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Nutrition advocate in Garrettsville

By Matthew Merchant |staff writer Published: September 17, 2016 4:00 AM

The Garrettsville YMCA will be hosting a unique healthy eating program featuring a nationally recognized youth nutritional advocate.

Haile Thomas will be speaking at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The event is free and open to the public with an RSVP.

The YMCA asked that those looking to attend call 330-469-2044 before attending.

Thomas, who was featured on the Today Show, is a 15-year-old health advocate, vegan chef, motivational speaker and founder of the Happy Organization, which addresses affordable nutrition education and cooking classes for youth.

"We are really struggling here in the old school building, so we needed something to bring life back into the area," said Gayle Gergely, a volunteer at the YMCA.

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Gergely said she noticed that one of the most popular restaurant in the Garrettsville area was the McDonalds. She wanted something better, something healthier, for her grandchildren and the people of the village.

A few days later, she saw Thomas on the Today Show talking about healthy eating habits, cooking healthier and exercising. So she wrote an email and asked if she'd be interested in coming to Garrettsville to talk.

Thomas's mother responded with a yes, and after gaining support from several principals at the James A. Garfield schools, she arranged for two presentations from Thomas: One will take place with more than 700 kids at the school, the other will be free for the public at the YMCA.

When Thomas was 8 years old, her father was diagnosed with diabetes and the family began eating healthier and exercising more, according to her website.

Since then, she has served on the advisory board for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for 3 years and has spoken at TEDx events.

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She also "serves on several advisory boards, including the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program and Hip Hop Public Health, and she is also a Certified Healthy Living Ambassador with the University of Arizona's Cooperative Extension office 4-H Club at Tucson Village Farm. She also served for 3 years on the Clinton Foundation's Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Youth Advisory Board," according to her website.

Thomas has been a featured guest on the Rachael Ray show, Dr. Oz, and in magazines like O Magazine, Teen Vogue and YES.

For those looking to find out more about Thomas, she hosts the "Plant-Powered Haile" cooking series on Youtube.

"She's just amazing to see," Gergely said. "At 10 year's old, talking before a TEDx event to nutritionists and the world? Imagine that here in Garrettsville."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or mmerchant@recordpub.com

Twitter: @MattMerchantRC

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