Health Success in Southern West Virginia

Active Southern West Virginia develops activities and programming to create a culture of exercise and physical activity in southern West Virginia. Transforming this region into a more physically active community is our main purpose. This vision is pursued through these programs:

Active SWV Community Captains

Active SWV Kids Run Clubs

Active SWV Bike/Walk

Active SWV Workplace Wellness

Active SWV Signature Events

Community Captains

“A commitment to Active SWV is a commitment to yourself. When I promise someone else I’ll be somewhere to do something, I’m committed to showing up. Once I show up, I always feel better and I’m glad I did it”. -Joe Jett, Community Captain

This mission is achieved through community volunteers who lead regular physical activities around the four county New River Gorge region. These Community Captains are seeking healthier lifestyles themselves and experience  accountability in leading groups. These volunteers are provided training and certifications to facilitate quality programs, while also creating the opportunity for Community Captains to obtain resume building qualifications.

August 2020: Active SWV would like to welcome the new 2020 Community Captains. We are so thankful and honored each and every one of you decided to choose our organization as a way to give back to your community. It is because of generous folks like you that we are able to offer our free physical activity programs to the residents of southern West Virginia.

July 2020: The 2020 training class will be held July 25th and 26th at the Dun Glen Shelter. Classes will begin at 8:30 am with training presentations by Active SWV and the National Park Service. Lunch will be provided. Check out the Community Captain Training Facebook event page for updates and others information.

June 2020: Bob Matson has been an amazing asset as an Active SWV Community Captain leading group hikes, Full Moon walks, and our Annual Fire Fly Walk. We would like to highlight his accomplishments and efforts to still bring the Annual Fire Fly Walk Virtual this year. We wanted to have a chat with Bob to talk about how he is adapting to turning this successful event virtual. Read more about what Bob had to say here.

May 2020:  Community Captain of the Month, Vickie Aliff. Vickie is the woman behind the camera posting all the amazing hiking trail videos on the Active SWV Bulletin Board Facebook page. Let’s learn a little more about Vickie and her passion for hiking and teaching here.

April 2020: Amber, Jennifer, Allonna, Elizabeth, Sandra, Wendi, and Michele have found new unique ways to connect with their participants and offer tips for how to still be physically active from home. We have all enjoyed their Facebook Live videos and links to playlists to keep us healthy while we keep our distance. Please check out the Active SWV Bulletin Board page if you haven’t seen for yourself what a difference these strong ladies are making. You can also check out the Beckley REFIT Facebook group or the Active SWV website for information about attending a program in your area after restrictions are lifted.

March 2020: Active SWV would like to introduce everyone to Jo Harris a volunteer Community Captain with Active SWV since the organization began in 2015. Jo started volunteering with Active SWV after retiring from her job by starting a walking group in the Gauley Bridge area. Click here for more information about Jo and the UKV Walking Group

February 2020: Active SWV is pleased to introduce you to this month’s highlight, Community Captain Beth Hudspeth. Beth leads the weekly running group, Fayetteville Running Group, that has been in action for over a year. The group meets on Wednesday evenings after work to get some jogging or walking miles in together. What started as just a December 2018 program, has grown for the last year to reach over 40 individuals. So, why volunteer and not just adventure on your own terms, Beth? “I have more fun when others join me on the trails and I like to make new friends. I believe Active SWV is a great way for people to maintain their health, make new friendships, and find ways to enjoy their life at no cost to participate. It makes people happier,” shares Beth.

Read more about Beth here.

January 2020: Active SWV is pleased to introduce you to Jill O’Dell and Susan Walker, our January Community Captains of the Month. We caught up with Jill and Susan to talk about thier experiences with Active SWV and any advice they could offer to participants or other people who may want to get more involved with Active SWV. Read more about Jill and Susan here.

December 2019 Community Captain of the Month: Sarah Edwards. Sarah is a High Fitness instructor; a high energy mix of cardio and toning (arms, abs, legs) with no equipment needed. All moves are easily modified making the class appropriate for all ages and fitness levels. With temperatures dropping, our indoor programs will help to keep you moving throughout the winter.

“I first learned of Active SWV when I ran the Bridge Day 5k a few years ago. I was inspired by the mission to promote health and wellness. I started taking High Fitness classes in Morgantown and became addicted. After moving to Fayetteville I started to miss it. So last year I decided to become a certified High Fitness instructor so I could teach and share with others.” Read more about Sarah here.

November 2019: Dear Community Captains,
The Active SWV staff would like to take the opportunity this month to say a very heart felt THANK YOU to all of you. It is because of all your hard work, caring hearts, and dedication that we are able to make a difference in the lives of so many people in our communities. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization. It is because of you that Active SWV has been a success in our region.
You have made impacts, large and small, in the lives of our participants. You have given people the opportunity to experience new activities, the confidence to continue, and the support that they need to make physical activity a part of their lives. When Active SWV staff attend the different programs that you host across our region, we are inspired and it reminds us that together we can make a difference in the lives of people in our communities. Volunteers have the most amazing superpower of all. When they touch one person, they touch them all. In life, there are no sure bets, except that people like you will rise to the occasion and make the world a better place.
Active SWV Staff

October: Active SWV would like to introduce you to Candice Helms and Jody Shelton, Community Captains of the newly formed Historic Hinton Walking Group. Candice and Jody recently trained with Active SWV to become Community Captains and are actively involved in Hinton. Candice and Jody thought it would be easier to start the group if they had a partner to help them lead it. Read more here.

Active SWV would like to introduce you to Amy Showalter, our September Community Captain of the Month. “I trained as a Community Captain this spring, and have enjoyed a summer of volunteering with Active SWV programs including Get Active in the Park’s Psyched on Bikes and stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Engaging a community outside of my work and family has always been a priority for me.

