A rock climbing wall, former Washington Redskins players, a broccoli mascot, lots of dogs and more: day one of the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo was a success!
Expo-goer Ruth Acquino said she comes to the Expo every year. She noticed this year’s Expo was especially focused on wellness education.
“It’s definitely more honed on health and general well-being,” she said.
News4’s Melissa Mollett kicked things off in the morning with an Expo opening ceremony at the American Ninja Warrior Zone that featured special guest Bryan Dattilo, who plays Lucas Roberts in "Days of Our Lives."
Other celebrities made appearances at the Expo. Former Washington Redskins wide receivers Gary Clark and Santana Moss greeted fans, and Charlie, the "TODAY" show's Puppy With a Purpose, also met Expo-goers.
Expo host Doreen Gentzler took to the Main Stage later in the morning to moderate a discussion on addiction. Mark Skibbie, an alumnus of the Caron Treatment Center who is in long-term recovery from substance abuse, joined the panel to provide insight on addiction and recovery. He hasn’t had a drink in 15 years.
“It’s fairly easy to stay sober or to stay clean in rehab,” Skibbie said. “The hard stuff is when you get out.”
For more resources on mental health, the Changing Minds area provided Expo visitors with information. Donate Life volunteer Vicki Lambert said she likes to visit Changing Minds to learn about mental health.
“I think that’s impressive that Channel 4 News does Changing Minds events to try to get information about mental health,” Lambert said. “That is so important.”
After donating half of her liver to her mom 15 years ago, Lambert has become an advocate for organ donation. She recently published a book on her experience, and took her passion to the Expo, where she volunteered at the Donate Life booth to help inform people about how to become an organ donor and what that entails.
“I have educated people over the years,” Lambert said. “But it’s rewarding to see family members and friends and other people in the community to come back to you and say, ‘I have changed my mind, I have become an organ donor.’”
Lambert brought her daughter, 8-year-old Joy Lambert, to enjoy some activities at the Expo. And there was plenty of kid-friendly fun -- including rock climbing, tennis, zumba and fitness classes, soccer with D.C. United, Dance Dance Revolution and other activities.
Joy said her favorite part of the Expo was the American Ninja Warrior Zone. Joy said she watches ‘American Ninja Warrior’ “a lot.” At the American Ninja Warrior Zone, she got to try out some of the obstacles from the show with guidance of instructors from Urban Evolution.
Joy said the obstacles were harder than she expected, but her favorite was a ropes course.
“It was fun ‘cause you get to swing on it,” she said.
There were plenty of ways for Expo goers to get active, from the Zumba Zone, to the Dancing 4 You Stage, to the What’s Your Workout classes.
“I really liked it to have the physical activities, to get people motivated, and to help you where you can get tested to see if you have any problems, you know, health problems right away,” Lambert said. “And so that’s impressive.”
The education continued into the afternoon, with authors speaking at the Healthy Book Festival, Storm Team4 answering weather questions and News4’s David Culver moderating a panel on meditation.
Lauren Taylor, founder of Defend Yourself, which teaches self-defense classes, gave self-defense lessons for people with disabilities at the Disabilities Partnerships booth. She offered verbal and physical techniques on how to stay safe in potentially dangerous situations.
“Anybody who is perceived as vulnerable is more likely to be targeted for an attack,” Taylor said.
Acquino enjoys the fitness activities and hustle of the Expo, but she said the health education events is why she keeps coming back.
“It’s a lot of information -- information that you can get for free,” Aquino said. “So that’s nice.”
If you couldn’t come to the Expo today, don’t worry. You can catch all of the fun tomorrow for Day Two of the event at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Click here for complete schedules and hours.