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Food, fun and fitness were the order of the day Sept. 22 as the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Fitness Center in Bldg. 17 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, at Bethesda (WRNMMC) held its grand opening.

Visitors who stopped by the state-of-the-art 45,000 sq. ft. facility were able to see and participate in programs the center has to offer. Visitors were also able to use the facility's weight room, indoor swimming pool, indoor track, racquetball courts, basketball courts, spin studio, aerobics studio and cardio studio. The center also provides free personal training services, group fitness classes, including Zumba, Kangoo, spinning and yoga, and intramural sports.

Wendy Tompkins, manager of the fitness center, welcomed people to the grand opening, thanked her 19-member staff for the services they provide the WRNMMC community, and explained the variety of programs offered in the facility. She said the center's goal is to provide a variety of programs and activities "to entertain everyone" from the young and to the young-at-heart. Nearly all staff members on base, with the exception of contractors at this time, can now use the fitness center. However, dependent on the facility's capacity and load generated by those who currently have eligibility, command leadership is exploring whether to open the gym to contractors. Tompkins added that full-time NIH employees can also use the facility, and there are plans to start a class to work with Department of Defense dependent children focusing on teen obesity.

A number of vendors were on hand at last week's grand opening, and former NFL players with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, including Ed Simmons, Clarence Vaughn, Ravin Caldwell and John Booty, attended the event and signed autographs. Cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins were also a popular attraction at the affair.

AMP1, the first organized stand-up amputee basketball team in the country, played members of WRNMMC staff in a scrimmage during the event, and a wheelchair basketball exhibition was also part of the grand opening.

"We're proud of what we have to offer," Tompkins said.

"I try to use [the fitness center] five days a week," said Marcella Diehl, who works in neurosurgery at WRNMMC." The pool is one of the most beautiful pools I've ever seen. My sister is an Olympic swimmer and we've always had sort of a competition. It's nice that I can text her now and say, 'I'm swimming in an Olympic pool.'"

"The instructors for the classes are also very motivating and friendly," said Diehl, adding that in addition to the aqua class, she has also taken about four other classes offered by the fitness center, including body yoga and body strength.

The fitness center is open Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays.