May 4, 2014 at 8:02 AM
MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Maplewood residents Risa Olinsky, John James and Dennis Percher are being awarded by the Maplewood Civic Association on Sunday with Maple Leaf Awards for their contributions to the community and volunteer work. Maple Leaf Award Committee Chair, Mary Devon O’Brien, said they have “demonstrated the generosity of spirit and selfless gift of time and talent that epitomize Maple Leaf recipients.”
One of this year’s honorees, Risa Olinsky, has lived in town for 28 years and is recognized for the countless hours she spends leading health and wellness initiatives. Olinsky helped to create the Maplewood Loves Wellness campaign along with Deputy Mayor Kathy Leventhal.
She also created the Facebook page “SOMA on Foot” to gather groups of residents to go on hikes together.
“I had this idea to get people in this community moving, walking, collaborating, motivating. I wanted people in the community motivated to be healthier and to move,” said Olinsky. “Kathy and I both say that Maplewood is a moving community. Maplewood is a walking community. It’s a beautiful thing. We can get around here in four square miles and if you had to, you could live here without a car.”
Olinsky is a welnness coach and motivational speaker. She founded her company, Count on Yourself Coaching to further her vision of helping people.
“Everything I do is about health and fitness and wellness,” Olinsky said. “It’s not just my work, it’s my way of life. I lead an active life and want to get other people to do it as well.”
The concept of Maplewood Loves Wellness led to the creation of a wellness fair and a full Wellness Week in 2012. The event grew from 20 vendors in 2012 to 40 in 2013. They sought sponsors to pay for everything and created the program without the use of any tax dollars.
Another community walking program has been created and residents may sign up for a six-week program to go on guided walks with Olinsky around different neighborhoods. Atlantic Health donated pedometers for participants as part of their community outreach program.
Olinsky is in the process of writing a book about walking-based fitness. She has become something of an evangelist for a walking lifestyle.
She said, “There are no boundaries to what we can do, only the walls we put up and walls that we allow others to tell us we have.” In her public speaking, she tries to “light a fire under people.” Her greatest satisfaction, she said, is when she knows she has made a difference. Around Maplewood, she can rest assured that she is making a difference.