Annual Employee Health & Fitness Returns

Emma Hughes
Gila River Indian News

Employee Health & Fitness Week has returned to the Community after being postponed due to the pandemic. 


Hosted by the Tribal Recreation & Wellness Center, the 2022 Employee Health & Fitness Week was held from June 6-10.


“There’s a lot of activities that you won’t see this year due to the pandemic and the changes we had to implement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of not only our staff, but the patrons as well,” said Angel Orque, Recreation Manager for the Tribal Recreation & Wellness Center.


“We are very short staffed, we are down to a team of eight right now, who are specifically working on this event this week.  We normally work with a staff of 17, so we’ve modified it and we’re making due with what we have,” said Orque.


In previous years, the week featured various activities from basketball tournament, dodgeball, chair volleyball, mud volleyball, and a fitness challenge. 


One of the more popular and most competitive was dodgeball, “the walls would be lined with employees and employees who weren’t even participating, but were there to witness the fun,” said Orque.


Another change to this year’s activities was the absence of spectators on-site for each competition.  Instead, the events were shared through social media for everyone to watch safely.


“That is definitely a factor that the clients are feeling, you know, you’re normally used to that environment and we really are trying our best to provide that energy with music and our staff,” said Orque. 


This year, employees who signed up participated in a basketball free-throw contest, TRX challenge, horseshoe contest, a firefighter challenge, and a virtual 5k run/walk.


“Right now, I walk in the afternoon about a mile every day.  I had to do something because of the pandemic,” said Joanne Brewer, Deputy Director for the Community Services Department.  She participated in the TRX and 5k challenges. 


Brewer added, “I really enjoyed the staff.  They’ve been really innovative in the way of bringing services, especially during the COVID pandemic. I really congratulate them for doing all of this. It’s really great for us to come and work out.”


The Wellness Center continues to plan additional activities for the entire Community.  For example, they plan to bring back in-person classes, which are normally held at the Boys & Girls Clubs, Sacaton Fairgrounds, and District Service Centers.


“We are planning some elder events to tour the districts and that should be coming in August and planning for other activities that the community is used to seeing us host, we are just trying to modify them,” said Orque. 


The annual “Trail of Doom”, a 5k run and 2-mile walk held at the Sacaton Fairgrounds, is something they also plan to return, “We are looking at different plans as well as contingency plans for that as well.”


Winning teams for this year’s Employee & Fitness week are:



Champions: District 4 Rebels Department: District 4 Service Center

  1. Raymond Antone
  2. Jay Dedman
  3. Coree Whitman

Runner Ups: Nightmare on Pear Rd. Department: Residential Youth Program

  1. Mark Miller
  2. Devin Jackson
  3. Fernanda Maciel-Torres


Champions: Old Knees

  1. Kenyen Thompson - TED
  2. Leonora Stone - GRGE
  3. Lance Reyna - TED
  4. Mark Sanchez - CSD

Runner Ups: Box Kickers Department: Procurement

  1. Larry Champagne 
  2. Albert Verdugo 
  3. Lomakoyva Manuel 
  4. Terrence Miles 


Champions: OCM Team Department: OCM

  1. Elisha Bishop
  2. Michael Preston

Runner Ups: Double G Department: Various

  1. Godfrey Nish - CFDP
  2. Garry Jackson - GRDCH