“Having mentors was great. They stayed in touch the whole time,” said Cathie Hughes, a Challenge participant. “At first, they contacted us every day or every other day, and at least twice a week the entire time. It was great knowing we could ask them anything. I loved, loved, loved it.”
Mentors were self-selected from a pool of dedicated volunteers who each completed the Heart Challenge themselves in the past. Stefanie and C.J. Baker completed both the 100-Day Heart Challenge and the Alumni 100-Day Heart Challenge before becoming mentors this year.
The 100-Day Heart Challenge is an annual event where 10 participants, and their partners, take part in a rigorous training program to benefit their heart health. The winner of this year’s Challenge will be announced Wednesday at a celebration banquet for participants and their mentors.
When asked about the participants she worked with, Stefanie Baker said, “I was very excited for them. This is the best program that I’ve ever been involved with. My job was to keep them happy. I gave them recipes, I kept emailing them and I kept cheering them on. When I saw them moaning and groaning, I thought, ‘I know that feeling.’ But it will pay off.”
The Bakers mentored Sandy Simonson and her sister Sharon Davey. After learning their mother had heart disease, Simonson wanted to change her lifestyle to avoid the same diagnosis. For her, the most difficult part of the Challenge was figuring out how to manage her diet.
“I realized I had to break up with the bakery,” she said, with a laugh. “The most beneficial thing about having mentors was that they added one more layer of someone checking up on me and making sure I was doing okay. They acted as one more person in my corner. If we had any questions, they were good to try and find answers. They were cheerleaders.”
Working as a mentor proved to be beneficial for both the mentor and mentee. Mentor Melissa Butler said she tried to do the challenge with her participants. “I wanted to let them know I was in the same boat as they were. We could share all of our ups and downs – we talked about how we hate this certain vegetable or how we want a cookie. They don’t share specific numbers with me, but I can tell that they feel stronger and better about themselves and more confident. It’s been fun to enjoy their change and to see that happening,” Butler added.