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A Multicultural Let’s Move! Weekend

First Lady Michelle Obama was thinking of Sam Shihadeh and Rose Fakhoury when she challenged faith-based and community organizations to appoint wellness ambassadors. Sam, a personal trainer and council member of the Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Washington DC, and Rose, the Director of St. George’s Sunday School, joined forces to lead, organize and take action to improve health and wellness in their community. St. George Church hosted a Let’s Move! event on May 5, 2012 to get their community members eating healthy foods, moving and working to combat childhood obesity.

As a congregation inspired to fight obesity, the church practices what it preaches. The event kicked off with children racing through an outdoor obstacle course. During the day attendees heard from a diverse group of panelists such as doctors, personal trainers, and a registered dietitian, on the importance of leading a healthy life. I joined Paul Monteiro of the White House Office of Public Engagement to share more about the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative

Zumba Dancers

Participants moving and grooving down on the Mall as part of the LULAC Zumba Class.

Community members originating from various countries including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan,and Ethiopia (to name a few) also had the opportunity to have their blood pressure and BMI measured to help assess their overall health risk. Healthy foods, like nuts, fresh fruit,and a Mediterranean-inspired falafel dish were offered. The day concluded with a Zumba class led by a Brazilian instructor who inspired more than 250 toddlers, teenagers, young and older adults, to shake, move,and groove. Just as St. George slayed the dragon, Wellness Ambassadors Sam Shihadeh and Rose Fakhoury are doing their part to help kids lead long, healthy lives.

But St. George wasn’t the only place moving. That same weekend, I participated in the Takoma Park Family Fun Run with my 7-year old daughter. My colleague, Julie, biked 130 miles on the National Park Service’s Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park trail. And on the National Mall, our colleague Roxana spent time with families all day learning about MyPlate and nutrition at the National Cinco de Mayo Festival¡Salud en Cinco de Mayo!, where thousands of people attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the largest Zumba Class! Let’s Move! joined the fun as White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, Sam Kass, provided welcoming remarks on behalf of the First Lady. 

Looking for ways to have a Let’s Move! weekend in your own community? Check out Let’s Move!Outside for opportunities right on your doorstep.


  • Max Finberg, Policy Advisor at the White House Office for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
  • Roxana Barillas is the Deputy Director of the USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
  • Julie Curti is the Assistant to the Director, USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
  • The National Cinco de Mayo Festival¡Salud en Cinco de Mayo! sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).