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Corporate Challenge promotes health for Las Vegas employees

Updated February 4, 2018 - 4:27 pm

They’re ready to flip the ignition switch on their competitive engines. Then again, it might not even matter as long as their bods get exercise and sweat glands get activated. On second thought … Yup — it matters.

“I am in charge of it and even I have been declined from teams — I didn’t even make the cut,” says a chuckling Katy Campo, manager of culture and engagement for Las Vegas-based airline Allegiant Air, who also coordinates her company’s participation in the city’s sprawling annual Corporate Challenge. Traditionally, about 350 of Allegiant’s nearly 1,000 employees join the action.

“It’s about teamwork and all that jazz — but the health benefits are a great add-on.”

Assume your crouch at the starting block as Las Vegas prepares — for the 33rd year — to channel Olympic fever into the annual 11-week event (March 1-May 12) all around town.

Sign-ups continue through Friday for the competitive blowout. Initiated in 1986, this Vegas tradition has, by the city’s estimate, attracted around 125 local companies and 18,000 employees annually in recent years, crowning it Nevada’s largest amateur sporting event.

“It’s a way to keep the bones moving and the blood pumping,” says Kathleen Lauckner, a UNLV professor emerita and coordinator of the 250 or so university employees involved out of the 2,000-plus staff. “It’s for people of any age, of any weight, of any condition,” adds Lauckner, who has been involved since the beginning of the Challenge. “If they can walk a race and come in last, who cares? But if I had to guess, I would say most of my gold medal winners are over the age of 50. They come to win.”

Events? Forty-one of them, pitting teams against each other in three divisions, based on a company’s size. Challenges? Everything from the physically vigorous (basketball, softball, flag football, tennis) to brain workouts (chess, trivia challenge) to the personal and charitable (weight loss, blood donating). “We never win the overall gold except for one event, which I’m very proud of: the blood drive,” Lauckner says. “They give a trophy for the most pints donated.” Yet with certain events, it doesn’t hurt to tote along a well-earned reputation.

“Everyone says, ‘Oooh, basketball — UNLV,’ ” she says, referring to the Running Rebels rep. “They always fear us. Well, no fear involved. It’s somebody like me who’s going to walk on the court. But we bring that Running Rebel spirit out to the community.”

Elsewhere on the competitive spectrum, Cox Communications, now in its 14th year at the Challenge, has a laser-like focus on the prize this year, hoping to field up to 225 of its 1,500-employee workforce.

“In 2016, we undertook a more proactive strategy by recruiting athletes at Cox to participate, and we coached employees and cheered them on,” says Juergen Barbusca, Cox’s communications manager and former Challenge co-coordinator. “That year, for the first time, we finished in fourth place overall in our division. In 2017, we finished third overall. This year, we’re looking at No. 1.”

Beyond the promotional benefits and community visibility the Challenge provides for companies, Barbusca touts the advantageous effect on workers. “Good health makes for happy and more productive employees,” he says. Oh, lest we forget: There are always bottom-line benefits. “Good health,” he says, “reduces health care costs for both employer and employee.”

Even those with health on the brain every day — say, at Centennial Hills Hospital — sometimes need the organized prodding the Challenge can offer. “I have found that the profession you work in is the one you least pay attention to yourself,” says Henry Clay Jr., a senior clinical coordinator who is organizing the hospital’s participation, which in the past has attracted 100-plus of its 820-member staff. “Health care workers are so busy taking care of others that they forget to take care of themselves, so this is a real motivating factor.”

Yet it’s not just dabs of perspiration they hope to see. “We like to say you can use the trivia challenge to flex your brain muscle instead of a bicep muscle.”

Enhancing physical and intellectual benefits are the social and psychological aspects. “It brings deeper connections, it brings out people’s personalities,” says Challenge coordinator Jessica Brown, human resources technician for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, which expects about 500 of its 1,200 workers to get in on the action. Adds public outreach manager Bronson Mack: “It gives people some commonality. It relates to us but not in the day-to-day discussion of water quality and treatment. It’s nice to have this common thread that’s non-work-specific.”

Tune up the bod. Put the sweat glands on alert. Rev that competitive spirit. Nearly 20,000 Las Vegans are about to be Challenged.

Contact Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com. Follow @sborn1 on Twitter.

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