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Home > Health > Brighton hosts, wins 14th annual Rez Rally

Brighton hosts, wins 14th annual Rez Rally

rezrally09BRIGHTON — Nearly 700 people ignored the cold weather, bundled up in their warmest winter gear and valiantly walked, ran or wheeled through the Brighton Reservation Jan. 18 for the 14th annual Rez Rally.

Temperatures climbed from near freezing to the high 40s as people trekked toward the finish line of the 5K event.

“It’s cold as hell but I’m glad to see a lot of people support this and are braving the cold weather,” Chairman James E. Billie said. “I’m happy to see a lot of people with warm hearts here.”

The purpose of the event, organized by the Health Department, is to raise diabetes awareness.

“Our motto is, ‘Together we can manage diabetes,’” said Connie Whidden, Health Department director. “It affects everyone’s family but Type 2 can be controlled by exercise and diet. About 50 percent of the Tribe has it, and that’s being generous.”

Before the start, Chairman Billie rallied participants with a roll call of clans. Cheering ensued. Team captains added to the festive atmosphere and inspired their teams.

But perhaps the most important message came from the Tribe’s chief medical officer Christopher Mavroides.

“To run or walk 3.1 miles is an accomplishment,” he said. “This isn’t a once a year deal. I want this to be your first 5K of 2014, not the only one.”

The Rez Rally course snaked through an unpaved wooded area, with a stroller and wheelchair accessible route as well.

“It’s a good turnout and I’m glad we had a chance to bring it back to Brighton,” Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard said. “This is good for everybody; we want to make sure people stay healthy.”

Native Americans are historically afflicted with diabetes and heart disease.

“Working out makes a difference,” said Helene Buster, director of Family Services. “You can still have a good life if you watch what you eat and exercise. I know I have to take care of myself. No one is going to do it for me.”

After the race, Health Department officials calculated times and announced winners in each category, but the real competition was between the reservations. Brighton captured the overall win. They earned the most medals with 48; Hollywood had 22, Big Cypress 13 and Immokalee eight. Brighton also boasted the most Tribal member participants, with 211, and had the most participants including Tribal members, community and employees, with 374, followed by Hollywood with 161, Big Cypress with 82 and Immokalee with 55.

“After an event like this, I always feel good,” Whidden said. “We’re all winners today.”

Norman “Skeeter” Bowers urged people to take advantage of the Fitness Department and their trainers. He shared his recipe for weight loss success: He stopped drinking sweet tea and soda and ate three meals a day to lose 10 pounds in two weeks.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the change to eat healthier and include exercise into your life,” he said.


Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at