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TOPS weight-loss group holds convention here

April 10, 2007

Approximately 350 people are expected to gather for the Taking Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Convention April 12-14 at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

Participants are from 27 TOPS chapters throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia. This regional TOPS convention is held annually, though this will be the convention's first time in Hagerstown.

During the convention there will be eight workshops about nutrition, fitness and health. Convention attendees will honor their "best losers" in seven different divisions. They will name a king and queen and runners-up as well. There will also be a graduation ceremony for members who have achieved their goal weight.

"The graduation ceremony is very special," said TOPS Convention Chairperson Donna Blackowitz. "It's just like a real graduation. The women wear white dresses and hats and each graduate is given a white and yellow rose."

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Those participating in the convention will also honor TOPS alumni. "We have a candlelight service that is really something to see," Blackowitz said. "We turn the lights out and each person in the room is holding a candle. It's beautiful."

Sales director of the Hagers-town-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Betsy De Vore, said that the TOPS Convention brought positive economic impact for Hagerstown, "Anytime a convention generates hundreds of hotel room nights, the local economy receives a healthy boost. We've been working on earning the privilege to host this particular convention for nearly two years. Our CVB helps to attract groups and organizations to Hagerstown and Washington County."

TOPS is the oldest international, nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss support group. It was started in 1948 by Esther Manz in Milwaukee, Wis., with the mission to support members as they take off pounds sensibly. Weekly meetings include private weigh-ins and a program that provides positive reinforcement and motivation to adhere to food and exercise plans. There are more than 200,000 TOPS members in 10,000 chapters worldwide.

For additional information about TOPS, visit www.tops.org. For more information about Hagerstown-Washington County, see www.marylandmemories.org.

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