Staff Takes on Fitness Challenge

More than 120 employees of Hawthorn School District 73 have taken steps to return to school fit for life through a Summer Wellness Challenge sponsored by the district’s Hawthorn Employee Health and Wellness Committee.

The wellness challenge encouraged the district’s 600 employees to track the number of steps they take on a daily basis over a 10.5-week period. Participants collectively reached 51 million steps.

The goal of the program was for the group to complete the challenge. Gift cards have been issued along with suggestions to encourage people to continue walking or running. This was the first year of the Summer Wellness Challenge. The committee liked this particular challenge because it encouraged employees to work together collectively to achieve a single goal. The Health and Wellness Committee is developing other programs to encourage healthy living among its employees.


“Evidence shows that employers who offer health and wellness programs help to reduce overall health care costs and it results in a more fit and healthy workforce. In addition, such programs reduce the costs of hiring teacher substitutes that are associated with teachers using sick days. We also believe it improves morale and reduces stress,” said district Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Lisa Leali, who heads up the health and wellness committee with Brad Goldstein, Associate Superintendent of Finance & Business Operations.

“This summer program has been wildly successful, far surpassing our initial expectations for participation,” Dr. Leali said.

Employees’ Success Stories

      • Reading Specialist Beth Newman has logged over 310,000 steps through the challenge. The group incentive has encouraged her to exercise regularly, something she did inconsistently before summer. “I joined because I wanted to become more healthy. It has also made me more aware of the foods I eat and how many calories I take in each day,” she said.
      • Townline Principal Victoria Kieffer has found the fitness challenge a great motivational tool to kick start her commitment to exercise and weight loss. She logs upwards of 13,000 steps a day walking and running on average five times a week. It has also helped Dr. Kieffer follow through on a weight loss program in which she has lost 25 pounds.
      • Seventh grade math teacher Karen Lemon has walked nearly 900,000 steps since she began the fitness challenge. She has incorporated cardio fitness into walks, bicycling, yoga and pilates. “The program provided me with an extra incentive when I was feeling especially tired or busy,” she said.