TOPS members celebrate weight loss achievements

Published 9:16 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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It was a morning of honoring weight loss achievement as the Take Off Pounds Sensibly Club, better known as TOPS, celebrated during its Clues to Success ceremony Saturday.

Advocates and members celebrated the club’s Virginia 2022 Division winners as well as the Virginia 2022 royalty winners for the most weight loss within the commonwealth April 1 at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront. The ceremony was hosted by advocate Wanda Bunnell and state coordinator June Byers.

Portsmouth’s David Green received his crown and the title, “King,” for his loss of 12.6 pounds during 2022. Centreville’s Gail Meyers is the 2022 “State and International Queen” for her loss of 177.25 pounds.

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Salem’s Rose Ralston is “Queen Alternate” for her loss of 74 pounds, while Gloucester’s Phyllis Koos is named “Queen RunnerUp” for her loss of 85.5 pounds. 

Following the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, and the recitation of the TOPS pledge, a video message from Service Program Administrator Judy Pruett played expressing her thanks to all the Virginia winners and wishing she could be there — TOPS President Rick Danforth stood in for her.

Honors were presented for the members weight loss achievements:

  • TOPS Advocate awards: Sheila Jennings, Fay Dunmire, Kathy Eanes, Vickie Bland, Michael Babbitt and Wanda Bunnell. 
  • Keep Off Pounds Sensibility Longevity 2022 awards: Joyce DeHart for 25 years, Gary Holloway for 20 years, Betty Miller for 15 years and Catherine Babbitt for 10 years. 
  • Century Club Awards for members who have lost and kept off more than 100 pounds: Marie Shaughnessy who lost 129.2 pounds, Angela Fernicola for losing 182.4 pounds, Betty Smith for losing 111.5 pounds, and Mildred Brown for losing 137.6 pounds.

There also were awards for first place winners of the Virginia 2022 Division. These include Norfolk’s William Walton for losing 12 pounds, Lynchburg’s Scott Bryant and Polly Smith for losing 23.2 pounds and 59.8 pounds respectively, and Virginia Beach’s Emily Tkach for losing 52.4 pounds. Winning second place is Stafford’s Theresa Bennett for losing 23.8 pounds.

After receiving his award, Walton said the support of both TOPS members and his wife, who is also a fellow TOPS member, gave him the strength to keep going.

“I have lost weight before, but I fell off the wagon – but with the help of TOPS, I got back on again,” Walton told the crowd. “My TOPS members have always encouraged me to keep trying and do my best every week, even if I gain weight. But I know I can do it.”

Smith, who wore red in honor of her late husband, shared her story after receiving her award that included surviving a heart attack, high blood pressure and stress eating. 

“I ate to replace the happiness in my life that had disappeared. I developed diabetes and my heart started to fail more,” Smith said. “This past year I developed an excess on my leg that would not heal due to my diabetes.”

She shared that she ended up hospitalize for six months with 20 surgeries with the excess turning into septic spread. Despite the long road and doctors not confident in her chances to make it, Smith was able to recover.

“It’s a miracle that I survived. If I had been eating healthy, not allowing my sugar to soar out of control, this would not have happened,” Smith said. “I am currently eating healthy and have lost weight.”

She said her diabetes is better than it has ever been in entire life.

“Anyone out there struggling with any disorder, please take my experience to light: knowing unhealthy eating will eventually lead us all into serious health issues,” Smith said. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. God gave me a second chance in life and I thank him every time.”

Following the ceremony, Danforth celebrated the winners and their successes.

“These are folks that got their goal weight, so they compete for royalty to be king or queen of their state or province, and then we have several divisions where members can compete and every state will have an event to have this done,” Danforth said. “Since TOPS is celebrating our 75th anniversary this year, a good example is the division winners’ stories that we heard today. Everybody has a different issue to deal with, different scenarios that they have to work through to get a healthier lifestyle, where we heard today where somebody wanted to have more time with their spouse, or to kind of get a whole of this comorbidity obesity to get healthy to combat diabetes.”

He stressed the importance of the winners’ stories and how inspire others in their own challenges.

“Again, everybody has that different perspective and hearing these stories you can pick little items and say ‘You know, that can apply to my life’ or I can use this going forward to get that healthy lifestyle,” Danforth said.