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Contents 3 / Ava Seested A Little Girls Birthday Mission 4 / ON THE COVER Amber Wandtke PTSD 6 / Team Challenge Get Fit, Make Friends, Change LIVES! 8 / Boston Tribute 9/ April Baily Boston Tribute Story 10 / April Hartsook

In memory of the Boston Victims

12 / Stephanie Freeman 13 / One run to Boston 14 / Liz Ferro Girls with Sole 16 /Gracies Gear 18 / Syanne Centeno Stop the Bullying 20 / Lydia Michalitsianos 100 lb Transformation

Marathon Maniacs at the Start of the 2013 Boston Marathon

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A little Girls Birthday Mission

Ava Seested

Written by Biani seested

On May 9th my daughter, Ava Seested turned 5 years old. A couple of weeks before her birthday I took her to visit a local animal shelter in Montgomery County, and showed her that animals didn’t have much. She learned they had no home or family to live with and that they counted on us to keep them safe and alive. She wanted to take all of them home, however I explained to her why we couldn’t do that. Driving on our way home, she turned and asked me, “Mommy, I have an idea! What if instead of presents for myself on my birthday, I ask my friends to bring presents for the animals and we can go back and give it to them?”  I couldn’t believe that my soon to be 5 years old little girl had such a caring heart.  I know that it wasn’t an easy decision for her to make. Decideding not to get any presents for herself is amazing for any child. I could see her little mind thinking. “But that means that I will get NO presents for myself”  That didn’t stop her for sticking to her decision. On the day of the party, her Ava had a really nice birthday, that I know she will never forget.

friends arrived with huge bags of food, toys, beds, and other needed item for the shelter. She also collected $350 in cash besides all of the other goodies for these animals. Most of her friends were even generous enough to bring an extra little something for her. Let me tell you, she felt like a SUPER HERO when I drove her back to the shelter, to make her donations. She helped me unload the car and also bring everything inside. I have never seen Ava happier. It was a different kind of happy. Her heart was smiling with joy. That day she got to take a few dogs on walks and had some play time with them. June 2013 3

“It was pretty hard at first” Amber said, “but we got through the hard times together.” Thankfully, he has made a full recovery and is living a fully functional life as a student at St. Leo University. He is studying for a Bachelors Degree in Business Management Amber has spokend to over 10,000 people – elementary students, young professionals, politicians, and of course, veterans about PTSD. She portrays one message: fighting the stigmas of PTSD through communication outreach and mulrs. Amber Wandtke is a woman of many hats, but timedia campaigns available through her national they all tell the same story… to serve. However, her jourpartnerships. ney to the Mrs. International crown this summer has not been an easy one. As as partner and member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Amber’s goals are to Amber is currently a First-Class Petty Officer in the create veteran outreach programs and utilize soUnited States Navy. She has been stationed all over the cial media campaigns to help those in need. She country, and has traveled around the world in her almost is also a national advocate for Wounded Wear, nine year career. In her first five years of service, Amber a veteran owned company that helps injured deployed four times. A deployment to South America on warriors “rediscover the hero within.” They also the USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-47) from Pascagoula, MS., provide modified clothing items to those warriors and three deployments on the USS O’Kane (DDG-77), with prosthetics or other medical issues. Amber’s to the Iranian Gulf as well as the Sea of Japan. In 2008 favorite non-profit group is the United Service she endured a boots-on-ground tour to Balad, Iraq. That Organization (USO) because they have and will nine-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi and continue to support service members and their Enduring Freedom, first introduced her to the awareness families “until everyone comes home.” Furtherof post-traumatic stress, but she didn’t think it could hapmore, Amber has been a huge contributor and pen to her or anyone close to her. supporter for the American Heart Association’s In 2006, while stationed in Hawaii, Amber met her future “Go Red For Women” campaign, which is also husband, Nick. the platform of the International Pageant system. Mr. Wandtke is a former Marine, and in August 2006 he Amber is a wife, an advocate, and a Sailor. Most joined the United States Army. He deployed to Bayji, of all, Amber is a servant to those in need. This Iraq from October 2008-2009. Nick always found it hard year, her journey will culminate at the Mrs. to express his feelings at times, but this was specifically International pageant in Skokie, Illinois, but her true upon his return from his deployment. Despite the passion for service will never end! pace of combat in 2008, there were still rockets being You can read all about Amber’s journey and launched and IEDs exploding along the convoy routes. support her on her official website, www.amberNot to mention, being away from your family for a year is a battle within itself. Nick endured his time in Iraq, Special thanks to Amber’s generous sponsors: and came home a different man than he had left. Combat Bevello boutique (, Wounded does something to the mind, and his was affected. He Wear (, Sunshine Smiles was disconnected from his family, and even Amber upon a Kids Spa (, Melhis return. In addition to the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic lon Street Graphics (, Stress Disorder, injuries to his back, knee, and hip led to Carrington and Fitch Photography, and Studio his medical discharge a year later, in December 2010. FBJ ( 4 June 2013


