About 119 people gathered at a monthly meeting April 29, but something was noticeably missing.

Specifically, 777 pounds.

That’s how much weight a group of employees from, among other places, Pekin Hospital and Pekin Insurance were able to lose through a health initiative that ended last month.

Leap Into Wellness was a 9-week program coordinated by local health agencies that hoped to motivate community members to adopt healthy lifestyles, said Program Director Adrienne Southerland.

“We focused primarily on weight loss,” said Southerland, who is also the Community Health and Wellness Coordinator at Pekin Hospital. “But we also wanted to emphasize and empower (those involved in the program) to look at the bigger picture and try to incorporate a healthier lifestyle.”

While in many ways the program measured success through the amount of weight participants lost — the six people who lost the most weight won cash prizes — Southerland said they focused just as much on the long-term benefits of healthy living.

She sent out emails each week that motivated readers to stay on track, and also sought to teach people about workplace ergonomics as well as the financial side of healthy eating and living.

The monthly weigh-ins, meanwhile, helped participants track progress and see results.

“Having a pre- and post-weigh-in prevented a lot of discouragement among participants,” she said. “It was a way for them to gather themselves and see all the changes they had made.”

Though the program has officially ended, those who run it are hoping to keep people motivated.

Bill Shock, executive vice president of Unland Insurance, said the next focus will be on getting participants to continue to maintain those healthy habits.

Through partnerships with places like Parkside Athletics, Shock said they hope to develop more personal relationships and, through them, keep people focused on wellness.

“We thought we’d start to really engage people on a person-to-person basis,” he said.

Follow Robert Downen on Twitter at @Robert_Downen.