Thakkar and docs

From left; Dr. Vinod Thakkar, Dr. P.J. Patel, Dr. Martin Avalos and Dr. Francesco Ferretti.

South Florida State College has been coordinating the Heartland Senior Games for more than two decades. Last year more than 500 people competed in one or more of the 13 events offered. Thanks to the financial support of many local sponsors, shirts are provided to all participants, hundreds of medals are awarded and a complimentary lunch is provided at most of the events.

Once again, SFSC is pleased to have Drs. Thakkar, Patel, Avalos and Ferretti return as gold sponsors of the Heartland Senior Games. These gastroenterology specialists are well-known throughout the community for their medical skills and their charitable giving.

Dr. Vinod Thakkar was the founding member of the practice and has been serving Sebring residents for 40 years. He was joined in the practice by Dr. P.J. Patel some 16 years ago. Dr. Martin Avalos signed on with the team 11 years ago and Dr. Francesco Ferretti came on board six months ago.

The connection with the Senior Games is a good fit as the doctors have made it their mission to support the community that they serve. As well, each has an interest in sports. Dr. Thakkar is an avid tennis player who can be found playing at the Thakkar Tennis Center on a regular basis. Dr. Patel competes in Ultimate Frisbee, tennis and pickleball. Soccer, biking and running are the activities favored by Dr. Avalos while Dr. Ferretti enjoys golf.

Keeping fit and encouraging their staff to do the same is important to the doctors. Even though they would lose patients if people paid closer attention to their eating habits and fitness routines, a healthier population would be welcomed by all four.

The doctors recommend striving for a balanced diet high in fiber, eating less food at each sitting, avoiding fatty foods and eliminating smoking and alcohol combined with more exercise to increase metabolism which would help greatly to improve circulation and reduce obesity.

Playing any of the sports in the Heartland Senior Games (bowling, cycling, golf, pickleball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis or tennis) for an hour or more on a regular basis will get the adrenaline going, free the mind of stress and improve metabolism. Taking part in the Games other events (bridge, euchre, mah jongg) will help to keep the mind active.

Any man or woman aged 50 or older is encouraged to register for the Senior Games. The $25.00 entry fee allows participants to compete in as many of the events as desired and, as mentioned above, includes a dri-fit shirt, lunch at most events and a good chance to take home medals which are awarded to the top three in each five year age/gender group.

For the first time, registration can be completed online by visiting

Registrations must be received at the college at least two weeks prior to the first event in which a competitor is entered.

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