Amber Wandtke Cover Story Mrs. Virginia June 2013


Sheri and Eric Gelvar have participated in 8 events with the Team Challenge Maryland Chapter. Together, Sheri and Eric have raised over $40,000 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, over 80 cents of each dollar raised going directly back to the our mission: To cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and to improve the quality of life for children and adults living with these diseases. In Sheri’s words, “Research is expensive, but a CURE is PRICELESS.” Below is Sheri and Eric’s personal account of their involvement with Team Challenge: Our son Jake was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Enteropathic Arthritis over six and a half years ago. He was all of 11 years of age; wheelchair bound; weighing 60 pounds dripping wet. For the longest time we did not know who to turn to for comfort without having to explain over and over again what Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) meant . It was not until 2010 when we finally decided to go to an information meeting about a Crohn’s and Colitis fundraising program called Team Challenge. The meeting would take place down the street at our local library so we decided to give it a try. We listened to a young woman with Crohn’s disease talk about how she presented with the same exact symptoms as our son. We had never met this girl before, yet she brought tears to our eyes and we connected with her like we had connected with no one else before. It was then that we decided to join the Team Challenge half marathon program. We joined the fight against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The coaches, staff, mentors and other runner/ walkers of Team Challenge became more like family. They were the kind of people to whom you did not have to explain anything. At our practices all we would have to say was, “Jake is having a rough week” and they would immediately understand. From this particular group of people, we received more than just sympathy. They gave us empathy and they understood the hardships, we and Jake have gone through. Team Challenge gave us (and continues to give us) the comfort of knowing someone was there that understood.

6 June 2013

To learn more about how you too can change lives and challenge yourself to complete a half marathon, join us for an upcoming Information Meeting in your area. Information meetings start in July for our upcoming Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon training season. Imagine traveling to Las Vegas, rocking the strip at night with your team and completing a half marathon. All while helping families like the Gelvar’s find a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis! TO RSVP for one of the below meetings or learn more about how you can support Team Challenge Maryland, please contact Endurance Manager, Gabi Green at or call 443-276-0861

Free Information Meetings for Vegas Wednesday, July 10 @ 7:00 pm Pikesville Library 1301 Reisterstown Rd Pikesville, MD 21208 Monday, July 15 @ 7:00 pm Howard County Library- Central Branch 10375 Little Patuxent Pkwy Columbia, MD 21044 Thursday, July 18 @ 7:00 pm Severna Park Community Center 623 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd Severna Park, MD 21146 Tuesday, July 23 @ 7:00 pm REI- Timonium 63 W Aylesbury Rd Timonium MD 21093 Saturday, July 27 @ 10:00 am White Marsh Library 8133 Sandpiper Cir Baltimore, MD 21236 Monday, July 29 @ 7:00 pm Eldersburg Library 6400 W Hemlock Dr Sykesville, MD 21784 Thursday, August 1 @ 6:00 pm Greene Turtle on McHenry Row 1606 Whetstone Way Baltimore, MD 21230 June 2013


Christopher Gaddis

Ed Thomas at the 30K

Rod Simmons - MS

8 June 2013

Scott Stader

April Bailey This morning as I laced up my running shoes, I felt a calm-

117th Boston Marathon Tribute 2013

ing sense of hope and optimism for the first time all week. I changed at the last second, trading a nondescript white Nike shirt for a previous year’s Boston Marathon race shirt, and then I headed outside. After a few minutes, I turned off the Rage Against the Machine Pandora station I’d been running to the past few days, took off my headphones and decided to run without music at all but instead with my thoughts alone. I tried to put aside the sadness and fear and anger and bitterness that I and countless others have felt since Monday. I said a quick prayer, again thanking God for what we all witnessed last night: the apprehension of pure evil and hopefully an end to the nightmare. And then I ran... Today, I ran for Martin. I ran for Krystle and Lingzi and Sean. I ran for all of their families that will never be

