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Melissa Campbell got hooked five years ago. It was a new challenge.

Sometimes, while she struggled to learn, it made her feel stupid. But every little bit of progress thrilled her.

Her muse: hula hooping.

“It was like defying gravity, and it was something I could get better at,” Campbell said. “It gave me a lot of confidence right away and I felt like I was achieving something.”

Now, the owner of Filigrees Gallery & Boutique on Elmwood Avenue is trying to spread her love for the hip-gyrating activity throughout Buffalo. Saturday afternoon, she hosted the first-ever Hoopathon on the campus of SUNY Buffalo State – a community and charity event centered on fitness, including games, prizes and vendors. An estimated 200 entered the college’s Social Hall for the festivities.

The main event of the day was an endurance challenge, in which competitors set out to hoop for the longest time. At the starting time of 2:10 p.m., there were 10. By 3:40, it was down to four.

“You’re very inspiring to all of us and we wish you well on your tummy muscles tomorrow,” Campbell announced on stage.

More than two hours into the event, with two competitors remaining, there was a tiebreaker – hula hooping in the opposite direction. Ruby Leary, 14, of Elmwood Village, was the eventual winner.

“It was exciting,” Leary said. “My legs got really tired, but I wanted the prize, and it was fun to win.”

Leary earned a gift card to the Second Chic consignment shop on Elmwood, a wallet and a necklace from Airport Plaza Jewelers.

Kiley McGroder, 11, also of Elmwood Village, was the runner up. Each of the four finalists received prizes.

The event also included performances by Buffalo’s Best Hula Hoopers, Buffalo Contact Improvisation, the MRoS Jazz Ensemble and Dynamic Drum Arts of WNY.

Grace Turner, who teaches African drum and dancing, performed with her students in Dynamic Drum Arts. Turner said she enjoyed the positive vibe of the event and was grateful that Campbell, whom she had met at other community events, reached out to her.

Attendees paid to enter and proceeds benefited the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, the Buffalo Public Schools’ physical education department and the Center for Personalized Medicine at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

email: amansfield@buffnews.com