DARKE COUNTY – In the next few weeks, Darke County employees are teaming up to lose weight, boost health awareness, and in the meantime have a little fun.
The program, called Darke II Lite, was designed for two reasons: to promote a healthier lifestyle and to potentially lower county insurance premiums.
“The insurance companies will look at our departments and say, these people are making a concerted effort to lead a healthier lifestyle,” Commissioner Mike Stegall said.
The competition originated in the Darke County Commissioner’s Office, but expanded this year to other departments.
More than 100 county employees have joined in the program, and after only two weeks the program showed an aggregate weight loss of 548 pounds.
“We just decided to do a biggest loser competition,” Commissioner Stegall said.
Seven Darke County departments are participating: the Highway Garage Department, the Engineers Department, Jobs and Family Services, the Sheriff’s Department, the Garst Government Center, the Darke County Courthouse, and the Board of Commissioners.
A few of the departments have even adopted competition names, such as the Sheriffs Department going as “The Weight Enforcers,” Jobs and Family Services going as the “Losers from the Darke Side” and the Board of Commissioners have adopted the title of “The Pudgy Puppies.”
The County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio (CEBCO) also provided a grant to pay for pedometers, scales and other active components to aid in the competition.
Darke County Business Administrator John Cook heads up the competitions, and certified each participant’s weight at the competition’s onset. As each week progresses, departments are responsible for sending in their lost (or gained) weight. The numbers are tallied anonymously, and the weight loss percentage is emailed to each participant.
“We want to keep it fun for everyone, and there’s strength in numbers. So with the seven teams, everyone has someone that they can draw on for support,” Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall said.
Cook even sends out healthy recipes throughout the week to keep everyone on point.
Currently, the Highway Garage Department is stepping up to the challenge with a net loss of 3.95 percent, which puts them in first place.
“They’re doing outstanding,” Commissioner Stegall said. “They’re really into this. They want to win it so bad.”
The competition runs for eight weeks, and many departments are stepping up their competitiveness by exchanging playful emails, and even “sabotaging” their rivals with cupcakes, cookies and brownies.
“It’s a great incentive for other Darke County agencies. The friendly competition is fun,” said Diane Lee of Darke County Jobs and Family Services.
Commissioner Stegall even hand-delivered cookies to each department while dressed as a butler last Friday, and a few JFS employees returned the favor on Wednesday by bringing the commissioners a plate full of brownies.
“We’ve really got a good group that’s working together on this,” Stegall said.
While the competition stays spirited, the eight-week program is nurturing strong habits across the county.
Commissioner Mike Rhoades said it was helping him watch what he eats on a regular basis, while Commissioner Diane Delaplane noted that she was checking calories on everyday meals.
“This forces you to look at everything you eat,” said Stegall, who uses an app on his phone to keep track of his diet and exercise. “People are now more conscious of what they’re eating.”
As an added incentive, each participating member donated ten dollars into a joint fund. The person with the biggest weight loss at the end of the competition will receive half of the funds, while the other half will go towards massages for the first place team.
Now with less than six weeks left in the competition, participants are buckling their belts in preparation for the rest of the season.