Active SWV’s free programs provide a space to meet interesting people that I wouldn’t know otherwise, while allowing me to recharge physically and mentally. Throw in a supportive environment and a beautiful setting, whether it’s the Beckley McManus Rail Trail or Dun Glen, and it’s a near-perfect combination. I would invite anyone who’s curious about an activity or being a Community Captain to show up to an event. Bring a friend or know that you’ll meet a new friend while participating.” Read more about Amy’s background and community involvement here.

Active SWV is pleased to announce Bob Matson as Community Captain of the month for August. Bob’s dedication to Active SWV goes beyond leading programs. Bob has volunteered to help with special events, Beckley BPAC, and general office work. We are so thankful to have folks like Bob committed to Active SWV.  If you see Bob out and about say Hi and a BIG THANK YOU for all his work and dedication to helping make his community better.
We asked Bob about his experiences with Active SWV. Read more here.

Active SWV is excited to introduce our July Community Captain of the month, Abbie Clasgens! Abbie is a new Community Captain who was one of many to participate in the recent 2019 Community Captain Training. Abbie leads the Active SWV Kaymoor Stairs group, and is also a certified in the American Canoe Association (ACA) Level 1 SUP Skills so she can offer free stand up paddle boarding programs to the community.

Read more about Abbie here.

June 2019, Active SWV would like to welcome the new 2019 Community Captains. We are so thankful and honored that each and every one of them decided to choose our organization as a way to give back to our community. It is because of generous folks like this that we are able to offer our free physical activity programs throughout the region. Read more here.

Active SWV is very excited to highlight our Community Captain of the Month Linda Stein for April 2019. Linda is a great asset to our community. She strives to help to improve not just the health of of the folks in the region but to improve the quality of life for everyone. You will see her face at many programs and events around the region as she loves to encourage and help her community. Linda likes to hike in the New River Gorge and is very knowledgeable about the region’s history and nature. Read more about Linda here.

The March 2019 Community Captain of the Month is Crysty Linkenhoker. Crysty is a dedicated Community Captain that has recently expanded her her programs to six a week. She decided to become a Community Captain because she really wanted a water aerobics class close to her home town. When Active SWV did not have a volunteer to lead the program, Crysty stepped up to complete the necessary training and become the leader for her community. The water aerobics program quickly became a community favorite at Hawks Nest State Park’s outdoor swimming pool this past summer. When the season changed from summer to fall it was time to move her class indoors. The Holiday Lodge Hotel in Oak Hill graciously offered thier facilities to be able to offer this amazing program. Read more here

The February 2019 Community Captain of the month is Darla Keenan. Darla grew up in Gauley Bridge and like many others moved away for work but ended up coming back to her home town. Darla’s path to increasing her physical activity level started like many others. She had some health concerns and suffered a series of strokes. This was her wake up call.  Darla said she was overweight and not taking care of herself the way she should. She decided that walking was her ticket to become healthier. Since she began walking she has increased her overall health and went from a size 24 to a size 12. Read more about Darla here.

The January 2019 Community Captains of the Month are Aletha Stolar and Patsieann Misiti. Aletha and Patsieann will be hosting Qi gong classes every Saturday in January at Canyon Rim Visitor Center in Lansing. We asked Aletha and Patsieann to tell us a little about themselves; why they are physically active and what motivates them to give back to their communities. Read more about these two leaders here

The December 2018 Community Captains of the Month are from Team REFIT. Team REFIT joined Active SWV in July of 2017 and have been growing and going strong ever since. Classes have expanded from one location to three and now REFIT is available 6 days week. Please join us in celebrating the wonderful work of these women and their dedication to making a happier health community. Read more about each leader here.

This November 2018 all Active SWV Community Captains are being recognized because they have added value to the mission of increasing access to physical activity. It may seem like a small volunteer effort for some and for others their time leading continues to increase. Each volunteer effort is valued and needs celebrated. Please know you are important to the community of southern West Virginia and we want everyone to celebrate Active SWV Community Captains with us.

The October Community Captain of the Month is Levi Moore. Levi has faced barriers to becoming physically active that many others come up against in their lives, a medical condition. Levi has gout, a form of arthritis, hence it causes pain and discomfort in the joints. A typical gout attack is characterized by the sudden onset of severe pain, swelling, warmth, and redness of a joint. Determination, social support, proper medical care, and making time for physical activity helped Levi overcome those barriers. To see what motivated Levi to overcome his barriers check out this video. Since becoming Community Captain he has walked several more double digit walks, the longest being last year at 15.6 miles. He has become a seasonal adventure guide with a local adventure resort and his plans for 2019 are to start solo overnight backpacking. He is on track to walk/hike 1000 miles this year and will most likely shoot for that much or more next year.

The September 2018 Community Captain of the Month is Pat Gagan. Pat recently moved to the area and has been very active in the outdoors all of his life. When he moved here he was struck by the natural beauty and opportunities to be physically active in the outdoors. Pat says he “loves what being active can do for your life”. Pat loves to see people get outside and be active so he joined Active SWV’s Community Captain team. He says, “Fitness is fun and not everyone knows that”. He wants to help instill this value in the younger generations to carry with them throughout their lives. Pat also says “You don’t have to run a marathon, you can just take a stroll, fitness can be fun if you just give it a try.” Read more here.

The August 2018 Community Captain of the Month is Crysty Linkenhoker. At her first class, 27 participants came out with enthusiasm for the program. On the second day of class, 37 participants attended. The interest is overwhelming and great to see people participating in a low intensity activity. Read more about Crysty and the new water aerobics programming here.

The July Community Captain of the Month is Jennifer Scott. Jenifer volunteers to lead stand up paddle boarding for Active SWV because she loves to introduce people to water activity. She started volunteering with Active SWV because she didn’t know a lot of people in the area and wanted to get involved with the community. She appreciates the organization because it gives all people opportunity to get physically active. Jennifer said, “Health is a motivating factor for staying physically active. I want to be a role model for my family and have fun. These goals coincide with volunteering with Active SWV.”  Jennifer has some advice for people who may want to join an Active SWV program “Don’t be afraid to join a program. Signing up is the hardest part, its beginner friendly, there’s always someone there to help, and there’s something for everyone.” Read more here.

