By BAILEY HEINZERLING
---- — PERU — A Zumba benefit today is raising money to help expand a fitness center at Peru Intermediate School — and it may help win a $1,000 prize.
The evening class has a mixed agenda: fundraising, political awareness and feeding the hungry.
And an MVP Health Care representative will conduct an interview that will help decide if Tracy Posada, a physical-education teacher and licensed Zumba instructor, will win a $1,000 prize from the health organization’s Ultimate Game Changer Contest.
She would donate the money to the fitness-center effort.
PICKED AS FINALIST
Competing against more than 150 New York and Vermont participants, with 40,000-plus votes cast online from Oct. 7 to 22, Posada was chosen a Top 10 finalist for the competition.
The teacher, 42, suffered a stroke when she was 25 and has been reaching out to the community to promote a healthier lifestyle, using her passion for Zumba and her voice.
“I just found out late last week that MVP wanted to come in and interview the class on (today),” she said.
All of the $5 donations from today’s class — set for 6:05 to 7:15 p.m. at the Peru Intermediate gym — will be used to expand a new “mini fitness center” that Posada says benefits both students and teachers.
Registration begins at 5:15 p.m. in the gym, with child care for youngsters, while she will conduct an adult class — ages 12 and older — in a room down the hall.
Canned food items will be collected for the Peru Food Shelf, and adults can enter a drawing for a $50 gas card for every item donated. Children have a chance to win a $50 WalMart gift card if they bring along the Zumba fliers they were given on Friday.
Because today is Election Day, the benefit has a red, white and blue theme to promote voting.
The idea for the fitness center came about in the beginning of September, weeks before Posada was nominated for the contest by one of her adult Zumba students, Alice Knight.
Posada and physical-education co-educator Peter Wheatley went over the budget together at the start of the school year and decided to take a different approach, putting together an overall fitness room to enhance cardiovascular exercise.
“We found out a room was going to become available but didn’t know where the funding was going to come from,” Posada said. “But I knew I would come up with some way to fund it.”
Intending to hold the benefit soon anyway, she figured combining that with the MVP interview would be a “win-win” way to represent the North Country community and show the health organization why this area deserves the prize.
Posada said she and Wheatley have already purchased what they could afford with their budget and a $300 gift card the school won from participating in the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart event last February.
As word spread of the Game Changer contest, it started awareness, she said, and “at least we planted the seed knowing that this fitness center is a goal. It’s not money just going to my pocket or to be wasted — it’s going to be used for the students and the children.”
A gala dinner awaits Posada and her two guests in Albany on Saturday. Hosted by MVP Health Care, it will feature a panel of judges to determine the winner of the $1,000 prize. The dinner includes guest appearances from soccer star Abby Wambach and lacrosse legend Gary Gait.
“If you want something, you have to be creative,” Posada said. “There’s money out there; it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.
“Even if I don’t win on Saturday, we’ll figure it out.”