Today, I ran for Martin. I ran for Krystle and Lingzi and Sean. I ran for all of their families that will never be whole again. Today, I ran for all the amputees. I ran for all those who sustained injuries, whose bodies may never completely heal, and for all the fractured hearts and wounded souls that most certainly never will. Today, I ran for all the first responders, the police and all the volunteers who, without a moment’s hesitation, selflessly and courageously ran directly into sinister danger, into the unknown, to help the helpless, forsaking their own lives for the lives of strangers. Today, I ran for the local, state and federal agencies that worked tirelessly under intense scrutiny and unimaginable stress to hunt down vile murderers, all the while knowing that they were placing their own lives at risk in order to restore safety and peace to our city. Today, I ran for all of them. And next year, on Patriots Day, on my favorite day of the year in New England--Marathon Monday--when, God willing, I again toe the line in Hopkinton, I will run with all of them in my heart. I will carry them through Ashland, Framingham and Natick, past the screaming co-eds in Wellesley and up Heartbreak Hill in Newton. I will carry them past Fenway and into the rowdy crowd at Kenmore Square. I will carry them as I turn right on Hereford and left on Boylston. I will carry them through the sweet sound of the roaring cheers of the amazing spectators that line the street as I approach the beautiful end of 26.2, and I will carry them all in my heart as I cross the finish line of the most prestigious and most special race in the world. Today, I ran for our great nation and the freedoms we enjoy that will never die. Today, I ran for the city of Boston. A city that has been referred to as “strong” and “resilient” more than ever in the past five days. Boston IS strong. Boston IS resilient. Boston is home to the bravest souls, the most humble heroes and the most patriotic citizens. Never has that been more evident than during the events of this unforgettable week. As a girl with deep Southern roots, I never thought I would live in New England, much less grow to love living here. And I definitely never thought I would be so incredibly proud to call this beloved city, the city of Boston, home. June 2013


My journey towards “doing different” began 20+ yrs ago when my I came to realize through many painful events, bad decisions, and poor choices, that I needed a serious attitude adjustment. I thought that somehow when you arrived at this place called adulthood, your mistakes, failures and regrets, were somehow going to dissolve themselves from your mind. I thought that a kinder, gentler “You” would appear, and that the world would be filled with rainbows and unicorns! Boy was I in for a rude awakening! The world turned out to be this selfish cruel place that would swallow you up whole if you allowed it. My thoughts became the foundation on which I built my goals and dreams, and those thoughts often stemmed from the sub consciousness of my private personal struggles and failures, therefore how was I ever going to get ahead when I was always looking behind? That was later to become the foundation on which I built my business. I had always known I wanted to change the world, but little did I realize that in order to do that I had to change me first. I had to start taking care of me, I had to forgive this cruel world, and myself and stop blaming others. I had to stop fighting the system and the rules before me, I had to START thinking, acting and “Doing Different” by being accountable and responsible for me. 10 June 2013

Many years went by and I began running/racing triathlons as an outlet for all this energy. I discovered that I was very good, having run a sub 2 hour ½ marathon on a dare, never having run further than 3 miles in my life and with zero training, I was athletic by nature, and figured that if I was stronger than everyone else as a child I could beat them up when they picked on me. As an adult it was great being introduced to this athletic playground. I was starting to “feel” what I had been looking for all these years. I am a Type A personality, extremely ambitious, ADHD, take on more than I can handle, high-achiever who pushes myself to extremes. I want other people to get to the point, be proactive, and am obsessed with people learning to take personal responsibility for themselves, and in the world of running and multi sport, I seemed to fit right in! It was through my years of training days at the gym, my world travels in the triathlon and marathon world, my self-discovery of personal growth with the help of individuals like my life coaches, that I did indeed find my calling. I was going to teach the world to “have what I have, by doing what I did to get it”, I was going to make them see if they “Want Different…Do Different”. I took the tools that were given unto me along the way and paid them forward! I realized the world had 7 billion people in it, and the fact that more than 524 million of them were