The June 2018 Community Captain of the Month is Bob Matson. Bob became an Active SWV Community Captain to lead orienteering and hiking. He has been increasing his knowledge about map reading and being active in a natural setting since training to become a Community Captain. He has really come to appreciate how accessible the State and National Parks are in our region. Bob has found truth in the statement “You learn more by teaching and getting involved in your community”. He recently led is first Active SWV hike at Grandview where a ranger accompanied the hike and gave some interesting facts about the WV State Flower to the group. Did you know Rhododendrons are not native to WV? Read more here.

This May 2018 we would like to take some time to say a BIG THANK YOU to all of our Community Captains. Community Captains are volunteers with Active SWV that care about the health and well-being of their friends and neighbors. Community Captains are the backbone of our organization’s programming options. If it was not for their time and dedication, there would be no way our organization could function at the capacity that we do. Every Community Captain finds time in their busy lives to connect with individuals through physical activity, offering encouragement and support to help people in their communities get excited about getting Active. Volunteering to become an Active SWV Community Captain is a great way to help your hometown’s health and can be a very rewarding experience for the Community Captain. 

The April Community Captain of the Month is Charity Wysong. Charity leads Active SWV’s Walk in the Park program, a walking/hiking group at Fayette County Park every Wednesday at 10am. Charity also leads hikes in the NRG for our Get Active in the Park programs. We caught up with Charity to ask her a few questions about what motivates her to volunteer and to stay physically active. She says, “I just enjoy being outdoors.  Being active makes the day go by faster and makes life more enjoyable.  I was always physically active in my youth but went through a lazy-period in my early adult life until it finally dawned on me that I was alive but wasn’t “living”.  Being active allows me to see so much more in life.” Read more about Charity here.

March’s Community Captain of the Month is Aletha Stolar. She says, “I participated in several free Tai Chi classes through Active SWV with Joe Jett. First, I fell in love with Tai Chi and the calm focus. Second, the opportunity was presented to become a Community Captain for Get Active in the Park. Third, I recognized how much personal time Joe Jett had invested as a volunteer and I wanted to give back and share my love for Tai Chi,” says Aletha.

February Community Captains of the Month are Teresa Workman and Jennifer Robinson. These amazing ladies are the Community Captains of our Pickleball Program. When asked for advice to anyone thinking about volunteering, they said, “Being a Community Captain is easy. Active SWV is very supportive with arrangements for facilities, providing equipment and promoting the activity.”

Community Captain of the Month is Lori Keller. Lori leads our Gentle Yoga class and she says, “I wanted to reach out to an older population of people in our community who I felt could really benefit from an easy form of yoga that ANYBODY could do no matter what their physical limitations were. I wanted to create a safe, comfortable, and completely supportive, environment for them to be able to come and feel better.”

Community Captain of the Month Kate Miller leads Indoor Fitness Bootcamp, a weekly program, at Ansted Middle School.

She says she is active because:

  • “I am grateful for the ability to be active
  • My body craves movement
  • It is a part of who I am…my philosophy, my codeI love an amazing challenge
  • Camaraderie with others
  • I want to practice what I teach
  • It makes me feel like the best version of myself” Read more about Kate here.

Community Captain of the Month Troy Phillips says, “I’m active because it makes me feel good. It makes me more confident, and lowers stress which ultimately makes me happier. I think people never know how bad they feel until they feel better. I was 285 lbs. when i graduated high school and finally decided to start trying to lead a more healthful lifestyle. I never want to feel that uncomfortable again.” Read more here.

Community Captain of the Month Lina Stein says, “I believe in the mission of Active Southern WV and greatly value the opportunities Active SWV provides to people in our area. I work in a health center with people who have chronic conditions like diabetes. I partner with them to help them better manage their chronic condition. I encourage people to get out and be active. Active SWV events are perfect ways for people to safely get out and try new things. I also hope that local people who know me might feel more comfortable trying out new things if I am involved.” Read more here.

Community Captain of the Month Mara Petretich says, “I love seeing other people get psyched about trying challenging outdoor activities. Learning to do hard things is so empowering and exciting. It’s just the best when someone’s face lights up with that thrill. Some of the best things West Virginia has to offer may not be accessible if someone doesn’t have the gear or is unsure where to go and how to get started. This organization really bridges that gap for people.” Read more here

Community Captains of the Month Jennifer Bledso and Amber Fuller lead Refit programs for Active Southern West Virginia. Jennifer says, “I want to let people know that working out can be fun, you can see results, and have an environment that welcomes and accepts you regardless of where they are on their fitness journey.” Amber says, “I am active because I want to set an example for my daughter who is eight and to encourage others that it’s okay to take time for you!  You can’t pour into other people’s lives if you are empty.  Being active with my friends, family and REFIT® community gives me so much joy and is a natural stress reliever!” Read more here

Community Captain of the Month Suleka Deevi says “Just start! Don’t plan, don’t wait for your project to be finished, don’t wait until you have more time, just go outside, and start walking! The first few days should be relaxed and pleasant, and you should just get used to being present in the moment. Come join us! Whether it is Day One for you or you are already an active person, we would love for you to join us. Maybe you will inspire someone else who is on the fence about coming to Active SWV events, wants to stay physically healthy but isn’t quite sure. Being a Community Captain simply means you care about the community you are a part of and want to do your part to make your little part of the world better.” Read more here

Community Captain of the Month Lori Keller says, “I love teaching yoga because it has helped me so much both mentally and physically.  The chair yoga class that I teach is meant for people who may not think that they are physically able to do much. ANYBODY can do this!  I wanted to create a comfortable environment for people in our community who really need exercise and to feel better about themselves who may not be able to afford to go to a fitness center or even feel comfortable going to one.  The atmosphere of my class is so amazing.  I started this class to reach out to ALL people no matter what their physical limitations.” Read more here.

