Sunday, March 30, 2014


For some people losing is winning and that was not only the goal but an adopted lifestyle of one individual who set out to win her body back by losing the weight that was keeping her from attaining happiness. Megan Skilling has worked hard to regain control of her weight situation and has become and inspiration to all around her. So how did she do it - how did she lose over 100lbs and continues to keep off the pounds? Let's find out!

Skilling said she had tried several times to lose and found that nothing was really working for her. "I joined a gym and hated every minute of it," she said. "We even have a treadmill and elliptical in the basement" but that too just wasn't enough to get her going. Unable to find the power within herself she found the strength in a higher power.

"My pasture gave a sermon on why resolutions fail. He said 'its easy to make a promise to yourself and let yourself down. Instead, why not make a promise to God. It's much harder to let him down.

Doing it for a cause bigger than her self provided her with the drive to get back to the gym. This time she thought it was going to be different. Sadly a few months later her visits to the gym decreased. "I was losing interest because I wasn't seeing results as fast as I wanted."

Then everything changed when a friend had invited her to attend a Zumba® class. She attended her first class on April 25, 2011. She remembers at first struggling physically and mentally. "At 330-plus pounds just standing for an hour was hard, never mind dancing," she said

Despite the difficulty, she continued to return to class. Fast forward three years and Skilling is not only still doing Zumba® but has been a certified instructor for over two years.

April marks the anniversary of her journey with Zumba® and she is constantly reminded of how far she has come with an annual photo. However, this also reminds her of the psychological struggle put herself through. "When you are over weight it takes courage to go to a gym or go to a class. I already felt self conscious about my body and now others were going to be looking at me, making judgments," she remembered. I had to get passed the that and be proud of the fact that I was taking the steps to becoming a healthier and happier person."

Having lost so much weight has changed her life and now allows her to do things she has always wanted and dreamed of doing. In the last year alone she has completed two 5K runs and plans on running another one this fall. But more importantly, she is now able to do some of the simpler things that we sometimes take for granted like just sitting on the floor - something that she truly has grown to love doing with her students in her classroom.

Flying in planes is now easier and more comfortable without the need of an extension pieces for her seat belts. Skilling's life changing experience has also lead her to an active life of exciting activities which have included zip lining and skiing for the first time ever.

For her the door has been opened. Less of saying no to things that she would like to try and a lot more of saying yes. "I would love to get down to 165lbs," she said. That is what she weighed in sixth grade.

So what advice does she have for others trying to regain control of their body weight? "Don't look at the big goal - you will only get discouraged," she urges people. "Set small goals." Every time she hit one of her benchmarks she would take a photo and place it in her scrapbook.

Another piece of advice she wants people to walk away from her story is to find a family - a group that makes you feel good and gets you motivated to keep coming back for more. "Going to class gave me friends - something I lacked, and these friends kept me coming back.," she said. "It provided socialness. We would laugh and have fun. The working out part - well that was just a bonus."

Skilling has been so successful in her weight loss endeavors that she had lost 40% of her original body weight faster than her skin could recover. Which translates to loose skin hanging off her body that was once filled with fat. After a long internal debate she finally decided to get surgery done to remove the loose skin which was causing pain and discomfort when she worked out. "I wanted to fix it on my own," she said but then remembered that she was never really on her own. "I had my family, friends and God all backing me up."

Throughout the course of the last three years she has learned that there is really no right way or one way to lose weight. She also has come to understand that there are ups and downs along the way and that "you will slip up - you will get that flat tire."

The challenge is to all yourself the forgiveness of your slip up and continue on to your destination. Skilling remembers when her doctor used to inform her yearly that her tests came back fine but his only concern was her weight. An issue that he said would only change once she was ready to make a change - once she really wanted it. "And three years ago, I decided that I wanted it, she said.

Nowadays one could say Skilling has caught the workout bug. In addition to Zumba® she now does a variety of workout routines that include Bokwa®, P90X, Butts and Guts, and even running.

Want to know more about Skilling's workout check out her instructor page -

Monday, March 24, 2014


Now that the Sochi Winter Olympics are over we may all have a better understanding of some of the winter sports we enjoyed following. In our little corner of the world, our family fell in love with the Skeleton event. The luge is impressive, the bobsled amazing...but going headfirst down a sheet of ice on nothing more than a small sled at upwards of 80 mph...well that is crazy...and has earned our respect!

