelopes to complete healthy eating and fitness exercises, and those who finish the tasks and walk will be entered into raffles to win prizes.

“It’s just some different activities to get people to realize there are different ways to move your body, have fun and be interactive,” Possinger said.

– Scott Scanlon

Kick-A-Thon this weekend is about breaking boards - and more

The fourth Annual Kick-A-Thon to benefit The ALS Association will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the St. Leo Catholic Church gymnasium, 903 Sweet Home Road, Amherst.

Pride Martial Arts will host the event and its students may participate free; registration is $30 for others.

Kickers will complete 50,000 kicks or more. Then, on Aug. 2, they will participate in the ALS Association’s “Walk to Defeat ALS” in Delaware Park. 

Often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow, and breathe. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages two to five years from the time of diagnosis.

There is no known cause of the disease; it costs loved ones an average of $200,000 a year to provide the care ALS patients need.

Todd Patterson, owner and head instructor at Pride Martial Arts Academy in Williamsville, has supported the ALS Association and the “Walk to Defeat ALS” for the past five years after losing his mother, Emma J. Patterson, to a two-year battle with the disease.

“After providing 24-hour care for my own mother, I learned how much support my family and I needed,” Patterson said. “Thanks to the ALS Association and their local services, my mother and family were able to receive countless hours of personal and financial support.”

Sign up for the kickathon by calling 565-0202 for a registration form or register at 9:30 a.m Saturday. For more info, visit

Those who would like to come and watch the kicking and board breaking may do so for free.  

Former BAC member gives new LA Fitness a good grade

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Russ Dye was pretty impressed Friday with what he saw at the new LA Fitness in Amherst, and that’s not bad, considering he’s one of those still stung by the sale of the former Buffalo Athletic Club coed fitness centers to the West Coast mega-chain late last year.

“I’m pretty encouraged,” he told me after he hit the free weights and cardio machines for the first time since the new fitness center opened Thursday in the former Circuit City space at Sheridan Drive and Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Group fitness classes started Monday at the club, and will be led by, among others, former instructors at the now-shuttered LA Fitness Boulevard Mall club, a former BAC fitness facility that wasn’t laid out in the chain’s cookie cutter format.

The new club is slightly larger, with more equipment, than the LA Fitness in the Walmart plaza in Clarence. It also has three racquetball courts.

Dye, 61, a retired CSX safety coordinator who lives in East Amherst, said he ran into a few former Eastern Hills Racquet Club members at the new digs over the weekend who left that club when the BAC purchased it and tore out the racquetball courts to make room for other fitness options.

Many of those racquetball enthusiasts left for Bally’s at that time, but about 60 of them look to join LA Fitness as a result of the new courts. “They’re tickled pink,” Dye said.

For more information on the new club and the bumpy transition, you can access some of my previous blog posts here

Among improvements Dye cited from the old BAC days:

  • LA Fitness cardio machines have their own TVs that can be controlled by the user.
  • The racquetball and basketball courts.
  • The lap pool and hot tub.

His wife, Daphne Finnegan, a retired SUNY Buffalo State professor of modern dance, is among women splitting her time these days between the BAC for Women and LA Fitness. She opted to take a month-to-month membership with LA Fitness to keep working out with her favorite group fitness instructor, her husband said.

Dye said he bumped into some of his former BAC friends during his first day at the club, and expects to see more in the coming days. But he knows that former club members have scattered, including women who’ve followed other popular group fitness instructors to the BAC for Women, and seniors who left for the YMCA Buffalo Niagara and other gyms that accept Medicare Advantage fitness club discounts that LA Fitness, at this point, does not.

The shorter lockers, showers that lack soap dishes and relative lack of friendliness of the staff continue to be among his concerns, Dye said.

Dye may have noticed the uneasiness the local staff feels when top managers from the chain come in to deal with such transitions. As a former BAC/current LA Fitness member, I noticed this after the sale of the clubs was announced and, again, in late May, when the Eastern Hills club closed.

Things should improve on the customer service end, but it likely will be impossible for the top-down chain to duplicate the atmosphere of the local BAC clubs.

 “The one thing you got involved with was social groups, and some of that was fractured with the sale,” Dye said.

BAC group fitness instructors were well known for their Christmas parties and other gatherings, including healthy meals out, movies and bowling.

“When people go their separate ways, that’s probably going to go away, to an extent,” Dye said.  

Members will have to make do with the greater variety of fitness options and newer equipment.

The chain also has gone out of its way to add the kind of group fitness classes that the BAC was known for. Whether it will keep all the class schedules in the months and years to come is an open question. Staffers and those who’ve been members in other states have told me the class format isn’t necessarily the chain’s strong suit.