The world had become a product of its pain. I wanted to change people’s lives from the inside out. The rest as they say, is history! I am a Fitness Philanthropist™ Coach and Trainer; I strive to teach Healthy lifestyles changes in 4 areas of our lives: Mental, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual. I am a Business Owner, TV Show Host “April Hartsook Show”, TV Personality and Public Figure, Calendar/Print/Fitness Model, Motivational/Inspirational Speaker and the Creator and Driving Force behind the “Want Different…DO Different” Health and Wellness Lifestyle Movement “This is not only my job, but I have come to accept this as my calling; to nourish, love, care for, improve and enhance, the quality of life for others….We’re not put on this earth to be liked, we’re put on this earth to make a difference, not just in our own lives, but in everybody else’s”. www.twitter/AprilHartsook ahartsook June 2013


I am Stephanie M. Freeman I am a survivor


ne night 20 years ago at the age of 14 years old my life was changed in an instant in an automobile accident. I suffered a severe brain and lung injury. That night was nearly fatal. I feel into a deep coma from my injuries for 2 months of life while a ventilator was breathing for me. There was little chance I would survive this, and if I did survive this I was diagnosed to be in a paraplegic state for the rest of my life. A young persons brain and mind is full of strength, and mine was full of determination on top of that. I pulled out of this state and was moved to that hospitals rehab center. I truly remember the exact day like it was yesterday that I realized who and where I was. I realized, I was Stephanie and I was sitting in a wheelchair, with my head tilted over and I could hardly pick it up. I slowly lifted my head up, wiped my face off and removed the wheelchair belt and was going to get up. I fell on my face immediately. All the nurses surrounded me and picked me up and hooked me back in my chair. That was the day my will was born. I said I will not end up like this the rest of my life, I will walk again, and on October 8, 1993 I walked out of that hospital. I began running in my mid-20’s and today at the age of 34 I can proudly say I am a mother, and a marathon runner who lived 2 months of her life so close to death and was never given a chance to walk again. The best advice I give is hang tough, never give in and most of all NEVER GIVE UP on anything in your life...

12 June 2013

The three friends from England who are the driving force behind this relay journey Kate Treleaven, Danny Bent and Jamie Hay A 3300 mile non-stop running relay will leave Los Angeles next month, bound for Boston. The epic event is being organized thousands of miles away by a trio of running enthusiasts from the UK who wanted to show their support for Boston following the tragic events of April 15. One Run For Boston starts from Venice Beach, LA, at 10am on Friday 7 June and is scheduled to reach Boston just over three weeks later at 8pm on Sunday 30 June. Hundreds of runners from across the USA will keep the relay going non-stop around the clock through fourteen different states and four separate time zones, passing a specially designed baton between them. Supporters will be able to follow their progress online thanks to a GPS tracking device fitted to the baton which will update its location every 15 minutes. The three friends from England who are the driving force behind the relay are Kate Treleaven, Danny Bent and Jamie Hay. “When the news from Boston reached us on April 15, we were completely stunned” said Danny Bent. “It took a little while to digest what had happened, but we each reacted in exactly the same way - we just knew we had to do something.” The trio are no strangers to organising epic fundraising events. Past efforts include a 9000 mile bike ride from London to India and an 8000 mile non-stop running relay around the British Isles which took eight weeks and involved 2000 runners.

“One Run For Boston is a chance for runners to come together and show solidarity in a really dynamic way” said Kate Treleaven. “It’s a chance to be part of something remarkable, to demonstrate the strength of human spirit and send a powerful message of support to the city of Boston and those whose lives were changed on April 15.” By collecting donations from each of the participating runners, the relay is raising money for The One Fund Boston, set up by the Mayor of Boston to assist the victims and families most seriously affected by the bombings. The One Run For Boston team have recently confirmed that donations made by runners who sign up to run in Oklahoma will be donated to the Disaster Relief Fund set up in the wake of this week’s devastating tornado. The relay will travel through the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and finally, Massachusetts. The 3300 mile route has been divided into 319 separate stages. Most of the stages are around ten miles with a few as long as 26 miles and some group stages in the big cities just five miles. Runners can sign up to run a stage via the One Run For Boston Website ( So far over 200 runners have already signed up to run. Danny and Kate will be flying out to LA to deliver the baton to the first group of runners on Friday 7 June. From there they will drive the route, following the relay all the way to Boston, posting daily updates from the roadside and running the occasional stage. Jamie will continue to co-ordinate from the UK before flying out to join the duo for the final few days. June 2013 13

