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Fitness fanatics take part in Pumpkin Boot Camp

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By Alison Mahnken

For the Courier

If you heard goblins and ghouls a-groanin’ on Saturday, perhaps you attended the Pumpkin Boot Camp Festival at Arapahoe Community College.

Now in its sixth year, the event, presented by Camp MissFits and the ACC Foundation, is a fund-raiser for ACC’s fitness center.

Priscilla Friedlander, the boot camp director who’s also connected with Camp MissFits, said the event is key for maintaining the fitness center.

“In the last two years when we started doing it as a fund-raiser, we raised over $20,000 between the pumpkin boot camp and some other little fund-raisers through the year to replace the gym floor.

“Today, we raised over $4,300, and it’s going to go toward new equipment. We had about 100 participants” from age 6 months to 74 and including sponsors, staff and coaches.

Costumes aren’t required but certainly add seasonal spirit. Festivities began at 9 a.m. with a workout designed for all ranges from exercise babes to brave hearts.

“And of course the advanced group, which is normally the smallest group — those guys just get destroyed with pumpkins,” Friedlander said. “I saw one guy who brought a pumpkin that probably weighed 20 pounds, and he was hatin’ life. He went and exchanged it for a little kid’s pumpkin!

“He’s like, ‘I’m not doing that again! That was a bad idea!’ ”

Pumpkins aren’t just for jack-o’-lanterns and pies.

“We had a great time working out with pumpkins and costumes,” Friedlander said. “It’s a very unique event. People can bring their kids. It’s not typical to be working out with pumpkins.”

Boot camp required that attendees tote their pumpkins — in theory, anyhow.

“I love it that people don’t bring pumpkins,” Friedlander said. “We for the first time decided we would sell pumpkins, of course for a donation to the school, and we sold out (of about a dozen pumpkins)! It’s so funny how people come to pumpkin boot camp and forget their pumpkins!

“They did pumpkin squats, they did passes with a partner, they did squat jumps with it, jumping jacks with it, push-ups with it. Most of the exercises were while holding a pumpkin.”

After working up a sweat — and appetite — participants were treated to breakfast donated by Littleton’s Delizios.

“People are pooped by the time they’re done with the pumpkin boot camp,” Friedlander commented. “We don’t have a lot of participants that stick around for other events, ‘cause they’re tired by the time we’re done with them! The pumpkin boot camp’s an hour. So they don’t want to do anything else. They just want to eat croissants and go home!”

Next came the costume contest and obstacle course pitting costumed kids against one another.

They began with sponge tosses, then dashed around hay bales, walked the plank — no pirates, high seas or ships in sight — sprinted across exercise mats, negotiated a short flight of stairs toting buckets containing kid-sized pumpkins, and finally they bopped, hopped and danced to their own groove around folding chairs to the finish. 

Ben Jackson, 12, of Littleton said he came to have fun and get some exercise. He confessed he was sore by the end. As to the obstacle course, “one part that I thought was challenging was it was kind of slippery near the haystacks (bales), and I fell.” 

After a deft recovery, he and his brother, Thomas, 9, raced on to win a $25 gift certificate to the Platte River Bar & Grill. What might he get with that prize? “A cheeseburger,” Ben answered without hesitation. 

His sibling managed one large bucket up and down the stairs, saying it wasn’t all that heavy. What was the challenge, then? “I think the part where you had to do stuff on the chairs was pretty hard because I really didn’t know what to do.” 

Additional treats on tap were face painting, games, music raffles, prizes, sponsors’ displays and a photo booth that photographed visitors against spooky backgrounds.

Workouts at boot camp, which saw 12 people at its inception in 2006, are lead by certified trained coaches. Friedlander said she personally knows the oldest participant at Saturday’s event. “She’s 74 years old. She’s a regular (at ACC’s gym). She’s been a member for over two years. She does boot camp. We have two ladies in their 70s who do boot camp! Pretty hard core, huh?”

Information about Camp MissFits and its programs and events is at www.fitlivingempowered.com/,while president Priscilla Friedlander can be contacted at Priscilla@fitlivingempowered.comor 720-951-0101.