Historical Feature Articles: Community Events and Health

This is a sampling of the feature articles I wrote for Cultural Affairs Magazine in Tampa.

-Gabi

Naprapathy… Say What? (January 1999)

Aaaaahhh… massage. Many people enjoy the relaxation that it brings to them, whether they go to a professional as a treat to themselves or convince their significant others or friends to give them a few minutes of backrub bliss.

Most agree that massages feel good, but the benefits of massage go well beyond the immediate. Massage brings about better blood circulation and mends connective tissues in the body- muscles, tendons and ligaments- and this can lead to more flexibility and better overall health. Although some types of massage are not officially recognized in this country, the benefits of massage have kept the art popular for hundreds of years, and as time progresses, it becomes more of an accepted form of health care.

Naprapathy is a form of massage therapy that combines massage with traditional medical knowledge- it is an actually an offshoot of chiropractics. Steve Lampert, the bay area’s only practitioner, had much to say on the subject of massage therapy in a recent interview.

“Naprapathy is the best of both worlds, between medicine and massage,” he explained. “Good spinal health is a cross between flexibility and strength. When an injury occurs that requires medical attention, it’s usually not because the person was trying to do something extraordinary. More often than not, they were in their usual range of motions and a problem that they were not aware of came to the surface suddenly.”

Postural habits also influence spinal health; depending on how we carry ourselves throughout the day, we could be placing extra stress on certain areas of our frames, and these habits can come back to haunt. Physically traumatic events, such as car accidents, can cause these problems to “fast-forward” into injuries that require massage or chiropractic treatments.

“The thing of it is that it takes so long for the human body to break down. When it does, and people try to correct it, it can take two, three or four years to come back to normal,” said Lampert.

What can be done to avoid the stress of dealing with these types of cumulative injuries? He recommends a combination of diet and exercise that many resolve to take on at one time or another, only to be sidetracked by the demands of normal, everyday lives. While nutrition is important, drinking water and other non-carbonated juice aids with the flexibility of muscles and joints- an important point in overall muscular and skeletal health. Regular body maintenance also includes stretching, recommends Lampert.

“Stretching- once a week is better than not stretching at all, but if you can stretch four or five times a week, you can increase your range of motion 40 to 50 percent.”

He approaches his patients with a whole-life approach to diagnosing; he learns about their lives as well as their symptoms, and this helps his patients break unhealthy cycles in an effort to feel better. But, he adds, the patient must be the one to decide to change; no amount of advice can change someone else’s health.

Massage therapy can improve quality of life, and whether it is done out of necessity or otherwise, it is perhaps the best thing you can do for your physical body that doesn’t require you to buy special gym clothes or even break a sweat.

An Evening in Venice (October 1998)

“You are going to be taken to fourteenth century Venice- you will forget that it’s 1998,” says Caroline Eastman-Eanell, the chairperson of marketing and publicity for this year’s benefit for the Crisis Center of Hillsborough County. Their aim is “to create a fun, exciting and original event that Tampa Bay could enjoy, and benefit a good cause,” according to Eastman-Eanell. “An Evening in Venice” will take place on October 24 at the Tampa Convention Center, beginning at 7 p.m.

A masquerade ball is an annual tradition begun four years ago by Honorary Chairman Linda McClintock-Greco to benefit the Crisis Center, which has assisted the Tampa Bay community for the past 25 years. The funds raised at the masquerade ball will benefit the Crisis Center in the upcoming year. Jerry Vasquez, the center’s director, is looking forward to the event for several reasons.

“We offer so many programs that we don’t have a single focus. Because of that diversity, it’s important that the community knows about the Crisis Center and its mission. As far as the benefit is concerned, it’s fun to do something like this and have an enjoyable night and bring support to the people in the area who aren’t as advantaged.” He adds, “It’s a friend-raiser as well as a fund-raiser.”

Support from near and far has been donated to the event. Local volunteers are producing the event, and artists, dancers and professionals are donating their time and talents. Williams-Gerard Productions, a Washington, D.C.- based company known for producing exciting and extravagant events such as inaugural balls, is loaning props, ideas and performers to the event. Among their producers, former Tampa native Sally-Anne Andrews will be lending her talents in creating, producing and managing the evening’s festivities. “It’s leaps and bounds over what it has been,” she promises. “It’s truly a new event.”

Local experts on Venetian history and dancers schooled in Venetian dance will assist with creating an exceptional experience for all attendees. A live art auction featuring the work of local artist Joyce Lazzara will take place during the evening as well as a silent auction of heirloom jewelry. Rick Nafe of the Devil Rays will emcee a live auction that includes a trip for two to Venice, and Gayle Guyardo of WFLA-TV will be mistress of ceremonies for the entire evening. Professional ballerina Luisa Meshekoff and her dancers will entertain the ranks with Il Commedia dell’ art, a comedic dance performance, and the surrounding music will be played by local, national and international musicians.

Many surprises are in store for the attendees of this year’s masquerade, and they are encouraged to wear fancy costumes or gowns and tuxedoes. All guests will be issued a mask, unless they bring their own. Organizers are confident that this year’s ball will even surpass the strong community and corporate support shown for the masquerade ball last year.

