Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unlikely people
Generation Excel’s founder is an author, activist, film maker, motivational speaker and media spokesman who encourages people to "achieve health and wellness at any weight and never give up the fight."
Back in 2001 two things were probably unimaginable to most Americans: first that America’s obesity epidemic would rage so out of control it would become front page news with reality television shows, national weight loss competitions, Presidential initiatives and daily media stories.
Second, that a former 397 pound food addict named Gary Marino would lose 150 pounds and emerge as national media spokesman for inspiring people to embrace their health. But in 2004, Gary - perhaps the most unlikely person ever - would do just that by launching the country’s first ever cross country health & wellness walk called the “Million Calorie March”. A daunting 1,200-mile trek from Florida to Boston with a kickoff on national television, sponsors, a road crew and a camera crew in tow, “the March” would become a regular segment on ABC’s “Live with Regis & Kelly” and reach over 70 million people via FOX News, People Magazine, USA Today and scores of radio stations across the country.
With “achieve health first and foremost” being the message, the Million Calorie March proved to be only the warm up lap for Marino, who went on to helm 2 more breathtaking walking campaigns, Pennsylvania’s “Million Pound Meltdown” (2006) and North Carolina’s “Million Step March” (2008) as well as the impactful community campaign “Inspiring Wellness” (2009) with his friend and mentor Dr. Howard Rankin. In the years since, his non-profit foundation has produced over 200 events nationwide as well as the award winning documentary “Million Calorie March: The Movie” (which will air in 2011 on a major cable TV network). Gary’s self help autobiography “Big & Tall Chronicles” was distributed nationwide by Barnes & Noble bookstores and in 2008 he won the prestigious “Freddie Health Award” previously won by Bill Gates, Peter Jennings and Magic Johnson among others.
Through it all Marino’s personal battle with weight continued - but he lived his “stay in the fight” mantra by running the Boston Marathon and climbing Mount Washington between campaigns. In the end Gary may never have achieved the hard body status Americans pine for…but instead became a powerful inspiration for millions of Americans to dig deep, stay in the fight and achieve a measurable degree of health no matter what the numbers on the scale might be.
ABOUT GARY'S NON-PROFIT FOUNDATION
In 2004 Generation Excel kicked off with the USA's first ever cross-country obesity awareness walk. The 1200 mile Florida to Boston "Million Calorie March" was a grassroots, walking and talking tour of the eastern seaboard it set the nation's obesity epidemic before millions. With its unique and inspiring message of hope, the "March" went on to raise $150,000 for the obesity fighting non-profit Generation Excel and reach over 70 million people through appearances in local, statewide and national media such as FOX News, ABC's Live With Regis & Kelly", USA Today and People Magazine, among others.
Marino's book, "Big & Tall Chronicles" was released nationally by Barnes and Noble Bookstores in the spring of 2005. Later that year, after completing the 109th Boston Marathon, Marino joined forces with Blue Cross Of Northeastern Pennsylvania to serve as spokesman & producer for the "Million Pound Meltdown." A two year media campaign focusing on weight loss and obesity awareness, the "Meltdown" challenge was designed to inspire and motivate the area's residents to get healthier. The campaign kicked off on June 8th, 2005 with much fanfare on TV, radio and print and resulted in over 52,000 pounds lost (confirmed by primary care physicians) by the end of 2006.
Much of 2007 was spent "off the road" and in editing and post-production studios on a film about Obesity In America, "Million Calorie March: The Movie." The 95-minute documentary is currently on the US Film Festival and health & wellness circuits and is a continuation of Gary Marino's mission: providing inspiration, motivation and education through unique, colorful and unconventional approaches. The film recently won an International "Freddie" from the health and medical media awards (a medical Oscar). A recent TV broadcast offer from a major national TV cable network suggests America may be inspired once again by "The Million Calorie March" in the near future.
In 2008, at the request of Blue Cross of North Carolina, Marino and team Generation Excel "recreated" the Florida to Boston walk as a brand new walking and fitness campaign for that state. The 600 mile, 75 day, mountains to the coast "Million Step March" across North Carolina traveled 12 miles a day though seven media markets. On the road with Marino (and Blue Cross employees) this time was a mobile wellness tour which barnstormed the area with over 60 live events. In addition, an inflatable "Shoebox Movie Theater" screened an edited version of the "Million Calorie March" documentary to audiences at nearly 40 campaign stops. In the end over 6400 people joined "The March" to walk over a half billion steps.
2009 saw Marino spread his inspiring message of hope to new areas of the country from Texas to Harrisburg to West Palm Beach. He also teamed up with Generation Excel mentor and board member Dr. Howard Rankin to launch the "Inspiring Wellness Campaign" in Hilton Head, South Carolina. It offered 8 weeks of free seminars, film screenings, guest speakers, beach walks and weight loss challenges to area residents.
These days, when he's not on the road producing campaigns, Marino is also a busy motivational speaker, lecturing for various Blue Cross Plans and corporate groups from Seattle to Boston. He is also writing his next book, "After The March: Confessions of an Obesity Crusader".