This is why when we found a young woman from New Glouctier who is on the National Skeleton Development Program...we jumped at the chance to profile her. We traveled down to Sherri Emery's neck of the woods and had an amazing time trying out her sled and really getting to know this incredible woman who sports not only an ear to ear smile...but also a first-class attitude.

Here is our interview with Miss Emery:

DNA: Where are you from what are you currently doing with your life?

Miss Emery: "I am from New Gloucester, Maine and I am a skeleton athlete, coach, trainer, and student."

DNA: What made you get into skeleton and do you normally look for thrill-seeking activities?

Miss Emery: "I was introduced to skeleton in Lake Placid, NY. In 2006, I watched the Torino Olympics and decided that was what I wanted to do. It wasn’t till 2008 that I became interested in skeleton. I would say that I like some thrill-seeking activities and some activities that are pretty calm. I really enjoy activities like reading, tennis, and golf. I also jump at the opportunity to go exploring new places and try new things. I would like to become a pilot and a business owner."

DNA: What drew you to this sport the most?

Miss Emery: "What drew me to the sport was the ice. I’ve always loved the Winter Olympics more than the summer Olympics... maybe its because I grew up in Maine. I have always admired bobsled too. When I went to Lake Placid in 2008, it was to take a bobsled ride. I saw skeleton and wanted to be in an individual sport, so I tried it and like it. 

DNA: How long have you been into the sport and how long have you bee associated with the National team?

Miss Emery: "I’ve been involved in the sport for 5 years but have only been competitive for two seasons. I am not on the national team, I am part of the development program. The top six athletes ranked in US Team Trials are named to the National Team."

DNA: How does one get on to such a team?

Miss Emery: "In order to be on the National Team I have to place within the top six athletes at US Team Trials in October."

DNA: Does this sport allow for you to travel a lot and how often do you get to travel for it? In addition to that what country has been your favorite so far?

Miss Emery: "The sport is all travel. There are only two places in the USA where I can train on a track. Lake Placid, NY and Park City, UT. So I can’t even train at home in Maine. All the other tracks are in Canada and Europe. So in order to get better, I have to travel to all of the 14 tracks. I’ve been to Lake PLacid, Park City, Calgary, Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Ireland all because of my sports travel. I just happened to stop in Ireland on the way home from one of my races.

Out of all those countries I would say Austria has been my favorite with Germany a close second. I am learning German and find their culture to be particularly interesting."

DNA: Where do you train for the sport and explain the facility for us?

Miss Emery: "I spend most of my training in Lake Placid, New York mainly because it is closest to home. Luckily in Lake Placid there is an Olympic Training Center where I stay. They have a gymnasium, cafeteria, housing, sports medicine, weight room, and lounges. It is perfect for an athlete to get stronger. The bobsled track in Lake Placid is a long tube of ice and concrete that twists and turns. I ride down it on my sled."

DNA: Have you ever competed nationally and how have you finished?

Miss Emery: "I have competed in national competitions and international competitions. I have recently claimed a bronze medal in US Championships and my best international placements was 6th in Lake Placid North American Cup Race."

DNA: How much control do you really have over the sled?

Miss Emery: "The control over my sled varies. It is made to bend around turns- so I press my shoulders or knees into it to steer it. I can change multiple variables to give me more grip on the ice by adjusting my runners (steel tubes that touch the ice) and the amount of arch in them."

DNA: Have you ever thought about the bobsled or the luge?

Miss Emery: "I thought about bobsled but wanted to be in an individual sport instead of a team sport. Luge was not an option to me, I really had no interest in it. I like the luge, but I do not want to be a luge athlete."

DNA: Where from here do you hope to go - what are your skeleton goals...and how close are you from reaching some of them?

Miss Emery: "My ultimate goal in skeleton is to make it to the highest level, which is the Olympics. But it is also much more than that. I want to get to that level because I’ve mastered the skills to be there. So in order to make it, I have to determine what my strengths and weaknesses are. Then I must develop my weaknesses, keep my strengths strong, and work some more on my weaknesses. This requires me to constantly question my thinking patterns, abilities, and goals to make them as efficient as possible. Right now I feel like I am in the middle. I am past just learning the basics but have not yet developed the advanced skills needed to consistently be on top. This is why training is so important."

