TOPS-Spirit River marks 50 years

Debra Demmons, coordinator of TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly)-Northwestern Alberta, right, handed Evelyn Kurys, from the Town of Spirit River, a certificate of recognition as a charter member of TOPS-Spirit River chapter, which marked its 50th anniversary last Saturday, September 16. Kurys has been part of TOPS-Spirit River for 50 years, starting on November 3, 1973. Partly hidden in the middle is Marge Collins, chapter co-leader.

By Beverly Lomosad

Evelyn Kurys knows what’s it like to manage the healthy-lifestyle see-saw: to lose a tonne of weight at one time, to fall off the wagon at another time, and to get back on track at yet another time. She has embraced a healthy lifestyle since she was 29 years old. And when a chance arose for her to be part of a community of like-minded individuals called TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), she readily signed up. That was on November 3, 1973, the day the TOPS-Spirit River chapter was formed. TOPS-Spirit River marked its 50th anniversary last Saturday, and Kurys, who turns 79 next month, received recognition as a charter member.

The anniversary celebration saw more than 60 members from other TOPS chapters in northwestern Alberta attending. Delegates heard from Gary Shmyr who did a presentation on life after a heart attack.
TOPS itself is ringing in its 75th anniversary and celebrating throughout 2023.

Saying she was “severely overweight,” Kurys managed to shave off 60 pounds pre-TOPS through a combination of exercise and “learning to eat sensibly” – which she meant eating smaller portions and avoiding binging on sugar. She shed 40 pounds more through TOPS, she told The Central Peace Signal.
TOPS-Spirit River meets every week at Happy Hour Club in the Town of Spirit River in which members discuss a range of topics, including motivational ideas, goal-setting, and healthy food choices, said Co-Leader Marge Collins.

Marge Collins, right, has been the leader of TOPS-Spirit River in the past 15 years. During the pandemic years, the group decided to add Denise Skoworodko, left, as a co-leader.

“The emphasis of our program is information, participation and support, which hopefully results in a healthy weight loss,” she said. TOPS-Spirit River currently has 20 members, down from its pre-pandemic membership strength of 30.

To drive home the idea that the core of TOPS goes beyond weight loss, Shmyr, the guest speaker, shared a quote from a TOPS member who said: “It’s not that I lost the weight; it’s that I found my life.”

Support System

Kurys credits the TOPS community for keeping her on track. “I just about quit last year when my husband got diagnosed with cancer and started radiation and chemotherapy treatment. But my friend in TOPS never fails to phone me and checks on me every week to make sure I’m OK. I also have another TOPS friend with whom I take my morning walk daily,” she said.

To those who are on the fence about embarking on a healthy lifestyle, Kurys has this to say: “You have to think about your own health – do it for yourself, not for anybody else. The motivation has to come from you. And you have to stick to the plan to be successful.”

FROM LEFT: Claudette Dube, treasurer of TOPS-Northwestern Alberta; Kathy Barbarich; and Vi Moss at the registration table