Last updated: June 16. 2014 11:07PM - 2592 Views
By Bill O’Boyle

Employees of Sundance Vacations in Wilkes-Barre Township walk outside their building as part of a program called 'Sole Surivor' — a walking program in which employees rack up steps that are counted on a device they wear.
Employees of Sundance Vacations in Wilkes-Barre Township walk outside their building as part of a program called 'Sole Surivor' — a walking program in which employees rack up steps that are counted on a device they wear.
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Sundance Wellness Programs

Great Sundance Smoke Out (Quitting Smoking)

• Companywide, eight offices, started with 43 quitters and 57 coaches; total 100 participants

• 17 successful out of 43 quit smoking, or 39.5 percent (the industry standard for quitting programs is 4 percent)

Biggest Loser (Weight Loss)

• Resulted in employees losing a combined total of more than 1,650 pounds — Sundance Vacations employee Ed Coppinger said, “That’s the equivalent of a Beluga whale, a Plains bison, or a Smart Car.”

WILKES-BARRE — Working at Sundance Vacations has made a difference in Rochell Zambotti’s life.

She has lost weight, stopped smoking and is now walking for physical fitness.

All this has been made possible through work-sponsored programs that have changed Zambotti’s life and the lives of hundreds of other Sundance employees.

“I’m definitely healthier,” Zambotti, 33, of Hazleton, said Monday. “And I know that this will continue over the coming years. We keep taking healthy steps. I know I can breathe better.”

Workplace programs like this help employees improve their health, said Diane Harlow, assistant director of Geisinger Health System Wellness.

A stress and work life balance program helps employees manage time more efficiently, she said, noting programs get results and encourage healthier lifestyles.

“Each employee can find a program that resonates with them individually,” Harlow said.

Multiple goals

John and Tina Dowd, co-owners of Sundance, decided to offer the health-oriented programs to employees to get them healthier and to improve their performance, attendance and attitude at work.

“Our employees have really embraced these programs,” Tina Dowd said. “We have about 500 employees, and nearly 400 are participating in the ‘Sole Survivor’ program. We are all walking more and more every day.”

Dowd confessed that when she is on a long telephone call, she stands up at her desk and walks in place to ensure she reaches her daily goal. Most participants walk 6,500 to more than 10,000 steps per day. John Dowd said the average sedentary worker walks less than 5,000 steps per day.

Sundance Vacations, a wholesale vacations company with offices in Washington, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New Jersey and Northeastern Pennsylvania, contends healthy workers prove to be more productive workers.

The Dowds say the most recent project promotes the “healthy body-healthy mind” theory, which ultimately leads to more enthusiastic and more productive employees. The effects are two-fold because it benefits the company, as well as the overall health of employees in the long run.

The latest Sundance endeavor is aptly named “Sole Survivor,” which is a companywide incentive for a fun program that encourages employees to engage in a healthy activity and have a chance to win prizes such as paid week-long vacations at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Counting steps

“Sole Survivor” requires participating employees to walk more on a daily basis. Each step is counted with a company-supplied FitBit Zip — an apparatus worn on the belt, carried in the pocket or clipped to a shirt. The Zip tracks the number of steps taken, the distance covered, the number of calories burned and the time of day.

So far, the Dowds say the program that began May 1 and runs through the end of September has produced remarkable results.

• 390 employees are participating companywide.

• 41 million steps have been taken since May 1.

• The collective distance walked to date is more than 18,000 miles.

Tina Dowd said FitBit calculates the total steps as a company and provides a ranking of the top employees, who will reap rewards and prizes.

She said the ultimate prize will go to seven two-person teams who will travel to Hilton Head in November for a three-night stay. The top prize also will include paid time off, airfare, accommodations, meals and several guided walks — an appropriate perk for this contest.

Success stories

Christina Allen, 41, a 22-year Sundance employee, said if it weren’t for the programs offered at work, she would probably be at home on the couch eating Doritos and smoking.

“I know if it wasn’t for the smoking-cessation program offered here, I would still be smoking,” Allen said.

Allen said she couldn’t believe how little she was walking before the “Sole Survivor” program was launched at Sundance.

“I wasn’t doing anything close to 10,000 steps per day,” she said. “And now I have a goal every day. I average around 6,500 per day, but I am always trying to do more.”

Candy Bednar, vice president of business development, has lost weight, quit smoking, gained some weight back and is now losing it again on the stepping program.

Bednar, 43, of Ashley, said she exceeds 10,000 steps every day, averaging close to 18,000. John Dowd said 2,000 steps equals a mile.

Rose Yanko, 47, of Wilkes-Barre, is marathon runner who said participating in the stepping program has increased her endurance.

“And I won this new pair of running shoes,” she said. “And our enthusiasm generated from this program translates directly to our performance and attitude at work. People are always saying how their clothes fit better and that they feel much better.”

Bednar said the benefits extend beyond work. Many employees, she said, have their husbands, wives, children and significant others doing more walking and eating better.

So what program is next at Sundance?

Tina Dowd said she hasn’t decide yet, but it might be a literacy program in which employees read books and then discuss them in groups.

Or, if Christina Allen has her way, it will be a program aimed at lowering cholesterol levels.

“I’d like to live a long, healthy life,” Zambotti said. “Everybody gets older and good health should be always be your goal.”

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