The borough invites neighbors and visitors to participate in a week of exercise, education, and physical fitness activities with free and low-cost programs for mind, body, and spirit.
By Matt Skoufalos
From parades and festivals to concerts and pop-up galas, Collingswood is no stranger to special events.
This week, however, the borough in which prix-fixe restaurant weeks are quarterly affairs will fete the health-conscious during a six-day Wellness Week.
In addition to showcasing more than 20 health- and nutrition-focused businesses and organizations, the calendar of events and activities includes multiple free or low-cost offerings designed to provide services or spark conversations about mental and physical well-being.
“It’s about folks trying new things, coming out from the winter doldrums, and getting their bodies moving,” said Collingswood Director of Community Development Cassandra Duffey. “There’s everything from feng shui to good, old-fashioned, sweat-it-out stuff.”
In a decade of planning events in Collingswood, Duffey said Wellness Week is the most complicated she’s arranged yet. With 12 hours of daily programming at multiple locations, there are a lot of moving parts, from group runs and health screenings to meditation and mindfulness seminars.
For those who want to infuse physical activity with a bit of politics, Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley is leading a walk-and-talk through Knight Park on Tuesday morning. Parents who want a safety check-up of their child’s car seat can stop by the borough police department on Monday. A “family first” drop-in event at Monarch School of Dance on Saturday invites parents and kids to develop their signature moves together. Complementing low-cost massages, reiki, and acupuncture at Healing Space are introductory yoga classes at Yogawood and Kenkojuku Karate.
For those who worry that Collingswood has forgotten its food focus, there will also be two healthy cooking demos—one for kids at the Tortilla Press, one for grown-ups at the Collingswood community center—and a seminar in mealtime mindfulness at Lourdes Wellness Center.
The week culminates in a community day on Saturday, April 2, with borough police taking on all comers in kickball, and firefighters challenging residents in a modified version of their training exam.
“We want people to come out in whatever way they feel,” Duffey said. “Hopefully, the practitioners we have lined up will be utilized.”
Accessible, low-cost, offerings
Kim Oberg, whose Upcycle indoor cycling studio will offer $5 introductory classes at 11 a.m. throughout the week, said the event is a chance for beginners to try out new exercise programs.
“It’ll be easier than my normal classes, so it’s a little bit less intimidating for people,” Oberg said. “My whole goal is to be accessible. It’s a pretty intense workout, but it’s doable for everybody.
“We’re known so much for the restaurants in town, and there are so many fitness or wellness businesses that people may not think of Collingswood for,” she said. “I think it’s great to have that kind of focus on it, even if it’s for a week and we do it once a year.”
The Principled Pet owners Mark and Gloria Rogers are infusing Wellness Week with their expertise on animal health, offering free seminars in how to read a pet food label. Don’t expect a lightweight talk, either: Mark is a former pharmaceutical researcher and chemist, while Gloria is a retired veterinary nutritionist.
“Animals have played a critical role in my life on numerous occasions, and I very much understand the power of the human-animal connection,” Mark Rogers said. “There’s a real health benefit to humans to having a pet, and if their pet is healthy, there’s a real peace of mind.
“People see their dogs and cats as a true member of their family, and they’re becoming more and more health-conscious when it comes to their own diets and general fitness,” he said.
Other Wellness Week events will demonstrate how engaging with the surrounding community can be a wellness activity unto itself.
Bike Up Collingswood member Joseph Russell will lead adult cyclists on a five-mile, hour-long bike ride through Knight Park, Cooper River Park, and Newton Lake on Tuesday evening, and another through the neighborhoods of Collingswood on Thursday evening.
“This is a compact borough with a concentrated downtown area that’s easily accessible by bike,” Russell said.
“My hope for these rides is to shine a light on a built-in amenity all too easily forgotten at a time when many people’s first and only thought is to get around by car.”
Bike Up Collingswood is one of the newer resident-led volunteer organizations in the borough, and Russell is looking forward to Wellness Week as an opportunity to introduce it Collingswood neighbors. Such town-wide events help connect people in ways they might not otherwise have met, he said.
“It gets people involved with each other and where they live, and nowhere can succeed without a healthy and active civic landsape,” Russell said.
Collingswood Fire Chief Keith Davis said the event represents an opportunity for his department to give back to the people who support it; it also helps cement the reputation the borough has earned as a social, welcoming place.
“For someone who grew up in and lives in the town, it makes me feel good that the community comes together,” Davis said.
“We have almost 14,000 residents in town, but everybody knows everybody. For people who just moved here, it gives us some time to interact with them.
“You don’t see a lot of other towns in our area that do this sort of thing,” he said. “I think it creates that buzz that makes people feel like Collingswood’s an up-and-coming town and people want to live here.”