Success at kids weight loss camp

Reeders, Pa. - Sept. 8, 2008

Austin Repsher, 13, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania gave us a mini-tour of 'Camp Pocono Trails' earlier this summer. He seemed like a happy kid. Like many other kids, he came to the camp to lose weight. For him, the extra weight wasn't just slowing him down physically it was also taking a heavy emotional toll.

"No one wanted to be his friend because of his weight, he said, just kids being really nasty with their comments," his mother Sue Repsher said, adding Austin's grades had also started to slip at school and he almost quit football, his favorite activity.

"He wasn't the same kid," Austin's father said. "He didn't talk much, stayed upstairs in his room, closed off basically."

Austin said he felt like he was the only kid in the world struggling, until he got to camp. He met kids like Tiffany King from North Carolina. She was 12-years-old, nearly 300 pounds, an also struggling emotionally.

"You hide in your shell and you don't come out and show yourself," she told us earlier in the summer.

But during their time at camp, the kids here learned to eat healthy and increase their activity. They also made new friends. "Nonstop-- it's Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany," Tiffany said describing the friendships she'd made. She lost 37 pounds in eight weeks and is determined to lose more.

ustin came back to Bethlehem just as football season started. He's now 41 pounds lighter, his feet quicker and he's got his confidence back.

"It was something that basically changed my life," he said.

Now Austin is pushing to lose more weight at home. Tony Sparber, the camp's director, said that's the tough part.

"We just hope and pray what we taught them is something they will implement when they go home," Sparber said.

While many people blame schools, fast food restaurants or video games for the childhood obesity epidemic, Sparber said it's up to parents to help kids avoid those obstacles and live healthy. "The parents need to set the example and say let's do it together, not 'you do this while I sit on the couch drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette' you know," Sparber said.

The Repshers say they're all changing their lifestyles together. "We took everything out of the kitchen and got rid of the junk," Sue Repsher said.

Losing weight will prevent medical problems for kids in the future. But Sparber says boosting their self-esteem is just as important for their well-being.

Austin said, "There's always going to be tough times in your life but someway, somehow you're going to be able to get through it."

All together, the kids at Camp Pocono Trails lost a total of 9,400 pounds in six weeks. That's about three pounds per kid per week.

Tiffany has an extra incentive. If she is able to maintain her weight loss, she'll get another eight-week scholarship to the camp next summer.

If you'd like to hear more about how parents can help kids get and stay healthy, click on the link to watch more of the interview with the camp's directorTony Sparber.
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