Community Captain of the Month Rene Moore says, “The free programs are a benefit to our population for so many different reasons. The greatest I think, is that it helps to have someone to be active with. It can be difficult to commit to being active if you don’t have like minded people around or someone to be accountable to. The programs also give families and friends the opportunity to try or “sample” new activities together such as stand up paddle boarding or snowshoeing without the financial commitment. Residents can explore classes that they may not have had the opportunity or resources to try such as yoga and Tai Chi.” Read more here.

Community Captain of the Month Wendy Scott says, “I try to remember all the individuals who may no be physically able to be active. We are not promised tomorrow. Use our abilities while we can. Just like we can influence others to do the same. I find motivation from other volunteers and Community Captains. Social media is also very motivating for me. When I see others being active and enjoying life, I want to do the same.” Read more about Wendy starting as a paddle board instructor and then leading a dog walking group in the winter by clicking here.

Community Captain of the Month Joe Jett says, “I love teaching Tai Chi because of the difference it makes in the lives of people. People come up to me after class and comment on how much better they feel, they feel calm and relaxed. It varies, but some people have had profound improvements with their joints popping back in place, and relief from pain. I believe everyone benefits some, and some people benefit a lot.” Read more here.

Community Captain of the Month Erin Clay says,“Physical activity is so good for people, not just physically but mentally. We have so many tough situations in our lives and when I see the change that can happen in someone’s quality of life when they become active I just want to spread that as much as possible. From postpartum depression to drug addiction and economic hardship – health and wellness can help you turn it around”. Read more here.

In our daily lives we face obstacles that make it difficult for us to maintain a healthy lifestyle, Lauren’s advice about how to overcome these daily obstacles and stay healthy is simple, “Make it a priority, I value my health and body so taking the time daily to be active is always at the top of my list. If you choose to make health a priority, then it’s actually easy”. Read more about Community Captain Lauren Meade here.

When Community Captain Charlene Diggs was asked what motivated her to become a leader and mentor in her community, leading the way for a more physically active community, Charlene responded, “With so much violence and negative energy in our city maybe if someone saw a person that looked like them being involved they too would want to get involved and turn that negative energy into something positive like being active.” Read more here.

Community Captain Kim Berry says “It can seem daunting to lead a group in your area or even to be more physically active at first, but I find that getting out there with a like-minded group of folks is just as addictive as popping open a can of Pringles, once you start you aren’t going to want to stop.”

Throughout his recovery he has championed the cause of walking and hiking for the sake of personal fulfillment, and nearly each day he employs social media to broadcast positive messages and encourage others to find their own paths. Over the last year he also joined the efforts of Active Southern West Virginia as a Community Captain, guiding walks and hikes, and he recently accepted the invitation to become a member of the institution’s board, helping guide its efforts to encourage residents of southern West Virginia to enjoy active lifestyles. Read more here.

Community Captain Teeya Mills says, “Frowns motivated me to help others make positive changes. I am motivated when I feel good and I am smiling. Being physically active makes me feel good and smile. As I began to see more frowns and people struggling with depression and addiction I set out to make changes.”

Community Captain Joe Gutshall retired from construction work to pursue a Masters in Science Degree in School Health Education and now working with Collins Middle School in Oak Hill, WV. Consider this your invitation to his annual Devil Dash 5k the Saturday before Halloween. Read more about Joe here.

Community Captain Hilary Nicolau was one of the first volunteers for Active SWV leading a weekly Monday Mile group. She was very successful in getting her family and friends running a one mile trail loop on a regular schedule. Hilary warmly invited first time runners to the group and always stayed at their pace. Hilary continues to volunteer with the 4-H Kids Run Club at Fayetteville Elementary School.

Community Captain, Kids Run Club Coach, and Active SWV Board Member Kate Miller says, “Set goals (make sure they are measurable and stick to them), find a partner who will hold you accountable to achieving your goals, reward yourself when you reach a milestone (but not with cake), schedule physical activity into your day, make sure you enjoy whatever you are doing to get in shape, remember that fitness is a lifelong process (you never just arrive), your body is your temple – your vehicle through life…it is a gift…honor it – the better you treat it, the better it will treat you. I could go on and on with ways to overcome obstacles, but in the end, it is a mindset. You have to make yourself a priority.”

Community Captain Autumn Bess says, “No matter where you are at in your journey there are people out there who you will inspire. You might be just what they needed. Share your journey. Stop thinking about becoming physically active and do something – today…right now. It might be a stretch or walking a few steps. Just do it…and do a little bit more tomorrow…and the next day.  Don’t compete with the world…….just work on being a better you each and every day.“ Read more here. 

Community Captain Abby Barrett says, “If you are thinking about becoming a Community Captain and are nervous that you don’t have the time or resources to organize an Active SWV group, the Active SWV staff are wonderful and will patiently guide you in any way that they can. It has been a very rewarding experience to see the accomplishments of the Active SWV Montgomery training team from the beginning of their training all the way up to the Jingle Bell 5k we ran in December. Even if you are not interested in becoming a Community Captain, joining a community group is a great way to make new friends and get the support you need to reach your physical activity goals.” Read more here.

Community Captain, Training Team Coach, and Active SWV Board Member Missy Burleson has been with the organization from the beginning. She is a great example of working towards certifications in order to offer more skills to her participants. Missy is great at motivating new runners towards 5K goals! Read more here.

These are just a few of the Community Captains that have made a huge impact on the communities around them. Additional volunteer Community Captains are; Garrett Leggit, Mathew Bailey, Amy Thomas, Jean Evansmore, Sue Slater, Melissa Grey, Terry Hoskins, and Kathy Garencer.