 DNA: When did you first fall in love with the sport and what did your family first think? 14 What has the sport brought to your life?

Miss Emery: "I first fell in love with the sport, probably this year. I think before this year I was involved just to go to the Olympics. Now I have a whole different relationship with the sport. I have more respect for skeleton and the challenges it shows. In order to be the best, I’ve realized (through many mistakes mentally, physically, and emotionally) that I can’t hide or ignore my weaknesses. Somehow they will show up and it will hurt my performance if I do nothing about it. That’s why I really love the sport, because it forces me to develop myself even if I don’t really want to see things for what they really are. It’s a great wake-up call."

DNA: What do you enjoy most of the sport and is there a skeleton community?

Miss Emery: "The skeleton community is very different from most communities because we are all competing for ourselves and our team. Sounds counterintuitive? Well it seems like it sometimes. I’ve come across people who try to intimidate me to see how it affects me. I don’t really think that’s good sportsmanship but some people may not see it that way. Also it’s hard to help your competitors, but it needs to be done. I believe in karma and if the person beating me needs help with something and I am the only one that can help them, so be it I will help, may the better athlete win. Withholding helps me only, but when I need the help-will they help me? I just hope other athletes have the same view, and I have been fortunate enough to find some. I would say the best part about the sport is finding out all the little things about me that I can improve. I am sort of a reserved person most of the time and like to find ways to make things better including myself."

***To find out more about Sherri or follow her adventures visit*** 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Spirit is something that can be discovered but not taught. And there can be something said about the crazy spirits who battle the brisk February air in hopes to claim Camden Bowl's annual US National Toboggan Championship. DNA Photography ventured out to Hosmer Pond in February in hopes to catch the last few runs of the tournament and to see if reigning champions (Tim Flick and his crew) could repeat another clean sweep of all the major events as they did in 2013. The boys faired well and managed to repeat as the 2-man champions. Below find a current photo of Flick from this year's event in addition to a feature story we covered on him in the Lewiston/Auburn Magazine in December of 2012 (please not that we have added a few updates where we felt it was needed). 

Waking up to a fresh mound of virgin snow is a dream come true for many young Mainers. Grabbing a thin plastic sled and heading to the largest hill in the area becomes a priority. A strenuous trek through knee-high snow to the crest of the hill is the price that must be paid for an exhilarating journey down the slope. And after the adrenaline rush is over, it’s back up the hill again. Most of those who enjoy careening down hills on sleds are young, but not all. Timothy Flick, 48 (now 49), of Turner is one who refuses to let his inner child die and not only does he continue to slide down icy slopes, he is one of four teammates who have held the title of national toboggan champion.

Every February Camden’s Snow Bowl on Ragged Mountain is transformed into a national competition that draws in thousands of spectators and competitors. “This year marks its 23rd year,” Flick said. “I’ve been competing since 1993 and will keep competing until my body stops me from doing it.”

This national competition is rare and according to organizers it may be the only wooden toboggan race of its kind in the world. “There are teams that come from all over, some from Canada and one from as far down as Virginia,” Flick said. He started competing back when he lived in New York. His brother-in-law, Doug Pope of Warren, asked him if he would like to race in a toboggan competition that Pope’s employer, Bohndell Sails (owned by Bob and Susan Chase of Camden), was sponsoring at the time.

“I was familiar with Maine because my mother was from Farmington and we spent most of our summers here,” he said. “I figured tobogganing was something fun and different to try.” Flick helped Pope form teams and together they crafted their own toboggans to race.

The competition plays out as a fun-filled weekend for the whole family and comes complete with vendors, costume and food contests and a flurry of possible awards ranging from fastest kid’s run to the oldest team.

The original chute was built back in 1936 and then rebuilt again in 1954 by the local Coast Guardsmen. Rot forced the shutdown of the chute in 1964 and it was not resurrected until 1990. “It’s 400 feet long and empties onto a frozen Hosmer Pond,” he said. “You get going pretty fast and before you know it, you’re at the bottom quickly looking to make your way back up for another run.” Every team gets two runs in each contest they enter. “You want to try and get your first run in as early as possible before it warms up,” he said. “The colder it is the better your run will be.”