Meanwhile, Dye is willing to continue to give LA Fitness a chance.

“All in all, I would say I’m going to give the new club a pretty good mark,” he said. “I felt I was pretty open minded about the transition, but I’m just a BAC guy.  Do I wish the BAC was back? Obviously I do, but it’s not going to happen.  You’ve got to move on. For what I do (in the gym), I’ll be able to adjust."


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Sunday storm washed out yoga fest, which has been rescheduled

Downpours Sunday morning and afternoon forced organizers of a Canalside yoga festival to reschedule the event to Sept. 14.

“We might adjust the schedule some but it will be the same time, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” key organizer Julie Leatherbarrow, with Budding Tree Yoga for Kids, told me by email this afternoon.

The free Budding Tree Yoga Festival  will feature a wide variety of yoga presentations, workshops and demonstrations, as well as a vendor market, during the rescheduled event.

- Scott Scanlon

State mental health association head to give breakfast talk in Buffalo

Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State, will talk about mental health, the Affordable Care Act, managed care and other changes on the mental health care landscape from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Life Transitions Center, 1140 Delaware Ave.

To register, click here or contact Kelly Morgan at 886-1242, Ext. 321 or 

Grocery healthy eating tour Tuesday in Orchard Park

Catholic Medical Partners on Tuesday will conduct a grocery tour at Orchard Fresh to help people understand how to shop, and eat, in healthier ways.

The tour will include nutrition tips, information about how to read a food label, food samples and healthy snacks, and a fun scavenger hunt.

The tour is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. at the Tops Markets-affiliated health food store at 4050 N. Buffalo Road in Orchard Park. To register, call 862-2454.

If you feel like you may as well golf in the dark, here's your chance

If you sometimes feel like you may as well play golf in the dark, you’ll have your chance Friday evening – in the name of fun, and to benefit the Aquarium of Niagara.

The annual Putting for Penguins fundraiser, which supports the nonprofit educational attraction and its water-loving residents, starts with registration and 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Newfane Pro-Am course, 2501 N. Main St. (Route 78), Newfane.

A buffet-style dinner begins at 5:45 p.m.; nine holes will be played in a scramble or best ball format. At 9 p.m., there will be raffles, prizes and awards followed by the last half of golf in the dark with Glo-Balls and “light ropes.”

Putting for Penguins chairman is Steve Kling, an aquarium board member. Reporter Ed Drantch, of WIVB-TV, is celebrity chairman. DJ, Pat Proctor will play music to golf by.

Entry fees are $90 per golfer; $360 for a foursome. Party only is $35.

Golfers are asked to register by Monday. Individuals, corporations and businesses can call Claudia O’Neil at 285-3575, Ext. 216 to become a sponsor, donate a prize or for additional information.

If you sign up, aquarium officials advised, “Don’t forget your flashlights and bug spray!”

Make your (yoga) moves at Canalside today

Those interested in learning more about the many aspects of yoga will want to head to Canalside today.

The free Budding Tree Yoga Festival  will feature a wide variety of yoga presentations, workshops and demonstrations from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It will include kids and family yoga, pre/post natal yoga, Kundalini yoga, yoga-pilates fusion, Vinyasa flow, hoop-dance yoga, Zumba, Bollywood dance, paddle board yoga, laughter yoga, and a workshop on personal and spiritual development.

There will be a vendor market featuring health and wellness products, local art, and the BlueCross BlueShield Healthy Zone van will be on site in the morning with games and toys for the kids.

See the class schedule at

Buffalo Budding Tree Yoga has partnered with the Himalayan Institute and BlueCross Blue Shield of WNY to bring off the festival; Wegmans and Kiddie Corner Day Care also helped with sponsorship, said Budding Tree’s Julie Leatherbarrow.

Yoga instructors Marie Phillips and Monica Zucco will be among the presenters. To read stories I've written about both of them, click here and here, respectively.

- Scott Scanlon

Buffalo's first paddleboard festival takes place today

Jared Callahan, of City of Light Fitness, blazed the Stand Up Paddleboard trail in Buffalo last summer. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

The growing Western New York paddle community will come together at Gallagher Beach today to race - competitvely and in a friendly manner - at the first Annual Buffalo Paddle Festival.

Race registration starts at 9 a.m.; races take place in the morning and kayak, canoe and Stand Up Paddleboard demonstrations and outings take place in the afternoon, before the festival wraps up about 3 p.m.

For more information on the festival, click here.

For a map of Gallagher Beach, click here.

I've had the good fortune during the last year or so to get to know some of the paddling enthusiasts in the region, many of whom will participate in today's event.

To read more about how to plug into kayaking and canoeing in the region, take a look at this WNY Refresh cover story from last summer.

