Kristy Estrem can “talk the talk” as president of Mercy Hospital Berryville, but she can also “walk the walk” – literally. That’s the consensus of co-workers and community members inspired by the Mercy leader.
“I’m really trying to go out in the community and be an example, not only for Mercy’s ‘Healthification’ initiative, but for being good partners in the community,” said Estrem, who just wrapped up planning the Annual Ice Cream Social 5K and 1Mile event at the Berryville Square in early June. The busy mother of two has been the race director for nearly 10 years.
“Years ago we worked with the local chamber of commerce to put together a ‘Couch to 5K’ ten-week community project leading up to that 5K. I wasn’t sure anyone would show up, but 40 people came. Some literally came directly from their couches!” Incorporating Mercy wellness goals, Estrem established daily schedules for trainees. Whistle and bottled water in tow, she timed and cheered everyone on. Out of the 40 people who signed up, 30 went on and completed the 5K. “It was fantastic, and I still see some of them out there running today. I’m just so thankful we might have had an influence into their choice of maintaining a healthier lifestyle.”
Estrem is no stranger to finish lines herself. “I started running when my daughter was born nearly 17 years ago. I decided I didn’t want to just grow old; I wanted to grow old gracefully and be an example for my kids, co-workers and community.” At first, it was just a way to stay fit, but soon Estrem had her eyes on the prize. “I thought, ‘If I can do a 5K, that’ll be it. But then a 10K turned into 15Ks. That turned into half marathons, then full marathons.”
Estrem took at stab at the Arkansas Marathon in 2002, coming in third place overall just under 4 hours. “I just wanted to complete it,” she recalled. “I was excited to be out there and see nature. During my second marathon, I got dehydrated and passed out mid-race. I was taken to the hospital and didn’t finish the race, but I learned going forward to make sure I stayed hydrated.”
Last fall, Estrem turned 50, and spent five months training for the Springfield Bass Pro Marathon. “What a perfect year to do a marathon. Now my goal is to complete, not compete. My daughter was there cheering me on when I started as well as when I finished.” Estrem placed 14th out of 150 people in her division. “I ran alongside a couple who were both 83. They told me they’d only been running for a few years. What an encouragement!”
In November, thanks to Estrem’s guidance, Mercy Hospital Berryville was awarded Wellness Council of America’s Gold Level Well Workplace Award. Earlier this year, Estrem earned more than 20 medals in the Northwest Arkansas Senior Games in Harrison, Arkansas. “She gathered a group of coworkers and auxilians, like she typically does, with everyone doing very well in their events,” added Deana Davidson, administrative assistant at Mercy Hospital Berryville. “At the finish of that day, Kristy was the high point scorer of the entire event, leaving with more medals than everyone there. She’s very inspirational to all of us.”
Estrem kept the ball rolling this spring by participating in Mercy’s “Walk to Dublin” program, which challenges co-workers to collectively walk 6,183 miles in a month (the distance to Dublin, Ireland, where Mercy was born). “She’s very encouraging of participation in Healthification programs,” added Davidson. “And because of her, we have so many people that get up and move around.”
“We promote healthy exercise and living from the top down,” said Estrem. Even her family has followed suit. Her son was recruited to play college football; her daughter is a state champion in track and volleyball. “As a mom, I wanted to instill the importance of getting out, staying active and making healthy choices.”
To this day, Estrem thanks a Berryville nurse for inspiring her active lifestyle. “She told me that when I get out and run, jog or walk, I should find something in nature that I could be thankful for that I wouldn’t see if I’d been in a car. I’ve kept those words with me everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve seen a lot.”
Healthification is Mercy’s initiative to promote stronger, healthier lifestyles for its co-workers. The plan supports a well-balanced life, which includes nutrition, physical activity, emotional and spiritual well-being, and smoking cessation. To learn more, visit http://bit.ly/healthification.