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 Events; Bridge Day 5K and Family Triathlon

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.

The April Community Captain of the Month for 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.”



December’s 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 code
• I 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

Lori Keller

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.


Rene Moore

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.


Wendy Scott

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.



Joe Jett

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.



Erin Clay

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.



Lauren Meade

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.



Charlene Diggs

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.



Kim Berry


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.”



Levi Moore

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.


Teeya Mills


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.”



Joe Gutshall

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.




Hilary Nicolau

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.





Kate Miller

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.”


Autumn Bess

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. 



Abby Barrett

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.


Missy Burleson

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.

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.”

Karen Bowyer

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

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. “



Community Captain Joe, Linda Stein & Dan Doyle

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 & Bill Bergendahl

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

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

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.




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