On June 1, Karen Drudi completed her first five-kilometer run.

It was her 55th birthday, and she took third place in her age group. “I call it my marathon, and I have the medal I won hanging on a doorknob at home,” said the executive assistant at Dowd Insurance Agency in Holyoke.

Drudi is proud of her accomplishment, and knows that running a 5K is something she probably would never have attempted on her own. But thanks to the Dowd Wellness Program, which kicked off at the beginning of the year for employees in the company’s main branch and all its satellite offices, she was motivated to take up the sport.

The program was created to inspire people to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, exercise on a regular basis, and engage in stress-reducing activities. It has had a marked effect on participants, and led employee Cathy Sypek to start a ‘Couch to 5K’ running group to share her love of the sport, which Drudi and other non-runners joined, meeting after work to train at the nearby Ashley Reservoir.

“I had tried running in the past, but had never been successful. So I thought that, whether I completed it or not, it would still be a challenge,” Drudi said. “We started in April, and within a few weeks, I felt it was something I could achieve. There was a lot of camaraderie, and whenever someone lagged behind, the rest of the group encouraged them to keep going. And since Dowd’s program began, other people have tried things like yoga or lifting weights. It’s motivating when we get together and hear about the success of other people.”

Catherine Palazzo, the company’s Human Resources director, conceptualized the idea for the Dowd Wellness Program after listening to representatives from other companies talk about wellness initiatives during a group meeting.

“When I returned, I did some research on wellness programs and found they were good for overall morale, health, and team building,” she said, adding that she presented the concept to President and CEO John Dowd Jr., who approved it wholeheartedly.

Which means that the company now follows the advice it gives others.

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