‘Biggest Winners’ share their secrets

1st Place Team: Duckwall Fruit Co.; 1st Place Individual: Sharon Vink

Sharon Vink has participated in the Biggest Winner individual contest before, taking second place. This year, she’s taken first, with a total weight loss of 16.3 percent.

Vink likens weight loss to climbing a mountain: “If you take a step back, it doesn’t mean you have to go back to the bottom again; it’s just a bump.”

She says while most people see weight issues as being primarily about bad eating habits, for her, it’s emotional.

“Emotions are what people have to deal with. Anyone can lose weight, but if they don’t deal with the problem, they’re gaining it back again. I think I’ve gotten the emotional part under control.”

Instead of trying to live up to a certain image, she has been concentrating on what is healthy. She juices and eats a lot of vegetables, and has learned that no matter how other people lose weight, she has to do what works for her body — and no one else can do that work for her. As a result, she’s stronger.

2013 Hood River News Biggest Winner Results


  1. Sharon Vink ($500)

  2. Rob Norton ($200)

  3. Erin Parsons ($100)

  4. Randy Tumlinson ($60)


  1. Duckwall Fruit Company

Kathy Nishimoto, Craig Mallon, Sara Duckwall Snyder, Wade Root, Gloria Campbell, Scott Gray, Jesus Enriquez, Steven Jones, Ed Weathers ($300)

  1. Buns of Steel

Yadira Jimenez, Mayra Jimenez, Maria Jimenez, Luis Jimenez ($200)

  1. Light Weights

Nicki Ruiz, Sheila Sletmoe, Linda Jones, Linda Hutson, Jennifer Entler ($100)

“The fun part of it is that I can do it. I can walk up Multnomah Falls without stopping anymore. The achievement is that I can do it.

“What I’ve enjoyed about the Biggest Winner is that it’s started my journey again for me,” said Vink. “The contest gets you motivated. I like the competition; that’s just my personality.”


Rob Norton lost 10.3 percent of his body weight during the Biggest Winner individual contest, but is disappointed with his second-place finish.

“I really should have been in the mid-teens as far as percentages go,” he said. “I jumped out really good and then the last three weeks I fizzled out and I didn’t really focus on it that hard.”

Norton credits his weight loss to putting in an hour every morning on the elliptical machine.

“I put music in my ears and lowered my head and closed my eyes and tried to get in a zone for an hour and hang in there. For me, that was the quickest way to lose weight; on that machine.”

Besides exercising, he cut out all sodas and cocktails, and even limited his milk consumption.

“Water was my main source of liquid,” he said. He avoided snacks and cookies, and ate a lot of salad, chicken and tuna “with a few Lean Cuisines along the way.”

Norton plans to keep up his work on the elliptical four or five times a week so he doesn’t have to enter the contest next year.

“I’ve done this before and I guess you’ve got to make it a lifestyle. It’s a big commitment and it’s a matter of staying focused, even though the contest is over.”


Team cameraderie was one key for Duckwall Fruit Company’s 2013 championship weight-loss team. A unique part of the team’s first-place finish was the number of members. In past years, the winning team has consisted of four or five members. Duckwall’s team had nine, including four who lost more than 10 percent of their body weight during the contest.

Steven Jones led the group, with 21.6 percent weight loss. Jones started at 237 pounds and is now a trimmed-down 185.

Teammates noticed each other eating healthier foods at lunchtime, though some drew the line on certain options.

“I noticed some of that powdered soup he (Jones) was eating and I thought, ‘I’d rather be fat than eat that,’” quipped Wade Root.

Captain Sara Duckwall Snyder said: “Steven is on a whole another plane than the rest of us.

“Our team, it has been just an absolutely fantastic group to work with; they are all so positive and so generous in their attitudes in bringing forth a positive atmosphere.”

Duckwall Fruit paid every team member’s entry fee into the contest — just another way the company promotes a healthy lifestyle of for its employees.

“Everyone was so motivated to continue after the contest” that Duckwall is doing a Healthy Duck Weight Loss Challenge internally to continue the program and effect change in others, as well, Duckwall Snyder said.

She said the contest definitely helped effect change in employees.

“Absolutely, you can see eating habits are changing all around,” she said. “Everyone is walking more. It’s been good to see. We are just going to keep going.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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