Liz Ferro Girls With Sole Founder & Executive Director Author of “Finish Line Feeling”

Believe and Achieve Liz Ferro has been there. As a girl, she suffered trauma

and sexual abuse, experienced the roller coaster of emotions, and needed a way to lift her up. Out of her childhood, Girls With Sole was born. She is the founder, also serving as Executive Director, and actively pursuing fundraising and programs in order to give the girls what they need for success. Her book Finish Line Feeling goes into details of her emotional compelling story of the journey from foster child and sexual abuse survivor to founder of the nationally recongnized running organization Girls With Sole. Imagine that a stranger or even someone close to you does something horrible. You are physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused. Suddenly, the world doesn’t look wonderful. You start thinking you can’t trust people, or you must be worthless because if you were a good person, this wouldn’t have happened. It could be a single incident or a series of them over time. There are physical and emotional scars that threaten to derail the life you dreamed of. You shut down or lash out, sometimes alternating between the two. How do you get back your life and future? Liz Ferro has been there. As a girl, she suffered trauma and sexual abuse, experienced the roller coaster of emotions, and needed a way to lift her up. Out of her childhood, Girls With Sole was born. 14 June 2013

Woman who inspire

Girls With Sole was founded in August of 2009 for pre-teen and teenaged females who needed someone to believe in them, so they could believe in themselves. Many of the girls who participate in Girls With Sole programs begin with little or no interest in moving their bodies, and end with running a 5K race or other road race distances, or in some cases, a triathlon. The program offers girls the opportunity to learn and to enjoy fitness as they develop the physical and emotional strength needed to meet personal goals. Founder, Liz Ferro, wanted at-risk girls, and those who have experienced abuse of any kind to be given a sporting chance in their lives, and to experience the “finish line feeling. Girls With Sole spawned and evolved organically from Liz Ferro’s own personal life experiences and her desire to help girls discover the empowerment that can be derived from athletics and fitness. Liz credits athletics for giving her the self-esteem and inner strength needed to overcome difficult times, including a childhood that exposed her to both foster care and to abuse.

We partner with social service agencies, schools, juvenile attention facilities, hospitals, and residential treatment centers to bring free fitness/wellness programs directly to girls ages 9-18 where they are. We don’t have our own facility and aren’t a counseling service, which is why collaborating with organizations who have both, but might be missing the physical outlet and mind/body/soul component, makes for the perfect team. Our program partners change throughout the year, but currently the Girls With Sole Program partners are: Boys and Girls Club of Lorain; MetroHealth; Merrick House; Lorain County Board of Mental Health; Guidestone; Bellefaire JCB; The Intergenerational School; and the Multi-County Juvenile Attention System. GWS offers a variety of fitness/wellness programs, including yoga, dance, and traditional team sports to girls who need someone to believe in them, so that they may believe in themselves. helps the girls gain self-esteem and make healthier choices in other parts of their lives. To learn more about Liz Ferro and Girls With Sole, please visit the You can also order her book Finish Line Feeling there, and sign up to help or donate. June 2013 15

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Lauren “Gracie” Updyke

Founder of Gracie’s Gear is creator of the innovative PowerPouch™ pocket sports bra and tank. Gracie has been running since age 11. She ran high school track, earned a scholarship to the University of Louisiana at Monroe and competed in NCAA Division 1 championships. Gracie holds a Masters in Exercise Science and as an ACSM certified trainer, has trained over 10,000 athletes. Gracie was training for her first marathon when the inspiration for the PowerPouch™ pocket sports bra was born. Not wanting to impede her stride by putting a packet of energy gel into the pocket of her running shorts, Gracie placed the packet into the straps of her sports bra. By the end of her long run, it was painfully obvious a more comfortable and convenient solution was needed. In search of a solution, Gracie set to work on her first design and in collaboration with her mother’s knack for sewing, the first PowerPouch™ pocket sports bra was produced. Countless hours and product samples later, Gracie’s Gear was successfully launched. 16 June 2013