The participants of the Community Captain programs are heroes themselves for overcoming barriers to a more active lifestyle. Each commitment to joining a program is a success and when a habit of physical activity is created, the success is life changing. Please help us in celebrating these successful individuals.

Active SWV would like to introduce you to Stephanie Hill, the Virtual Participant of the Month for June. Before Covid-19 Stephanie Hill was attending REFIT at Central Head Start in Beckley 2-3 days an week for the last year and a half. Active SWV Community Captains have tried new and inventive ways to keep participants engaged during this time with virtual programs and other resources. We wanted to chat with our participant to see how she is adapting to virtual programs. Read more about Stephanie’s experience here.

Community Captain, Kids Run Club Coach, and Active SWV Board Member Kate Miller says, “Set goals (make sure they are measurable and stick to them), find a partner who will hold you accountable to achieving your goals, reward yourself when you reach a milestone (but not with cake), schedule physical activity into your day, make sure you enjoy whatever you are doing to get in shape, remember that fitness is a lifelong process (you never just arrive), your body is your temple – your vehicle through life…it is a gift…honor it – the better you treat it, the better it will treat you. I could go on and on with ways to overcome obstacles, but in the end, it is a mindset. You have to make yourself a priority.”

Community Captain, Kids Run Club Coach, and Active SWV Board Member Kate Miller says, “Set goals (make sure they are measurable and stick to them), find a partner who will hold you accountable to achieving your goals, reward yourself when you reach a milestone (but not with cake), schedule physical activity into your day, make sure you enjoy whatever you are doing to get in shape, remember that fitness is a lifelong process (you never just arrive), your body is your temple – your vehicle through life…it is a gift…honor it – the better you treat it, the better it will treat you. I could go on and on with ways to overcome obstacles, but in the end, it is a mindset. You have to make yourself a priority.”

June 2020: Active SWV would like to introduce you to Stephanie Hill, the Virtual Participant of the Month for June. Before Covid-19 Stephanie Hill was attending REFIT at Central Head Start in Beckley 2-3 days an week for the last year and a half. Active SWV Community Captains have tried new and inventive ways to keep participants engaged during this time with virtual programs and other resources. We wanted to chat with our participant to see how she is adapting to virtual programs. Read more about Stephanie’s experience here.

May 2020: Participants of the Month; Josh, Natasha, Isaac, and Evelynn. We have been following the Jones family on social media and seeing all the fun and active adventures the family has been on during this time of physical distancing. Let’s learn a little more about what keeps them moving.

April 2020: Cara Stewart is our first virtual participant of the month. She joined our Move Your Way, Southern WV Challenge on our Facebook Page and found out that she was getting more active than they thought. Tickle wars, outdoor picnics, gardening, and dancing are all part of an active week with the family.
“I think peopel are having a hard time focusing on anything but the Covid-19 situation, but that is also why it is so important right now for people to stay active in ways that work for them!”
Read more about our Participant of the Month here.

Active SWV would like to introduce you to our March 2020 Participant of the Month, Becky Morris. Becky has been a member of the UKV walking group since it started in the parking lot at the Gauley Bridge retail location. She said friends invited her and motivated her to join the group. To read about other way Becky stays active and what motivates her click here.

Active SWV is pleased to announce the February 2020 Participant of the Month – Ashley Thomas. Ashley has been attending the weekly Wednesday night Fayetteville running group, led by Community Captain Beth Hudspeth. He has also been spending time on his own training for Active SWV’s upcoming May 16th Rim to Rim race. Ashley grew up in Fayetteville, and is always looking for new fitness opportunities as he gets older. Why are you active? How did you start? ‘I have always been somewhat active. From being a raft guide and mountain bike guide for a number of years, to bow hunting and fishing. I enjoy getting out in the general outdoors and moving. For me now, as I get older, I see the importance of keeping in shape for better health.’
Read more about Ashley here.

Active SWV is pleased to announce the January 2020 Participant of the Month – Herb Martin! Herb has been attending the weekly Water Aerobics and Water Workout classes led by Community Captain Crysty Linkenhoker. We recently caught up with him to see what motivates him to be active. Why are you active? How did you start? ‘My sister invited me and I said, “I don’t have time to do that”, but after I came, I enjoyed it so much I decided hey, I need to do this. It’s a lot of fun, and actually you do two classes. It’s a pretty good workout.’ Read more about Herb here.

December 2019: Dena Workman, “It’s tough sometimes to get out and go to exercise class but I know that I will feel better both mentally and physically if I do.  Sometimes when I arrive at class, I am still trying to talk myself out of exercising.  But I get energized by the gals who always cheer me on!” Click here for the full interview “It doesn’t matter if you have not exercised for a long time, come on out and join one of the programs.  They are fun, you can work at your own pace, and the fellowship is amazing.  Thank you to everyone at Active SWV.” – Dena Workman

November 2019: Dear Active SWV Participants,
The Active SWV staff and Community Captains would like to take the opportunity to say a BIG THANK YOU to all of you. Your participation in our programs drives us to continue to provide more programs, times, and locations to suit the needs of the community. We love seeing familiar faces, meeting new people, and being active with each one of you. You provide an accountability to our work. We love knowing that you will be there because you have found an activity you love; and we love too. You provide amazing feedback to help us improve program experiences, create new programs, and keep up the quality of our programs. It is because of you we do the work that we do. We love sharing in your successes and helping you through tough times. We have found that it is more than physical activity that we are promoting, we are promoting love and community connections also.
Thank you for sharing your lives with us on this journey to creating life-long changes in our communities.
-Active SWV Staff and Community Captains

Active SWV would like to highlight Virginia Cook as our October Participant of the Month. Virginia went on her first hike with Senior Community Captain Levi Moore and she has not stopped since. You will see Virginia out on many of the Active SWV hiking and walking programs, with one of her favorite hikes being the Summersville Long Point Trail. Virginia will travel across our region as much as an hour or more to get to some of Active SWV’s hiking and walking programs, but her go-to close to home favorites are the Piney Creek Gorge trails at the Beckley YMCA Soccer Fields and Little Beaver State Park.

