Physical Activity Leaders

Physical Activity Leaders

Active Ottumwa started as a community-based research project that encouraged all adults to be more active. Ottumwa community members and the University of Iowa used the latest research to design this project. Hy-Vee of Ottumwa along with community partners throughout Ottumwa have since taken on the Active Ottumwa program and will continue to work with volunteer community members who are trained to be Physical Activity Leaders (PALs). PALs guide and support adults to be more physically active. Active Ottumwa is for everyone in Ottumwa, and is free AND fun!

Below are short bios of the PALs involved in the Active Ottumwa PRC research project. Many of these members will continue to be active PALs for the Ottumwa community. Check for their classes on the Active Ottumwa Facebook page.






Betty and Remi Panlaqui

Betty and Remi Panalqui became PALs so they could lead other walkers, friends, and neighbors of all ages in consistent walking groups. Betty and Remi know walking groups can improve physical health, emotional stability, and social interaction. They wanted to share their love of walking with the Ottumwa community, and they have been very successful! Betty and Remi also volunteer in other ways such as leading Active Ottumwa in the Octoberfest parade. When they are not encouraging their neighbors to get active, they enjoy gardening and reading books. Betty is also interested in crafting, while Remi enjoys games like scrabble and solitaire.




Brandy Vanderpol

Brandy Vanderpol had many reasons to become a PAL. Among them, she says, “I like the idea of getting to converse with others and doing something to better our health at the same time. I have also been wanting to do something to get more involved with the community and what better way than to do it with something that betters each of us!” That dedication to health and her community led Brandy to start her own walking group. Her passion also extends to traveling! Each year she takes a trip with her husband to somewhere they have never been. She enjoys spending time with family, reading, bowling, Mahjong, and Sudoku.




Christie Starr

Christie initially became a PAL because she liked the idea of encouraging physical activity in a group setting, meeting other members of the community, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. She combined her interest in Active Ottumwa with her love for walking and created a walking group. In addition to walking, Christie also enjoys reading and online games.






Dana Overturf

Dana Overturf was promoting physically active lifestyles before she became a PAL. She first heard of Active Ottumwa while she was working as a fitness trainer at the YMCA. Her passion for helping people get fit and healthy, combined with the accessibility of Active Ottumwa, drove her to become a PAL. When Dana is not teaching classes, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, music, reading, going to growth groups (Bible Studies), and going on walks with her friends and family.





Jo and Vern Slaymaker

Vern is known in Ottumwa not only for his enthusiasm for square dancing, but also for his years spent as a chemistry teacher at Ottumwa High School. Fishing and walking with Jo are both activities that Vern enjoys. Jo supports Robin Ragen by assisting with record keeping for the square dance activity. Jo also dances when not gardening, walking or bird watching. Both Jo and Vern hope to share their love of square dancing with other generations.






Mary Hart

When Mary Hart was asked to be a PAL, she enthusiastically said yes! She had an interest in leading Tai Chi as she is a certified instructor and thought others may be interested in participating. It is safe to say they were! Tai Chi was one of the longest running and most popular activities Active Ottumwa offered. When she is not leading Tai Chi, Mary enjoys reading and watching mysteries, walking, going to youth sporting events, and visiting her family.






Marylou LaRose

Marylou was the creator of Water Walking with Active Ottumwa at another facility that, because of its popularity, grew to be a daily class. When Marylou was unable to share her love of the water with others for a short time, she continued to be a vocal supporter of Active Ottumwa. It was through Marylou’s social and work connections that she was able to secure two different facilities where she now leads Water Walking. Both of these classes are well attended due to her enthusiasm. While not in the water, Marylou enjoys babysitting her grandchildren along with caring for the several older dogs she has adopted.





Pam Ward 

Pam Ward sees being a PAL as a tremendous value and benefit both personally and for the community. As a lifelong resident of Ottumwa, she enthusiastically seized the opportunity to lead activities and contribute to keeping Ottumwa on the move. Pam was so active with Active Ottumwa she attended the most activities of all of our participants. Pam has led activities including Body Groove and Light Stretching, offering fun ways for community members to stay active. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, motorcycle riding, travel, helping with home projects, and spending time with her grand kids.



Robin Ragen


Robin Ragen

Robin is the “caller” for square dance lessons and has been involved with dancing for many years. In addition to dancing, Robin enjoys fishing, golfing, and hunting. Whatever the season, Robin stays active and is happy to share his love of square dancing with others.







Stacie Rogan

Stacie Rogan initially got involved with Active Ottumwa because she wanted to try the different activities at no cost before committing to an organization with a membership. She was enthusiastic about leading activities and thought others in the Ottumwa community may share her interest and she was right! Stacie led a Video-led Yoga class every week, Body Groove, and Light Stretching. When she is not participating in Active Ottumwa, she spends her time talking to people and learning about rats, nutrition, and all things body. Stacie is a self-described “education nut.”