Records indicate that toboggans have reached speeds up to 40 mph on the chute. According to Flick several variables help or hurt the speed of a sled. “It has to be made of the right material,” he said, revealing that his team’s wood choice is ash. “It also helps to get as aerodynamic as possible; this means you need to be comfortable getting quite friendly with your teammates,” he said, elaborating on his team’s centipede-like formation they use in order to get all of the riders on their sleds. Sleds are inspected for length and weight amongst other strict requirements.

So what does it take to be a national toboggan champion? “Good craftsmanship, an understanding of the elements and the chute, and of course luck,” he said. Flick believes he has had his share of that seeing as last year was the first time he worked primarily alone on crafting one of his team’s sleds and it happened to be the one that his team used to secure and win their first four-person victory.

In 2013 Flick and company did what he believe to be the first true sweep by winning the 4-person-, three-person- and two person events.

So what draws this born-and-raised upstate New Yorker with a bachelor’s in biology to such a unique sport? “It has to be the overall fun of the event and the unique characters you get to meet that really makes the event enjoyable,” he said. “That and it is something different for people to experience and is a sure cure for cabin fever.”

(To read the complete unabridged story visit

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


 "Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." – Leonardo da Vinci

The above words prove to be true for one Wales resident, who at the age of 78, still regularly soaring high above the streets of Lewiston/Auburn in one of his three airplanes. Tom O’Connell tasted flight at a young age and cannot seem to satisfy his appetite for the thrill-seeking experience.

O’Connell was raised just fifteen minutes north of Bridgeport, CT – an area renowned for its revolutionary aircraft designs thanks to the innovative works of Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. The company was synonymous with the Corsair carrier-capable fighter aircraft which was used greatly in WWII and the Korean War. Growing up O’Connell’s backyard was a constant air show as the military ran regular test flights.

"All the times when we grew up, there were planes in the air doing stunts," he said. "It was a cradle of aviation and Bridgeport was constantly buzzing with aircrafts being ferried over from Long Island before being sent off to Europe." O’Connell was a very influential six-year-old boy as the nation readied to join the war efforts. Excitement was in the air and he caught the fever of flight and soon became a product of his environment.

Of the historic 110 years of man-powered flight, O’Connell has flown all but 51 of them and plans to continue doing so as long as his mind and body let him.

"During my younger years I worked my way up the ranks and when I was 22, I got my commercial license and from there I got my instructors rating," he said. "I also started working for Sikorsky amongst a lot of other places." He did a lot of jobs in sales and in the office at the airport, which was great because "at noon I’d go right across the way to the weather bureau and study patterns and watch them make weather maps," he said. "This was big because in those days there were no computers." The very next year he was flying co-pilot for Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. This lead to his hire at Mohawk Airlines where he co-piloted a B.A.C. III – which was the first regional jet that sat 74 passengers.

In just under four years he had become captain which he carried out until his retirement on December 31, 1993. During his career he worked at LaGuardia and Logan airports before moving northbound to New Hampshire and then finally in 1979, landed in the place he now calls home – Elm Valey Farm in Wales, Maine. Since moving there, he has been chartered to fly such political figures as Governors Angus King and former Maine Senator Olympia Snow through smaller private airlines.

O’Connell currently works for Twitchell’s Airport and Seaplane Base and has done so since his moved to the area. You can find this family run airfield off Route 4 in Turner. The airport was established in 1947 and is currently owned and operated by Dale Twitchell, Kelvin and Kurt Youland
"It is a great outfit to work for," O’Connell said. "You can come up here with the whole family and have a lot of fun. We have some good people here and it really is one of the best places to come to learn to fly."

O’connell currently instructs approximately 10-15 students and since his commercial retirement he has really grown to love instructing new pilots. There is no hiding this man’s passion as his eyes fill with excitement when watching an up-and-coming pilot battle the wind during a landing on one of the airport’s runways.

O’Connell, still much like that starry eyed six-year-old boy watching the planes soar overhead, is always eager to get his feet where he believes they truly belong - back in the sky. For more information about the history of Twitchell’s or to learn about their flight offers visit

(For our full story featured in LA Magazine visit. ***Update the LA Magazine has been cancelled.