Virginia said she is so glad to get out on Active SWV hiking programs and that she would go on all of them if she could. She sends a big “thank you” to all the Community Captain program leaders. Read more here.

Active SWV would like to  introduce you to our September Participants of the Month, Shanna’s family. Shanna and her husband are foster parents to three incredible boys. Please continue reading to learn more about Shanna’s family and their experiences.

Q. Tell us about yourself and your family

My husband and I became foster parents in 2018. Many foster families focus on infants, toddlers, and younger children. To help fill that gap, my husband and I concentrate our care on older school-aged children, often 9-17 y/o. We entered into the foster care system with clear intentions of introducing young people to the incredible outdoor recreation opportunities vastly available in our area. We know that generating an interest and showing the ease of access to recreation in our area could open these children’s eyes to possibilities otherwise unknown – be it career pathways in the recreation & tourism industry or simply an ever-available outlet for trauma-induced behaviors….(continue reading here)

Active SWV would like to send a huge THANK YOU to the City of Beckley Police Department for their continued support of our programs. Active SWV hosts multiple physical activity programs throughout the City of Beckley each month and the City’s police participate and support our mission to increase opportunity for physical activity in city limits. Read more here.

For the month of July, Active SWV is excited to highlight Arlene Russell and her granddaughter Patience Meadows as our participants of the month! They attended the recent Get Active at Hawks Nest Lake event, a partnership between Active SWV and the National Parks Service. Thanks to the help of NPS Rangers Joseph Whelan and NPS intern Amanda Appleton, and some of our volunteer Community Captains Scott Justice, Aletha Stolar, Nicole Linkfield, Heather Cooper, Amy Showalter, Charlie Mooney, and Meghan Fisher, there were opportunities to bike, hike, paddleboard, and try some Qi Gong by the lake. The multiple activities allow families with different interests and capabilities to participate in whatever event(s) they feel comfortable doing. Read more about Arlene and Patience here.

This June, 2019 we are highlighting our program participants that have decided to become leaders as Community Captains. Active SWV Community Captains do such an amazing job of encouraging and inspiring their program participants that many former participants recently became Community Captains themselves at the 2019 Active SWV Community Captain training. Help us welcome Amy Showalter, Beth Daniel, Lisa Adkins, Jacki Wright, Richard Accord, Barbra Accord, Beth Hudspeth, Wendi Sopher, Chris Graham, and Vicki Aliff. Read more here.

This May we are taking a turn from highlighting a program participant to giving recognition to two City of Beckley employees who have gone above the call of duty to complete a project set forth by the Beckley BPAC (Bicycle Pedestrian Action Committee). “It’s good healthy exercise. People from the college can access. I have been here through the whole process when it was a railroad and we changed it from rails to trails and now we call it McManus Trail. We work hard on the lighting and eliminate the canopy so it’s well lit at night,” shares Joe Oaks, 40 year employee with the City of Beckley. Read more about the Beckley BPAC powered by Active SWV here.

Active SWV is proud to highlight Participant of the Month for April, Jacki Wright. Jacki has participated in multiple hikes and stand up paddle boarding opportunities with Active SWV Community Captains, and she greatly enjoys the social aspects of the programs. Jacki enjoyed Active SWV programs so much she has decided to join the 2019 Active SWV Community Captain Training Class this May 4th and 5th.

March 2019 Participants of the Month are Violet Carte and Bea Morris. They both attend the Active SWV Water Aerobics program at Holiday Lodge Hotel in Oak Hill and they also attend the Ansted Music and Movement program at Hawks Nest State Park. Bea saw the water aerobics aerobics event page on Facebook and invited her friend from Weight Watchers, Violet, to go with her. Both Bea and Violet say they’ve seen overall improvement in thier lives due to the Active SWV physical activity programs. Violet said she is able to do everyday activities that people take for granted, like put her pants on while standing up, because the water aerobics program has improved her balance. Bea described the program as a great social support and source of friendship. She lost her husband last year and said, “I don’t know what I would have done without having an activity to do and the friends that I’ve made at water aerobics.” Read more about these two here.

The February 2019 Participant of the Month is Rick Accord. Rick and his wife participated in a hike last year and started receiving the Active SWV Newsletter. He had previously done a water aerobics program while he worked in Glenville. He said he enjoys this class more because it is set to music. Rick said it can be intimidating for men to participate in a program that is mostly women but he enjoys this program with his wife. They were looking for an activity that both of them would enjoy and water aerobics was a perfect fit. Read more here.

The January 2019 Participant of the Month is Samantha Cadevil. Samantha is an AmeriCorp Vista at Just for Kids Advocacy Center. She recently attended our Qi Gong program at Canyon Rim Visitor Center in Lansing. This program was led by Community Captains Aletha Stolar and Patsieann Misiti. Samantha is starting to become more physically active since moving to the area with the goal of improving her health. She enjoys Active SWV programs because you get a chance to try new things you normally may not see as exercise. Read more about Samantha here.

Active SWV would like to highlight Lisa Harless as Participant of the Month for December 2018. Lisa has been participating in Active SWV Refit programs since Team Refit joined the Active Team in June of 2017. We caught up with Lisa to ask her a few questions about what drives her, her goals, and advice she would have for someone thinking about joining an Active SWV program. Read more about Lisa here.

