South Charlotte

Reunion is a chance to emphasize good health

Jon Strayhorn MAC330

Charlotte resident Vanessa Stuart Onipede used her own fight to be healthy as an inspiration for her family to do the same.

Stuart Onipede recently hosted the 2015 Bette Smith Family reunion in Charlotte. In the more than 30 years her family has been getting together for these events, Stuart Onipede said, this was the first gathering in Charlotte.

Stuart Onipede, originally from New York, moved to Charlotte 20 years ago. “I loved it here and never left,” she said.

Stuart Onipede, whose mother is the one of the Bette Smith family historians and has been actively involved in planning the events, said the reunion marks the passing of the torch to her generation for pulling the three-day gathering together.

Stuart Onipede said the reunion was a chance to encourage family members to be healthy, something she is passionate about.

At 19, Stuart Onipede went from being an active 147-pound athlete to weighing 293 pounds due to medication. She later was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid.

She gave birth to a son four years ago and started taking steps to get her health back.

“I’ve been extremely determined over the years,” she said.

She is now much healthier and has worked as an organizational development consultant at Novant Health for two years. She also has a doctorate in industrial organizational psychology.

Stuart Onipede brought that experience to the reunion, holding a health fair for more than 100 family members and local community members.

“My goal is to help raise awareness so that all of the community can live well,” she said. “It’s not enough just to exist. Living well is mind, body and spirit.”

The reunion menu featured healthy foods and the first Bette Smith Olympics & Family Fun Day, Stuart Onipede said. Members participated in relay races, basketball tournaments and hula-hoop contests.

During the health fair, Novant Health conducted health screenings.

Stuart Onipede said the reunion reflected the importance of living well.

“I wanted to use this opportunity to strengthen the awareness of health and wellness for my family and my beloved community,” she said. “This event was a dream come true for me. It was truly amazing.”

Michelin video

Charlotte resident Tyler Wallace, 19, celebrated getting his first car by becoming part of tire-maker Michelin’s #FirstCarMoment national campaign video, which addresses teenage driving safety.

The video focuses on the importance of having the right type of tires, said Lynne Fowler, Michelin brand marketing communications manager. “The only thing that is touching the ground between you and the ground is your tires,” she said.

According to a survey commissioned by Michelin North America, four out of five Americans can remember the make or model of their first car, but just one in five people remember the type of tires.

Michelin’s video features local families getting their first cars while addressing safety and the role tires play. Tyler’s first car is a 2011 Honda Civic.

Tyler Wallace’s mother, Katina Wallace, said she has made sure her son is conscious of driving safely.

“The values that were instilled in me, I have instilled in Tyler as far as safety,” she said. “It’s so important to me that he is safe.”

Katina Wallace said the law enforcement workers in their family influence them to drive smart.

“It’s important for us to make sure we are doing what we need to do,” she said. “We need to stop all of the busyness and ask the right questions.”

Tyler, a rising junior in college, said he always wears his seat belt and abides by the rules of the road. He also said teenagers should avoid texting and driving. “That’s dangerous,” he said.

Tyler said he enjoyed being a part of the Michelin video. “I hope people look at it and think let’s all drive safely now,” he said.

Student as a page

Emily Ray Reinstadtler, a sophomore at Lake Norman Charter School, recently had the opportunity to see what the N.C. Senate does.

Reinstadtler, 15, served as a page June 15-18, attending senate sessions and committee meetings and assisting staff members during the week they serve.

Students in grades nine through 12 serve as pages when the General Assembly is in session. Reinstadtler was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Tarte and appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger of Rockingham County.

“I can say that I’ve actually seen laws being made,” she said. “It was cool to see in person what it would be like.”

Reinstadtler is the daughter of Alec and Lynne Reinstadtler of Cornelius.

Military Listings

▪ Army Pfc. Christine M. Varela graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia. Varela is the daughter of Maria Varela of Charlotte. She is a 2011 graduate of Ardrey Kell High School.

▪ Army Pvt. James T. Walker graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia. Walker is the brother of Kevin Walker and nephew of Erika Brooks, both of Charlotte, and grandson of Monika Walker.

▪ Air Force Airman Perry L. Gomez graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio. Gomez is the son of Emma and Perry Gomez of Charlotte and brother of Kara Gomez. He is a 2012 graduate of Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology.

▪ Air Force Airman Josselyne R. Escalante graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio. She is a 2014 graduate of South Mecklenburg High School. Escalante is the daughter of Roxana G. Soto and Cesar Escalante of Charlotte and the sister of Milagro Escalante. She also is the daughter-in-law of Jesenia Rodriguez and Danny Martinez of Charlotte.

Amanda Harris is a freelance writer: