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Calories out, charity in at one DeKalb gym

(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Fitness instructor Jill Farris (front) leads a Zumba class during the Be Thankful Workout event at the DeKalb Park District Sports and Recreation Center early Thursday morning. Donations to benefit Ronald McDonald House were accepted as well as non-perishable goods for The Salvation Army's food pantry.

DeKALB – Close to 40 people joined Jill Farris on Thanksgiving morning doing what she does best: exercising.

For at least 10 years, the exercise instructor has held a charity exercise session – the “Be Thankful Workout” – at the Haish Gym & Sports and Recreation Center, in which people could donate canned food or money before burning calories.

On Thursday, Farris led a group through a session of Zumba, muscle strengthening and step fitness.

“I usually try to do this every year because I think it’s good to give back to the community and support causes you can support,” Farris said. “And this is one small way I can do it, by exercising and bringing people together.”

The canned food would go to The Salvation Army’s DeKalb chapter, while the donated money would go to Ronald McDonald charities in Chicago, Farris said. She noted too that the exercise sessions allow people to burn calories in anticipation of Thanksgiving dinner.

DeKalb resident Mark Shadrick said he has attended Farris’ Be Thankful Workout every year she has hosted it. He said it allows him to “get the toxins out.”

“It makes me feel good for the whole day,” Shadrick said. “That exudes out to everyone you’re with at the Thanksgiving dinner.”

Shadrick said he was thankful for getting a job as a design engineer in Machesney Park; he said he lost his job last year.

Simothy Ross said she was thankful that her husband is recovering from a bout of prostate cancer.

Ross said she also was thankful for the country she lives in, noting that there is abundance in the United States compared to the rest of the world.

“I’m very thankful that all across the United States there is peace,” Ross said. “I’m from Malaysia, and although Malaysia is a peaceful country, there are many countries from here to Malaysia that are wartorn and all of those displaced people without homes and food.”

Farris said she was thankful for her families and friends, as well as opportunities to help someone achieve their personal and fitness goals.

“I need we need to work as a community to achieve that,” Farris said.


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