News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 18, 2013

Y program to feed hungry, get you healthy

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County YMCA is starting an ambitious program designed to help the community get healthier and also support a program to feed needy children.

The initiative is called “Lose a Ton, Give a Ton.”

The goal for participants is to collectively lose 2,000 pounds of excess weight and also to give away 2,000 pounds of food to the Vigo County School Corp. Back Pack program.

Individuals and businesses can sign up, and participants don’t have to be Y members. Weigh-ins will begin next week and end March 28-29, right before spring break.

For every pound someone loses, that individual is asked to give a pound of a specific food item to the VCSC Back Pack program. Otherwise, there is no cost to participate.

“We thought this would be a fun way to grab a friend, co-worker or neighbor and lose those holiday pounds,” said Eleanor Ramseier, Vigo County YMCA executive director.

If someone has lost weight since Jan. 1, either on their own or through work, they can include that toward the 2,000-pound program goal.

Ramseier learned of the program when she attended a YUSA-sponsored leadership training program in November. “We were encouraged to go back to our own communities and design this program to fit our needs,” she said.

She enlisted Ryan Daffer, the Y’s community wellness coordinator, to assist. They wanted to focus on a need that is not as well known in the community, which is how the VCSC Back Pack program came into play.

The Y has three areas of focus — youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Lose a Ton, Give a Ton “touches on all three,” Daffer said.

When he learned that about 54 percent of VCSC students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, “I was blown away. I knew the school corporation provides this service, but I had no clue at how many youth were impacted,” he said.

Daffer knows a lot about weight loss; he once weighed 735 pounds and is now down to about 280  — but he’s not done yet.

Both he and Ramseier are participating in “Lose a Ton, Give a Ton.” Daffer’s eventual goal is to get down to 235 pounds.

Dan Tanoos, Vigo County schools superintendent, said of the initiative, “We appreciate the Y’s efforts. … The food that will be gathered as a result of this program will benefit our students in need of having food on the weekend.”

“Lose a Ton, Give a Ton” has already enlisted corporations, banks, hospitals, teachers, individuals, YMCA members and staff, Ramseier said.

Community partners include United Way of the Wabash Valley and the Indiana State University Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

Troy Fears, United Way executive director, said United Way is glad to partner with the Vigo County YMCA to focus on the community’s need for healthier living.  

“Obesity is a major issue in our community, and we are fortunate to have programs like this one that could potentially change people’s lives for the better,” both through losing weight and giving food to the Back Pack program, Fears said.  

“Make it fun. Get your office in on this or even your friends and family,” Fears said. He views it as a challenge for the community to start making better choices when it comes to eating and exercising.

“One person can’t make a big difference, but together we can make a huge impact and help others along the way,” Fears said.

Randi Zwerner, a Y member who is 18 weeks pregnant, plans to participate, although her goal is to stay healthy and make sure she does not gain excessive weight during her pregnancy.

While she will not be losing weight, she is recruiting her husband and her friends to participate as well. Zwerner plans to donate food, based on a friend’s weight loss. “What a great cause,” she said.

Ramseier said the Y is more than just a place to work out and get fit. “We will continue to have programs like “Lose a Ton, Give a Ton,” and the Y will continue to offer programs that give back to the community.

Any individual, whether a YMCA member or non-member, can sign up at the YMCA. People also can sign up at their place of employment; if the employer is not on the list, representatives can call the Y and get on the list.

Local businesses that have already signed up include Terre Haute Regional Hospital, Terre Haute Savings Bank, Baesler’s, Century 21 and Remax.

Food items collected will be based on a specific list provided by the school district. For businesses that participate, the YMCA or United Way will even come and pick up the food every two weeks.

The Vigo County YMCA can be reached at 812-232-8446, or The website is The Y also is on Facebook.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza

Weigh in, work out, win: Eleanor Ramseier, executive director of the Vigo County YMCA, and Ryan Daffer, community wellness coordinator, are coordinating the Y’s “Lose a Ton, Give a Ton” program to help students in need in the Vigo County School Corp. and help donors lose weight.