Culver City Observer -

Get Your Zumba® On For a Good Cause


September 18, 2014

By Sandra Coopersmith

Feature Writer

What do you call a woman who transformed herself from a "morbidly obese couch potato" (her words) to a vibrant Zumba® instructor whose busy schedule includes teaching several one-hour classes each week at various locales?

How about perpetual motion machine? Someday we may produce one; until then we have longtime culver city resident Yvonne Griffin Beraldi, who will be hosting a Zumbathon® charity event to be presented by the City of culver city in association with the culver city Senior Citizens Association, Inc. on Friday, October 17 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Veterans Memorial Building, 4117 Overland Avenue in culver city.

Tickets can be obtained for $5 at the senior center's business desk before October 15. Price at the door is $10. The event is open to those 18 years of age and older. Early purchases are encouraged as a large turnout is expected and space is limited. Total proceeds will go to CCSCA, Inc. to aid in its ongoing support of culver city's senior and social services programs.

Beraldi, who teaches Zumba® Gold at the center, will be available there to sell raffle tickets. She recommends buying early to prevent a possible long line the day of the event. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5. For additional information regarding this event and for her schedule, call her at (424) 222-6197.

"There will be raffles, prizes, refreshments and giveaways," she said, citing the following sponsors: William 'Dan' Yoder, Greg 'Big G' Turner, Joanna Robinson, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles (Public Affairs – Jamila Veasley and Health Education – Brooke Greenlee), At Home Nursing Care (Adriana Beischl), Urban Blendz Barber Salon (Manuel 'Manny' Diaz), KJ's Designs 4U (Jamul Jones), Herbalife (Osa Griffin), Capriotti's Sandwich Shop (Adrian Torres) and Nail Fashions & Spa (Daniel Tu). "All of these individuals have been so gracious as well as generous to me," she added.

Additionally, she has arranged for Jackie McGee, a fellow member of the Zumba® Instructor Network, to make a guest appearance at the event.

"I am a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and LVN in the health and wellness capacity," McGee said. She teaches at various clubs, including LA Fitness and Coast Fitness, and credits Beraldi as the reason she became licensed to teach Zumba®.

McGee had been taking Zumba® classes when time permitted but hadn't thought about teaching until experiencing Zumba® Gold, which she felt was doable. Upon learning that the prerequisite to teach Zumba® Gold was certification in the high energy Zumba® Basic, she decided to wait.

Then synchronicity came into play.

"About six months later I went to a wellness expo and a representative from Kaiser handed me Yvonne's card, and it said Zumba® instructor," McGee explained. "I kept the card. Well, a few months later one of the ladies from my senior fitness class also handed me Yvonne's card. I asked her was it the same Yvonne that teaches at Kaiser and she said yes. Our paths crossed when we both did the exercise component at Didi Hirsch and the Be Well program.

"Yvonne is such a sweet, giving person and such an inspiration. So positive. We had a ball when we took the Zumba® Toning instructor training at the IDEA World Fitness Convention. Most of the instructors that I have met are very happy to help you out. But Yvonne is the reason I finally decided to just do it."

Beraldi is indeed an inspiration, and those who only knew her "back in the day" would be stunned at the trim, fit dynamo she has become, one whose life journey led her from being a perpetual patient to today's energetic, dedicated Zumba® instructor.

Zumba®, a worldwide exercise and dance sensation inspired by Latin dances that include the meringue, salsa, cumbia and samba, also incorporates other international rhythms. It came about as the result of a fluke, tracking back to an aerobics class in Cali, Colombia. Teacher Alberto "Beto" Perez arrived one day having forgotten his traditional class music. Fortunately, he had his own music with him that he substituted, resulting in an improvised session that was a huge hit with his students.

The Zumba® name was trademarked in 2001, two years after Perez introduced his Latin-inspired fitness class in the United States. A variety of Zumba® classes and certifications now exist. (Zumba®, Zumba Fitness® and the Zumba Fitness logos are registered trademarks of Zumba Fitness, LLC.)

Beraldi's story is one of remarkable achievement as well, rooted in a childhood and young womanhood beset with physical and emotional abuse, leading to self-destructive life decisions that included using food for comfort.

Several years ago, despite a diagnosis of chronic morbid obesity, she had continued to gain weight and topped the scales at 350 pounds. She was afflicted with a number of ailments, and paramedics were frequently rushing her to the hospital. By December, 2009, she had gotten to less than 300 pounds, but with legs and feet swollen to elephantine proportions she was again facing the cellulitis from which she repeatedly suffered. Her turning point came when her vascular surgeon informed her there was no surgery for her condition, and she could look forward to spending her life in a wheelchair.

With that image as motivation, Beraldi entered Weight Watchers in February, 2010, determined to adopt a healthy lifestyle. The pounds started dropping and her profound transformation was underway, leading to her Zumba® Basic certification in August, 2011.

In January, 2012 she became a Zumba® Gold instructor and is a familiar face at the culver city Senior Center. She also gets people moving at Kaiser Permanente, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services and Inglewood Southside Christian Church. Her Chair Zumba® class at Didi Hirsch is designed for those with limited physical ability.

Additionally, Beraldi holds a Healthy Living instructor certificate obtained in December, 2012 through Kaiser Permanente, where she co-teaches Healthy Living With Chronic Conditions.

It doesn't stop there. She has appeared at numerous community outreach events. Upcoming ones include a forum at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles on September 19, a health fair at Kaiser Inglewood on September 20, and The Taste of Soul festival in Los Angeles on October 18.

Beraldi reflected on "one of the most truly awesome experiences of my life" that occurred June 29. She had been invited to attend the National Spina Bifida Conference at the Disney Hotel in Anaheim, and was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and willingness of the 40-50 participants who attempted Zumba®, all but a handful being in wheelchairs.

That experience, which she describes as "nothing short of phenomenal," finally convinced her to obtain the Zumba® Toning certificate that she received this August, likening it to "going 10 rounds with Mike Tyson! But it's a good hurt, because I accomplished a task way past my comfort zone."

Barbara DeAngelis, a teacher in the field of relationships and personal growth, once said that "the journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place." And Beraldi, a veritable force of nature, is dancing up a storm with Zumba® clearly a key factor in her continuing journey.

She enthusiastically urges everyone to "take that first step. It's fun."


Reader Comments

Karinjoy writes:

What an inspirational story, Sandra! That is just miraculous the way she went from 350 pounds to a Zumba instructor. And I also loved the last few sentences, about the journey between being what's important. That is SO TRUE. It can be a JOY to get into shape and that message needs to get ut. You're doing it once, Sandra, letting us know about the good news that's out there, all around us!

Tex writes:

Herbalife operates very similar to Amway, the world's largest MLM scam. Read about both of them here:


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