November Participants of the Month are Joe and Jenni Canterbury. They appreciate that Active Southern West Virginia helps to connect our community with healthy activities, making opportunities for exercise more accessible. Joe has always been athletic, but hadn’t tried running before he signed up for a running program with Active SWV in 2015, and has since completed races ranging in distance from 5k to 50k. Jenni didn’t consider herself to be athletic, but use to enjoy group exercise classes. Between work and their two children, she found it hard to make it to set classes so she started running with Joe in 2017, focusing on 5k to 10k distances. She first tried stand-up paddle boarding with Active SWV in 2017, and got her own board this past summer. She also helped to bring Active SWV’s Workplace Wellness program to her employer, New River Community and Technical College. Most recently, Joe and Jenni Canterbury completed the Active SWV Bridge Day 5k.

This October 2018 we would like to recognize Peggy Farrish as the Participant of the Month, a shining example of someone who is overcoming her own barriers to physical activity and also inspiring others along her way. Peggy has the honor of being one of our most senior participants, at 85 years young! Peggy attends Active SWV Gentle Chair Yoga and Water Aerobics consistently and claims, “As long as I walk the earth I’ll be doing something active.” You can find Peggy at her favorite Active SWV programs with her daughter Joy, both smiling and laughing. Both Peggy and Joy acknowledge that being active as a family helps them stay motivated. The social aspect of the Active SWV programs has been important to her as well, saying after her water aerobics class, “I have a whole pool full of friends!” Read more about Peggy here

The September 2018 Participants of the Month are Jack and Jacki Wright. Jack and Jacki moved to the area two years ago and have participated in many Active SWV hikes and SUP programs. When they first moved to the area they wanted to get more in to hiking, but they were unfamiliar with the different trails. It was this reason that they decided to join an Active SWV guided hike. Jacki said it was a “great way to meet people and learn what other people in the area do”. Read more here

The August 2018 Participant of the Month is MaryAnn McGowan. MaryAnn was one of the first participants in the new water aerobics program and she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed it and Hawk’s Nest State Park is a gorgeous setting! I tried the class for several different reasons. One, I was curious about the location and it is really close to my house. Two, I’d heard water aerobics were low impact and I’m fighting an old knee injury. Three, because Crysty talked about it a couple weeks ago when I was at CRC and her enthusiasm for it was infectious. I would absolutely do it again when my schedule works out. I’ll be back!” Mary Ann McGowen. Want to join water aerobics or another free program? View our calendar at

Active SWV would like to introduce July Participants of the Month: Jacqulyn, Jessica, and Julia. These sisters live and go to school in Raleigh County. They have previously participated in hikes and stand up paddle boarding with Active SWV. Jacqulyn stays active by life-guarding, Jessica runs track, and Julia is a cheerleader. They all really enjoy being active in the outdoors. The most recent stand up paddle boarding program they participated in with Active SWV was the first time they had been to Summersville Lake. They all had a great time and said stand up paddle boarding was easy to learn and they would definitely try it again. Read more here.

Meet the Participant of the Month for May, Danielle Stewart. Danielle stays active by doing multiple Active SWV programs like Refit and hiking. She says, “I was motivated to hike with Active SWV because I wanted to be around other people that enjoy the outdoors as much as I do. That idea of a shared experience also motivated me to try Refit the first time. The class was good but it was the instructors and attendees that keep me coming back (I was very awkward when I started).” Read more about Danielle here

Meet the Participant of the Month for April, Claude Hawkins. Claude joined Community Captains Charity Wysong and Hilarie Jones at the Walk in the Park program at Fayette Co Park. He says, “Just give it a try! I’m trying to get active you should too.” Read more about Claude here.

Meet March Participant of the Month, Mike Fox. Mike is an active member of his community and has really enjoyed Active SWVs Tai Chi program. We asked Mike to tell us a little bit about himself and his motivations for being physically active. He says, “Motivation was a CBS Sunday morning special on Tai Chi and how it helped relieve joint pain and helped mobility. It is also a great way to relax and remove stress. I personally went because I like trying new things and meeting people that are excited to learn something new. This organization is great for our area! We have so much to offer when it comes to staying ACTIVE!”

Meet February Participants of the Month Mark & Dianna Iobst. Mark and Dianna participate in our Pickleball program on Fridays at 6pm at Brickhouse Cardio in Oak Hill. When asked what advice they would give to someone new, Dianna says, “Just do it. Everyone is so helpful and friendly. There is no skill level required, because it’s all for fun anyway.” Read more here.

Meet December’s Participant of the Month, Mava Whitlock, Mava participates in the Active SWV yoga classes with Community Captain Lori Keller. Mava is 82 years young and has been doing yoga two days a week for the last 12 years.  Mava says
“You are never too old to do a little bit of yoga.”

Meet November’s Participant of the Month, Nathan Fell. His support and family participation at Mile Monday and of Active SWV in general go a long way in being an example to the community. We are so proud and excited to have his support and interest in volunteering with Kids Run Clubs. He says, “Active SWV has been so inclusive and welcoming for our family, that it’s easy to see why so many have felt comfortable joining in the activities. If you give a group a chance, I feel confident you won’t regret it. There are so many ways to get involved, too,” Read more about Nathan here.

Meet Participant of the Month Lois Boley. Lois is a member of the Walk With Us group in Victor. We asked Lois why she likes to walk with this group and this is what she said,”Walking with the group encourages me to walk, for my health, I just want to be healthy”.

Meet Participant of the Month, Joy Lynn Farrish. She says, “I have attended several classes and activities sponsored by Active Southern West Virginia including yoga, tai chi, hiking and stand up paddle boarding. These events are so much fun! It’s a quick easy way to get active and meet a lot of interesting people.”

Meet Participant of the Month, Mike Fox from Oak Hill. He says, “I began walking on the white oak rail trail back in April. I decided to become more active for family and most of all, my family. I follow my Facebook friend, Daniel McDowell, and found the activity he was involved in Active Southern West Virginia. I enjoyed seeing all of the free events that were offered right here, in my own backyard yard. Living in Oak Hill, next to a National Park is a huge blessing. We should take advantage of what is offered here as much as possible and share it with others. Not many have what we do here in Southern West Virginia.”

