Camden is a small rural community on the Ouachita River in southwest Arkansas. At one point, it was the second largest city in Arkansas playing a major role in cotton trade and then the lumber industry. In the early part of the last century, riverboats used to come up the river all the way to Camden. It has struggled recently with a loss of several larger businesses and many of the younger population leaving. Despite these challenges, the citizens in Camden are optimistic that some new defense contracts can re-invigorate the town’s economy.
The Camden Change Club is made up primarily of StrongWomen participants with Rebecca Wright from the Ouachita County Health Unit of the Arkansas Department of Health as the one exception. We were thrilled to have StrongWomen Ambassador, Candace Carrié, leading the group. All of the StrongWomen participants love Candace!
We met at the First Methodist Church in downtown Camden.
Together the fifteen Change Club ladies developed their noble purpose: to support the optimal health of children in Ouachita County by providing increased structured, physical activity and wholesome snacks in the after school environment.
We then developed a roadmap for their work moving forward. This work is going to stretch the ladies of the Camden Change Club. They are so conscientious and don’t want come across as brashand impolite with anyone in their community. Furthermore, the work is going to be difficult as Arkansas has among the country’s highest obesity rates. Notwithstanding these challenges, they are committed to helping the next generation be as healthy as possible. Guided by Candace and Rebecca, I am confident that they will be successful in their efforts.
We had two important local leaders visit us during our stay.Mike Hesterly, the Judge of Ouachita County paid us a visit on Thursday. And the Mayor of Camden, Chris Claybaker, gave Eleanor and me the “keys” to the city on Friday. Under Mayor Claybaker’s leadership, the town was recently able to re-develop a riverside walking trail and park within town. Our destination for the physical activity challenge was the riverwalk!
A definite highlight of our stay in Arkansas was the StrongWomen (and Men) Rally in Hot Springs on Saturday! Held at the historic Arlington Hotel in downtown Hot Springs, 150 women and few strong men gathered to celebrate the program in Arkansas. As people were registering, I went around and introduced myself to as many people as possible. They each told me what StrongWomen has meant to them. Some of the ladies have been in the program for six or seven years! For many, this program has provided a strong network of friends that supports their effort to be strong, both in body and mind. Our program featured an exercise medley from StrongWomen Healthy Hearts and our strength-training program. Eleanor expertly guided the women through the aerobic dance portion and I led the strength training exercises. All 150 of us had a lot of fun together working out.
The exercise session was followed by a keynote address, a healthy lunch salad, and finally a book signing. The rally provided a real boost to the trainers and participants and a real boost to Eleanor and myself. It was amazing to see how powerful the StrongWomen Program is in the state of Arkansas—truly life changing for many of these women. One woman even attributed the program to her recent hole-in-one on the golf course!
We want to thank Lisa Washburn and LaVonaTrawick for organizing the event! Go StrongWomen of Arkansas!
I hope you enjoy this video of the Change Club in Camden.