This story is about how a company, beat by cancer, is rising up out of the ashes with the sole support of it’s fans. Gracie’s Gear, a small woman owned small business in Raleigh, North Carolina has launched a campaign to re-open it’s doors for thousands of women. As Gracie puts it, “Kickstarter is like running a race where no matter how hard you train or how hard you run, it really doesn’t matter. This is a race where you win if your fans cheer you on through the finish line.” Together, with the help of fans and backers around the world, Gracie is looking for $50,000 to kickstart American made manufacturing of her wildly popular sports bra’s and tank’s with an integrated zipper pocket, the PowerPouch™. Gracie is a Cancer Survivor. Gracie was told she had pre-cancerous cells at the worst possible time, her pregnancy. She made a decision at a time that every mother hopes they would never have to make. She opted for no treatment to protect her unborn child. Once she gave birth, Gracie tested positive for stage 1 cervical cancer. For nearly a year, she fought it. Gracie beat her cancer. But the fight wasn’t over, because weeks after this battle ended, another one began. Her daughter Daylin developed a staph infection in her eye. Gracie had to spend weeks upon weeks taking care of her daughters eye including daily trips to Duke Medical Center for treatments. Gracie Beat her daughters staph infection, Daylin has her full sight. The problem during all this was that Gracie’s Gear fell apart. Gracie built this company by herself and like so many small businesses around the country, it was solely maintained by her. Cancer beat Gracie’s Gear. Gracie had to shut the doors of her business to focus on her families health.

This Kickstarter is about so much more than just the $50,000 goal. Gracie’s Kickstarter is proving to the world, her family, her friends, her fans, and anybody who brand themselves with a Gracie’s Gear top that Cancer WILL NOT WIN. Cancer kills people, children, ideas, companies... it harms lives in so many ways. With the help of all her fans, supporters, readers, and more they hope to bring Gracie’s Gear back from the ashes. It’s time for Gracie’s Gear to wear the banner “Cancer Survivor”. Gracie has until June 9th to reach $50,000. Check them out today. Links: gracie-gear-and-powerpouchtm-designed-byand-for-w June 2013 17

18 June 2013

Syanne Centeno,

has dealt with life threatening health and mental issues, and is now helping others’ with here awareness


have succeeded and helped others by sharing my story. Growing up, I was severely bullied, physically beaten and mentally tormented. During these years of bullying, I ended up developing Anorexia Nervosa at the young age of just 8 years old. I had Anorexia until I was about 18. Within those ten years, I became severely ill, and was hospitalized because I was fainting frequently, was 40 lbs underweight, and the doctors told me my heart could “stop at any time”. While I was hospitalized I was diagnosed with Osteopenia at just 16 years old, which it progressed into Osteoporosis at the age of 19 years old. The Osteoporosis was a direct “side effect” of my emaciation and anorexia. Osteoporosis is a disease commonly seen in post-menopausal women over the age of 60. My doctor compared my bones to someone who was 60s years old. Someone my age having it is very rare. Not only did the Anorexia cause my bones to deteriorate, but it began affecting my kidneys as well. I began developing kidney infections every other month or so, and I was consistently on antibiotics. The Anorexia also damaged my stomach. Shortly after my first hospitalization I attempted suicide. I felt empty and alone, because everyone at school had found out about my hospitalization when I returned to school. People were bullying me for my illness. They said I was “Psycho” and “crazy”. I was also a cutter. After being rushed to the hospital after overdosing on a bottle of my prescription anxiety medication-- I was hospitalized again for my illness! I knew I had to overcome this disease. 2011, after my high school graduation, I decided to try and start an anti-bullying campaign. This idea came to me while I was watching the news, and had heard that yet another child had taken their life. I began by writing to local newspapers about bullying, and utilizing support for my story. I have now even gained support from government officials and even Miss America contestants to help continue my awareness. My awareness was started at anti-bullying seminars, from there, I was invited to speak at the House of Delegates, and local schools. I have inspired and encouraged children to came forward with their own struggles, and seek help for what they were going through! I was surprised when they said they had the courage because of my story. I started a petition to end peer abuse in schools, and share it with a news stations. I am very well educated in Anti-bullying laws and policies, as I have spent hours and hours studying them so that I am able to help others’ even more. I am surprised to see that most parents and children do not know their rights when it comes to discrimination and bullying. I have also recently become a resource person for the National Anorexia and Associated Disorders Association (ANAD). This position allows me to offer guidance and education to guardians and sufferers of eating disorders. I also want to make it known, that everything I do, and have done, is strictly volunteer. I had a radio interview with Fox Affiliated radio show “Women Are Worthy” to discuss Osteoporosis, eating Here is a video of me speaking at an anti-bullying seminar in feb. 2012 . In this video I share brutal details of the things I went through, including sexual assault that was caught on school camera’s. Interview with WUSA news (March. 2013). can contact Centeno to share your story on Facebook at: June 2013


