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Zumba Instructor Remembers Growing Up Hungry in Virginia

Rosie Clark's memories drive her to raise money to fight hunger.

About this sponsorship: In honor of the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic ascent of Mount Everest, Patch and Grape-Nuts are teaming up to highlight those who inspire people around them to climb their own mountains. This story originally ran March 29.

Local Zumba instructor Rosie Clark doesn't want any child to go hungry. She vividly remembers going hungry as a child growing up in Dale City, and on a recent Sunday, she held a Zumbathon to raise money to fight hunger in the greater DC area. 

"Nowadays, I hear families complain about going without name brands or eating out at fancy restuarants," Clark said. "When I was growing up right here in PWC, we went without hot water, electricity and food. I remember having nothing but white bread and ketchup sandwiches for a meal, or splitting a can of pork and beans with my brother while my mom went completely hungry. Luxury for us was saving up a dollar or two worth of change and walking a mile (my mom didn't have a car) to the nearest 7-Eleven to buy a candy bar and a soda."

Clark opened My BodyMoveZ Health & Wellness Studio in Woodbridge in November with her cousin Alice Sevivas, who used to run My BodYoga Spa in Occoquan. Sevivas offers yoga, Pilates and massages, and Clark offers dance, fitness, Zumba and other classes.  

"Although we both offer two completely different things in our businesses, we both have shared visions," Clark said. "We both were looking to give back to the community in a positive, healthy way."

The studio offers classes and training without membership fees or what Clark refers to as the "fishbowl effect" — when participants are ogled by other patrons or passersby.

After several months of planning and prayer, Clark and Sevivas found their "diamond in the rough" — an old warehouse near Potomac Mills Mall. 

"We gave ourselves 30 days to transform the very worn down, beat up space," Clark said. "It was a sight made for a TV reality show!"

Clark fell in love with Zumba at a time when she was unhappy with her weight, and after three years of Zumba classes, she became an instructor in 2011.

"To date, I have lost over 80 pounds, but it was never about a number," she said. "It was about finding a way to be healthy, happy and inspire others to do the same. It was also about taking time to honor myself."

In telling her students to honor themselves, Clark remembers her best friend, Mariel Riebe, who lost her battle with cancer a few years ago. 

"As mothers, we spend so much of our time taking care of our familes that we often neglect our own health," Clark said. "When we do try to take time for ourselves, we often feel guilty or rushed. In her honor, I end every one of my classes with a special 'Thank you for taking the time to honor yourself today.'"

Clark grew up in a single-parent family, and her mother freely made sacrifices for her children. A former student from Peru with an expired visa, her mother had to move the family frequently. Wanting a better life for her children, she brought Clark and her brother to Dale City in the 80s to live with Seviva's mother. 

"She came from Peru on a student visa with the full and honest intention to get a world-class U.S. education," Clark said. "Unfortunately her student visa expired, and she could not acquire the funds to renew." 

Around this time, Clark's mother also became pregnant with Clark. Immigration frequently tried to deport Clark's mother and put Clark and her brother — both U.S. citizens — in foster homes. Clark's mother has since become a U.S. citizen, but before becoming a citizen, she had difficulty finding work or aid.

"No family should ever have to go hungry. Yet families are still struggling in PWC, the greater DC Metro Area and all over the world," Clark said. "The recent government sequester is making it even more difficult and I know many families who have been impacted. It is my sincere hope that we can make a difference with our Zumbathon. What better time than Easter Sunday? It is a time for reflection, renewal and hope." 

Clark hopes to continue to expand her business and offer more classes to local residents, and to inspire them to be healthy, have fun and be happy. She has a special focus on mothers and children, and offers classes especially for moms with young children. She has also reached out to the local police department, fire and rescue and American Red Cross to offer programs in health and safety.

To learn more about Rosie Clark, visit rosieclark.zumba.com.

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