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WesleyLife Fitbit Contest is Life-Changing for Team Member - WesleyLife accent

June 2, 2021 | By

When Gay Puthoff decided to take participate in a WesleyLife WellAhead Fitbit challenge, her goal was simple: to improve her health and fitness.

Now, with a few challenges under her belt, she'd be the first to admit she never could have imagined how much taking part would change her life.

As a health and well-being organization, WesleyLife organizes Fitbit step challenges periodically to help team members improve their fitness by working toward a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Each team member is given a new Fitbit Zip -- a $60 value -- or is allowed a monetary amount to be used toward purchasing a more expensive model. 

While the physical-health aspects of the contests are easily evident, the challenges also are designed to foster connections between team members, encouraging relationships that also enhance team members' intellectual and spiritual health. 

"I really didn't think about how much fun the challenges would be; I just knew I needed more exercise, and this would probably motivate me to do better," Gay, Resident Life Coordinator at The Village in Indianola, says. "I really never thought they'd involve a whole lot more than that. I'm very happy that I was wrong!"

According to the rules of each contest, team members can qualify for a grand prize by meeting certain criteria -- achieving 10,000 steps, for example, or being one of the top steppers in the organization for that particular week. The grand prize is $500 toward an item on the person's bucket list.

Once Gay heard about the prize, she was increasingly determined to step up her daily fitness goal to be entered into the bucket-list drawing.

She had a specific -- and special -- reason for wanting to win.

"Earlier this year, my husband and I had to put our dog down, and that really affected me," Gay says. "My husband is semi-retired now, and we have to watch our money carefully. I've really wanted a new dog, but he's been worried we can't afford it. So I told him, 'I'm going to qualify to win this contest, and if I win, we're getting a new dog, and that's that.'" 

So Gay worked hard to qualify. Every day for the duration of the contest, she walked at least 10,000 steps. She did whatever it took -- got up early, stayed up late, walked places she normally would have driven.

She also found herself bonding even more closely with her already-close team at The Village as they worked to meet their goals by walking as a group in the mornings or at lunchtime. 

"We were supportive of one another anyway, but once everyone knew how much I wanted to win, they encouraged me even more," Gay says. "I really felt such a sense of goodwill and closeness. I was working hard, but it was a very joyful kind of working!"

At the end of the contest, Gay was thrilled to learn that she was one of The Village's top steppers, having tallied an average of more than 16,000 steps a day! And in the best possible made-for-TV-movie fashion, when the winning name was drawn, it was Gay's.

"I thought they were messing with me," she said of her team. "We joke around a lot, and I thought that's what they were doing. But I asked my team member Lindsey (Payne) directly because I knew she'd tell me the truth, and then I knew it was real."

"We couldn't have been more thrilled for Gay," Monica Vail, Wellness Director at The Village, said. "She's the kind of person who's always building everyone else up. The fact that she worked so hard and then won was just so perfect. We had a little party for her and just celebrated her." 

Gay couldn't wait to tell her husband the good news. "He was stunned!" she said with a laugh. "I told him he shouldn't have doubted me." 

The couple is happily looking for a new Yorkie-Maltese mix, and Gay can't wait to bring her new dog home. She's grateful to have won the contest -- but even more grateful for the "side effects" that she couldn't have anticipated would come from her participation. And she plans to continue her new walking habit. 

"It was a real morale boost, but more than that, it was so good for me," Gay says. "It wasn't all about what it did for me physically -- which was a lot, because my energy is so much better. But also, I would walk and think and pray, which was such a boost to my overall outlook. And I would think of ways to encourage my fellow team members. 

"I'm so grateful for the prize money. But I'm more grateful for the experience as a whole, and to WesleyLife for being the kind of organization that cares enough to make things like this a priority."

To learn more about WesleyLife's focus on wellness, visit, or contact Heidi Bedier, Director of Health and Well-Being, at

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