The event will begin with a champagne reception along the “Grand Canal” of Tampa Bay at dusk, decorated as a courtyard with statues, fountains and other whimsical touches. The Grand Ballroom will be transformed into the Doge’s Palace, where guests will enjoy a Venetian banquet accompanied by music and dancing.

Though the night promises to be a festive event, the benefits and proceeds will support the needs of the community well after the enchanted night has ended.

“Every community needs a 24-hour crisis center,” says Eastman-Eanell. Just last year, the Crisis Center assisted 162,239 community members whose lives have been affected by abuse, neglect, poverty and despair. The staff includes many volunteers who are trained by the professional counselors. “There are a lot of ways that they reach out,” she continues. “Whatever walk of life you come from, the Crisis Center can help.”

“Art for Life” Benefit Returns (September 1998)

“The entire community has come together once again to support the Tampa AIDS Network,” says Linda Netzer, a co-chair for TAN’s all-volunteer steering committee. She and over one thousand volunteers will work the eighth annual “Art for Life” auction at the Tampa Convention Center on September 26. The proceeds from the auction will benefit the Tampa AIDS Network.

Over 400 pieces of art will be available for auction. All works have been donated by local, national and international artists, and some hail from private galleries and collectors. Art professionals will be on hand to judge some of the artwork at a special auction; other pieces will be available for bids in either a silent or voice auction. In addition to the artwork, local businesses will donate products and services to be auctioned off, and children’s artwork submitted from area schools will be judged and auctioned as well. The winner of the Children’s Art Program will see his or her work go up for auction at the voice auction along with the works of professional artists.

Local artist Eileen Goldenberg has donated her talents and created a design for this year’s fundraiser. Her design can be found on posters, t-shirts, mugs and hats as well as the event’s program. These items will be available at the event, and the proceeds will also go to TAN.

Although much of the night’s emphasis will be on the artwork, the money generated from this effort will make a lasting impression on the Bay area.

“Raising funds, of course, is the first priority,” says Don Bentz, the Special Events Coordinator for TAN. “A lot of people are developing the attitude that the AIDS crisis is over, which isn’t true at all. With more people becoming infected, it stretches our resources very thin.”

Linda Netzer adds, “People are still becoming infected. Although the new drug protocols are helping people live longer and better lives, many people are becoming resistant to these drugs and not everyone can afford them. The work of TAN is more important than ever. Because of these changes in the disease, TAN’s clients are living longer, thus needing more, not less, services.”

The Tampa AIDS Network provides many services for local people who are infected with or affected by AIDS. They provide case management for patients and coordinate their health care. They offer counseling to AIDS patients as well as their family members and caretakers. Approximately 225 people per month take advantage of their anonymous HIV testing services, and their food pantry provides nourishment to approximately 40 people per day. Other programs have included housing for patients, which they hope to expand this year, and a summer camp for children affected by AIDS. TAN’s most public role is in outreach education, which “touches about 49,000 people per year,” according to Don Bentz. Locations ranging from bars to churches set the stage for AIDS education in our community.

“We’re hoping for a better public awareness that ‘Art for Life’ can generate,” says Bentz about the fundraiser. “A wide variety of people come and hopefully get the HIV-AIDS message.”

Tai Chi (October 1998)

In our search for balance in our lives, we ultimately want to create a synergy between body and mind. A series of exercises known as Tai Chi Chaun, or Tai Chi, may be the answer to our quest for mental and physical fitness.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese art of self-defense, slowed down into smooth, fluid movements that revive the body and mind into a state of quiet consciousness. It can be learned and performed by anyone, regardless of age or degree of health. The slow movements allow for mental tranquility, as they increase the circulation and mobilization of joints, ligaments and muscles. Other benefits of the exercise include increased respiration, stabilization of the nervous system, and better functioning of other organs. Tai Chi is also known to relieve stress and improve mental attitudes, an added bonus for anyone who works, stands in line, or deals with rush-hour traffic in the course of the day. It is for this reason that Tai Chi appeals to different age groups for different reasons.

This ancient art appeals to adults who seek a way to balance themselves in the midst of their active lifestyles. Those who are recovering from physical injuries or who want to maintain balance and flexibility into their senior years also practice Tai Chi as a means of healing or preventive medicine.

The design of the movements is based upon the concepts of a micro-cosmic orbit as well as a macro-cosmic orbit. The micro-cosmic orbit is a flow of energy which vertically encircles the body, while the macro-cosmic orbit circulates throughout the limbs and the trunk of the body. These orbits coincide with other energy channels in the body, and as a result, cause the psychic centers of the body to bring healing and a state of peace to the mind. This explains the healing element of Tai Chi, since this unimpeded flow of energy relaxes the muscles of the body and aids in the treatment of nervous, organic or skeletal problems through increased blood circulation and better flexibility of joints, ligaments and muscles.

Presently, over 70 percent of the population of China performs Tai Chi daily. Though it is used to treat conditions such as nervous tension, rheumatism, ulcers, high blood pressure, poor circulation and arthritis, Tai Chi is performed daily as a preventive medicine- a way of acquiring and maintaining good health. The series of movements is a type of moving meditation that relaxes the body, which then releases the body’s energy flow (known as Chi) and puts the mind into a state of quiet associated with meditation.

Tai Chi can be learned through classes, video tapes or books on the ancient art, but for the beginner, instructional lessons are recommended to ensure that the poses and movements are correct.

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