An effort to encourage physical fitness in the Richmond area is getting a big financial boost from one of the region's fastest-growing companies.
Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. has donated $500,000 to the Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers, a nonprofit organization that puts together numerous local sports events, for its "Active RVA" initiative.
It is a lead donation in a campaign that kicked off Wednesday night to raise $4.5 million to support health and wellness activities in the area.
Among other things, Health Diagnostic's donation will help support an "active RVA stairwell initiative" to encourage people to take the stairs instead of the elevator. That involves placing signs with "whimsical messages" at the stairways in local offices, stores and museums.
The messages might say "Walk this Way" or "Don't Let the Machines Win," said Sports Backers Executive Director Jon Lugbill.
"It is a fun way to encourage that first step" to better health, he said.
Sport Backers also wants to develop an application for mobile phones and computers so physicians can identify specific, local fitness programs best suited for their patient's needs.
"A doctor is more likely to give (fitness) advice if they know what exercise program to tell their patients to use," Lugbill said. "The patient is much more likely to take it up if their doctor is telling them a specific thing to do."
A third part of the initiative is a certification and awards program to recognize local employers and schools that implement innovative programs promoting fitness and physical activity.
The $500,000 donation will help support the program for five years.
It was appropriate given Health Diagnostic's mission as a company to help identify and prevent diseases, said Tonya Mallory, the company's president and chief executive officer.
The company provides diagnostic services to detect early risk factors for conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It also provides lifestyle counseling for patients to help them avoid those conditions.
"What we want to do is make everyone aware of the small changes that we can make in our lives on a daily basis that make a huge impact on health," Mallory said.
Health Diagnostic has been adding hundreds of jobs locally and is expanding its offices and laboratories in the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in downtown Richmond.
John Reid Blackwell