To read more about Stand Up Paddleboarding, read here about Jared Callahan's efforts to launch the sport in Buffalo last summer, and read this weekend's Refresh "In the Field" feature here on Marie Phillips and her new SUP yoga classes at Gallagher Beach and on Grand Island.

Several of the players in today's festival also own businesses, or have begun to play, on the waterfront in the Outer Harbor. Look to these folks to be among those who help shape this part of the city in the coming years. Meanwhile, stop and say hello to them today near NFTA Boat Harbor Park.

- Scott Scanlon

Grand Island mom uses paddleboard yoga to help mend from hip surgery

Donna Phillips, foreground, was among students at Beaver Island State Park last week for the Stand Up Paddleboard yoga class taught by her daughter, Marie, center. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Marie Phillips is impressive when you watch her pull off yoga poses on a Stand Up Paddleboard.

Her mother, Donna Kester Phillips, isn’t too shabby, either.

Two months after right hip replacement surgery, the 63-year-old Niagara University education professor was up on a paddleboard last Friday, running through downward dog, tree and other poses, before crow – a handstand with your knees touching the backs of your elbows – sent her splashing into the inlet off Beaver Island State Park marina.

She got right back on and tried again.

“If I had a pool, I’d put a board in it and practice on a board; you use your muscles differently,” said Donna Phillips, whose daughter is the subject of today’s “In the Field” feature in WNY Refresh.

The elder Phillips has struggled with back issues the last three years, and was just feeling strong enough to resume rowing in Buffalo, like she did years ago, when she was rear-ended in a car crash a few months ago.

The crash shoved her right leg into her hip and tore her labrum, which required surgery. It also caused arthritis, she said. “The only fix then was a hip replacement.”

She also created a blog to share her daily life recovering from such an injury. You can read it here

Her osteopath, Dr. Leonard Kaplan of Amherst, encouraged her to do yoga as she healed.

With help from her daughter, she’s done one better.

“Like Marie pointed out to me before, on land, you tend to lock your joints. ... On the board, you have to go with the water and flow a bit. I’m feeling better because I’m using my muscles more instead of my skeleton.

“The first class I took, I felt these muscles (around my hip) fire up for the first time since my surgery. They had been pretty much dead for a month and a half. Now I’m back.

Mom jokingly calls Thursday SUP yoga classes at Beaver Island “senior citizen day” because she and two friends often come down together. Each has fallen into the water during classes.

She said she’s given up pain injections because of yoga.

Her daughter shares her enthusiasm.

“I used to spend hours in the gym,” Marie Phillips said. “When I found yoga, I felt as complete doing an hour of that as spending 10 hours in the gym.”

Her mother, and grandmother – Helen Marie Kester, who died about 10 years ago – introduced Marie Phillips to yoga.

“I still have my grandmother’s yoga books and her tapes,” the instructor said.

“My mom’s always been active,” she added. “She rowed when she was younger, and I started rowing. She always has encouraged me to be active. I rowed for West Side and I rowed for Nardin. I started when I was 12.

The younger Phillips works with Kevin Koslowski, owner of Buffalo Paddleboard Co., in her new SUP yoga business.

“People sign up through me and he brings the boards,” she said. “If they have a board, they can bring their own board and use that and the classes are cheaper. But he has all the boards, anchors, life jackets. The course is an hour and 15 minutes. It includes a 10-minute warm-up and 10-minute cool down. It costs $30; that includes the rental and the class. It’s $15 if you have your own board. Sign up for the classes, which take place at Gallagher Beach and Beaver Island State Park, at

We’ll be at Gallagher Tuesday mornings at 10, Wednesday evenings at 7; we’re at Beaver Island Thursday mornings at 10, Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m.

“We started off with two classes and the first week they filled up,” she said. “People see the pictures on Facebook and want to try it. We limit it to six people per class. The board we use for yoga have a greater stickiness on them. Kevin’s going to get more boards, so we’ll probably go up to 10.”

Students so far have ranged in age from 17 to 68, Phillips said.

“I would love to do a weeklong camp for girls involving paddelboarding and yoga and SUP yoga,” she said. “The second you stand up on the board, you feel accomplished. Completing a class, no matter what you’ve done – even if you’ve been in child’s pose for most of it – it’s such a sense of accomplishment.”

I told Phillips it seems younger people have become more creative when it comes to building a work life for themselves.

“You have to these days, anywhere in the states,” she said. “You don’t come out of college anymore and get a job automatically, and even the jobs you do get don’t pay enough to support yourself, so you have to be creative. For me, it was finding what I love. It doesn’t even seem like work. I get paid to do what I love.


Twitter: @BNrefresh

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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

@BNRefresh |