About 150 guests attended ◆ By Mike Hiles
Ricardo Macias decided in December that an effective way to celebrate the end of a weight loss contest presented by the Soboba Sports Complex was to put together a Community Health Fair. On March 8, about 150 tribal members, Soboba employees and Noli Indian School students made their way around the complex to visit with more than 20 vendors that shared health-related products and information.
"There was really no challenge in putting this event together," said Macias, a recreational aide for the Soboba Parks and Recreation Department for more than a year. "My co-workers and the vendors made it extremely stress-free."
The eight-week "New Year, New Me" contest officially ended on the same day as the fair and Macias said that as a community 133.6 pounds were lost.
Individually, for the men, Steve Lopez lost the most weight at 28.2 pounds but gained $120 in prize money, collected from entrance fees by contestants. Derek Cervantes won the other two categories, for a total of $240, by losing five percent body fat and gaining three percent muscle mass.
On the women's side, Amanda McMorris swept all three categories and received $360. She lost 26.8 pounds and 7.8 percent body fat and gained 3.6 percent muscle mass.
"I'm a competitive person," said McMorris, 27. "I found a gym and worked out and went on a strict nutritional plan. I feel good and have way more energy."
She said her two young children, ages 2 and 5, were her biggest motivation for entering the contest and sticking with it.
"I want to stay healthy for them," said McMorris, who works with Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health's Native Challenge Program.
Guests who stopped at each both were given opportunity tickets for health-related items but also learned about local wellness programs and received helpful health tips as well as many free items they could take home for their families.
Soboba Fire Department firefighter Jacob Briones said the Community Health Fair is a major step to healthy living awareness in the community.
"I believe the fast-paced lives we all live nowadays has had tremendous negative effects on our health and well-being. It's a lot easier to go to a drive-through and grab a double burger than cook a healthy, balanced meal at home," said Briones, who lives at the Soboba Reservation. "The health fair has great potential and the Soboba Sports Complex did a great job sparking interest in community members. Hopefully it will continue to grow; I'd like to see healthy cooking classes, nutrition awareness and maybe even an organic growing seminar."
Anna Virgen and Hosea Jones with Riverside County's Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program had great ideas on how to increase fruit and vegetable intake to improve nutrition. The department does regular outreach to schools, community centers and retail businesses. They had a wide array of items, including cookbooks for adults and children full of healthy and fun recipes.
"The best part about events like these are getting people to understand how important it is to go back to healthy eating to prevent diabetes and other problems," said Health Service Assistant Virgen, who has worked for the agency for more than 20 years.
She said recipes that can be found online at www.CaChampionsForChange.net include Mexican dishes and some Native American ones.
Camille Diaz has been the nurse at Noli Indian School for the past two years and was offering free blood pressure checks to guests. Shay Arviso was representing a local honey company her mother started 11 years ago to combat allergies. All their beehives are in Bautista Creek and all honey is bottled in Temecula.
"You get different health benefits from various flavors," Arivso said. "Buckwheat honey is good for a cough, cold or sore throat."
Varieties with "blossom" included in the name means they are all natural and bees collected pollen from those specific plants, such as Avocado Blossom because the beehives are in an avocado grove where bees can get the pollen. Some honeys are infused with additives such as hot peppers. Shay said their honey can be found at the San Jacinto Certified Farmers Market every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or online at TVhoneyco.com.
Some commercial fitness centers were taking sign-ups and talking about their programs.
The Soboba Tribal Environmental Department's vendor table included ideas on keeping our air and earth healthy by recycling and repurposing as much as possible. Representatives also offered information on health impacts from environmental hazards and how to reduce the risks.
Dinika Bagga, the optometrist for Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health's Soboba Clinic, said her center has all the latest equipment to do full eye exams and screenings for diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
"When I was in optometry school, I did one of my rotations at an Indian clinic in Oklahoma and realized I really wanted to work where I could meet the needs of Native Americans," Bagga said.
Lifestyle Chiropractic and Wellness' Lindsay Rubio offered chair massages while her colleague taught some of the younger visitors some fun "superhero" exercises.
"Seeing the community come together and obtain a lot of valuable information relating to health, wellness and fitness was definitely the highlight for me," Macias said.