Lydia Michalitsianos For most of my life, I was that very sedentary, lazy, typical person who was just sat back coasting through life, wondering where I was going to end up. All of my friends and family were in better shape than me and I had never been happy with myself. It had become apparent to me that I was considered in the “fat” range early in my life while being made fun of at school from as early as I can remember, right up through college. I was made fun of almost daily on the bus rides to school, by random people passing by me in the hallways. In the classroom I was embarrassed whenever the discussion turned into health and nutrition, thinking that everyone was looking and relating all this information to me. These feelings lasted with me even up through college I was embarrassed about how I looked. I felt like I wasn’t worth anyone’s time or even space because I felt unattractive.

From Overweight to Athlete: My Journey from Sedentary to the Stage

After college, I decided knew something needed to change, however I was afraid to set a food inside a gym thinking people were going to wonder what I was doing, or watch me not being able to operate the machines correctly. Until one day I decided, enough was enough. Even if I just lost a few pounds I would be happy. After waiting for people who said that they would go to the gym with me and never went, or went ahead without me, I realized that the only person that is going to be able to change my life is me. After Christmas 2008, I decided my resolution would be to rebuild my life, no matter what it took. It was either now or never. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do it, but I knew I didn’t want to feel the same way, another new year from then. I opened the doors at the Big Vanilla Athletic Club and hopped on a treadmill for the first time.

100 lb difference 20 June 2013

I started slowly, just a light jog, maybe 3.5mph (which is now nothing!), and managed to increase my speed day by day. I continuously went back again and again, four to five days a week. Eventually got onto the stationary bike, then the elliptical, and pushed myself. As I saw the numbers on the scale dropping, it kept me motivated to keep going and going. Eventually I moved and swapped gyms, but even after then, I hit the ground running at my new gym as soon as I was able to find one, until eventually I hit a plateau I couldn’t get past.. That is when I knew I wanted professional help and signed up to work with one of the gym trainers. I knew I wanted help from a personal trainer when I walked in so I immediately signed up, with the notion to get just introduced to the machines and learn how to use them. Initially I had been way to afriad to hit the weight floor by myself with all the hardcore guys walking around, but with a trainer by my side, I felt comfortable. As soon as I began weight training, I immediately broke through my plateau. I was helped with my eating habits and exposed to a variety of things I could do. For some reason, I got way more satisfaction from the burn, versus doing cardio. I even worked out harder on my own than with my trainer! She had to keep telling me to back off a bit and not wear myself out before working out with her!

My obsession with cardio, my fear of food, and every eating disorder I had developed, have been fixed with the diets that they write for me. It can be very strict sometimes, especially during contest preparation, but I couldn’t imagine another life. It’s hard to stay prepared all the time, have everything cooked and packed if I plan to be away for some time, but I love it and wouldn’t go back to the way I was eating ever. I love what I eat and even developed a love for cooking. I am looking forward to continuing to work with them and help me prepare for my next shows after I take some time to build up some more muscle, and eventually want to make my newly found passion my career as a fitness instructor as well open my own gym. I want to help others now because I know how it feels to suffer and be unhappy and feel like you don’t deserve to be around others, so I want to motivate others and make them know that they can do it, and that anyone can change their life for the better. I have also started a facebook athlete page at for myself to help inspire others and so that they can follow me on my fitness journey as I continue to grow into the industry.

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NEXT MONTH’S ISSUE: PTSD, Voices that are vital to our communities, and much more.

Chief Editor Judy Staveley, Ph.D.

Graphic Artist / Editor Monique Staveley

Graphic Artist / Editor Tricia Cobb

The Platform Magazine June 2013  

The Platform Magazine June issue 2013 Feature Cover Story: Amber Wandtke - PTSD

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