Meet Participants of the Month, Patsieann and Keith. They say, “We LOVE being ACTIVE in Southern West Virginia! My wonderful husband Keith is a new WV resident (via the DC area) and appreciates the variety of activities which help him learn about the area and meet new friends. I am proud to be returning home to WV (after 30 + years away.) Re-discovering the unique beauty of the area along with the genuine hospitality of the community is a blessing to us. Finally, being ” first -time parents” of our two dogs is much easier when we can include them in some activities. Thank you to all Active SWV team members and Community Captains who are genuinely passionate about their work and mission.”

Meet Participant of the Month, Deb Cooper. She says, “I have always enjoyed being outside and was fortunate to grow up being outside as much as possible as a kid. That isn’t a norm for today’s generation unfortunately. Active SWV is doing great things encouraging both kids and adults to get outside and try new things. I love being a very small part of any of that. In addition, they work for the community doing things like the Earth Day cleanups, and they welcome working in conjunction with other groups like Friends of New River Gorge National River. It feels good to be involved with Active SWV and see folks get excited about trying something new that they might not get to do on their own or if they had to pay for lessons or gear to give it a shot. Those opportunities being offered by them are a huge benefit to our areas. I find their commitment and forethought impressive, and feel proud to get to work with them.”

Meet Participant of the Month, Karen Bowyer from Mount Hope. Karen joined the Bradley/Prosperity Morning Mile walking group for 1 year in April. Karen started walking because her orthopedist recommended exercise to help her arthritic knee. She says the Active SWV walking group “gets me out every Saturday morning because it’s my ‘appointed time’ for exercise”. She also has started walking during the week, aside from the group helping her stay consistent it also is something that she enjoys. “I enjoy talking to the others while we walk, it makes the time fly by”.

A special message from Community Captain Levi Moore; “Karen, the girls and I are both fortunate to have met you and proud of you for what you’ve accomplished. You’ve been involved with the Morning Mile for one year now and have walked many, many miles with us. Not only have you motivated yourself to be more active, but you’ve been the motivating force in getting loved ones active as well. You are our most dedicated participant, but more than that, you’ve become a friend as well. The Bradley/Prosperity Morning Mile would not be what it is today without you. Thank you from all of us and congratulations on your one year anniversary,” said Community Captain, Levi Moore.

Aletha Stolar has been participating in Active SWV Community Captain programs since 2016 and is training to become a Community Captain herself.

“I enjoy being active and I like learning new ways to do that. Variety is the spice of life, right? When the opportunity came to take a free Tai Chi class from Active Southern WV Community Captain, Joe Jett; I jumped on the opportunity. In the past, I tried learning Tai Chi from a book. It just didn’t work for me. Having Joe talk us through the forms and modeling the moves made all the difference! I immediately felt the stirring of energy and the beauty of the feel that comes with doing the movements – past and future melt away as I stay in the moment of each move. I think I did three, one-hour classes of Tai Chi Qi Gong this past Fall.

When the opportunity came to do a free, 12-week series this new year on Tai Chi Yang style with Joe; I once again jumped on the opportunity. We just completed seven of 12 classes on Thursday, February 23. My balance has improved along with a sense of accomplishment and well being.  Active Southern WV recently began recruiting volunteers for Community Captains for their initiative – Get Active in the Park. Because I love Tai Chi and what it’s given to me, I want to share that opportunity with others as a Community Captain. I want to give back for what has been given to me for free. The least I can do is to step up as a volunteer. “

Linda has been regularly attending the Active SWV Oak Hill Beginner Tai Chi program and Dan was able to catch the last October Tai Chi program this past Wednesday.

Dan Doyle had this to say after attending his first Active SWV Tai Chi program:”I have to do it in a group to learn. It’s a great start I love Tai Chi, I feel like I have been doing it for a thousand years.”

Linda Stein says:”I really enjoy it, I really appreciate that this is here.
Joe is great teacher, very kind, patient and supportive. It’s been easy to come and participate.”  

Zach Nunally and Bill Bergendahl of Mount Hope have been nominated as participants of the month by Community Captain Jean Evansmore. They are both members of the Mt. Hope Walking Group.The group meets Monday through Friday at 7:30am at DuBois on main in Mt. Hope. The group has been walking together for over a year.

Zach Nunally, (Left in picture) recently joined the group because he says, “I enjoy staying active by walking through the beautiful town of Mt Hope, enjoying the views I’ve known for a while, and exploring the places I’ve never seen. It is easy to be committed to exercise when I incorporate other things that I love to do.”

Bill Bergendahl, (Right in picture) has been walking with this group for over a year, he walks rain or shine. He also is in charge of the music; the group walks to classic tunes every morning, it is a real treat. Community Captain Jean Evansmore says that she gets her motivation to walk from the group, they help her stay on track, and say yes to walking, even in the pouring rain!

Geneva Hall from Edmond, WV has been nominated as participant of the month by Community Captain Sue Slater. Geneva is a member of the Trail to a New You Walking Group that meets every Saturday morning at 9 am to walk on the Midland Trail High School Track. The group started in early summer and has become a great way for members to get healthy while socializing. Geneva Hall says she joined because, “there is good company and it helps me stay healthy.”

Sara Beth Mattis has been nominated for July Participant of the Month by Hinton Walking Group Community Captain Kim Berry. Sara Beth joined the group to become more active not only for herself but for her family. Sara Beth is a full time mom as well as a photographer for Mountain Plex Properties. Community Captain Kim Berry says “Sara Beth is a delight to be around”. Sara Beth has been a motivated and consistent participant, for this reason we thank her for joining Active SWV Hinton Walking Group.