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Ready for Kickoff!
Day 1, June 8
Day 2, June 9
Day 3, June 10
Day 4, June 13
Day 5, June 14
Day 6, June 15
Day 7, June 16
Day 8, June 17
Day 9, June 20
Day 10, June 21


June 7 - Back to the Front

“Million Pound Meltdown Tour” hits the road

Hello Northeastern Pennsylvania!

My people of the Philadelphia Cream Cheese. My land of the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory. The state that made Philly Cheese steak an American cultural icon.

Yesterday’s 397-pound food addict is today’s 245-pound healthy crusader for change. After turning my life around through sensible weight loss and exercise in 2001, 02 & 03, walking from Florida to Boston in 2004 and running the Boston Marathon in 2005, I’ve come here to light a fire under countless people in this area who have lost hope.

The obesity statistics here are above the national average – and the stakes have simply never been higher. Blue Cross, WYOU and WBRE have teamed up to launch an unprecedented campaign for this area: The Million Pound Meltdown.

It is an amazing public health movement Blue Cross has initiated, and we are here to help you, educate you and inspire you in a way which hasn’t been done before. This 11 month effort to turn this area’s obesity epidemic around begins with a two week "walking and talking tour" through all 13 counties. We already know the negative effects of obesity -- in fact, many of us are living with those symptoms. Lots of folks have developed Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea (which I suffered from) and the 51 diseases associated with obesity.

But I’m also here to encourage people to look in the mirror and ask themselves about the other thing obesity negatively affects: the day-to-day quality of your life. I know in my case, carrying 397 pounds around affected everything I did from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed.

My ability to think clearly, to have energy to get through each day and enjoy my life. My health was not uneffected, either: I developed Sleep Apnea - a deadly disorder which affected my breathing. As a result I couldn’t even find salvation and comfort in sleeping at night. It wasn't until I was in my early 30's that I finally looked in the mirror and faced the truth. I realized that eating all those foods I loved simply wasn’t worth it. There was only one "positive" in being obese: I could eat all the food I wanted everyday. The world was my own personal buffet. As a result, everything else in my life -- from A to Z -- was negatively affected. Everything.

Well, five years, 150 pounds and 1,200 miles later I’ve got my health – and that’s the message I’ll bring to the people here in Northeastern Pennaylvania. Focus on health – not simply weight loss. Focus on the long term solution verses the short term fix. And be sure and sign up for the Million Pound Meltdown challenge. I know I would have loved this chance back in my 397 lb. days.

I come to this area not as a celebrity, a sports star or a pitchman for any particular diet – just your next door neighbor who managed to turn his life around and wants you to do the same.

People like the cab driver who drove me into Wilkes-Barre two weeks ago. And the sweet woman whose mini-van key was jammed in her door lock outside the Wachovia Arena. And two Blue Cross employees who have already shared their stories with me and who have pledged to take the first important steps towards health.

Together, here in this corner of Pennsylvania, we just may start a movement that could change America. For the better.

See you on the road!

Gary


Day 1, June 8 - More than 2,000 sign up for the Meltdown

What a spirited and wildly successful kickoff we had for the Million Pound Meltdown today in downtown Wilkes-Barre!

Team Meltdown met very early at the studios of our media partners, WBRE and WYOU for a series of appearances on “Pennsylvania Morning.” Host Kerry Shahen interviewed me, Blue Cross CEO Denise Cesare, and my “walking and talking” partner Dr. Carmella Sebastian, medical director for BCNEPA.

My Million Pound Meltdown tattoos were a big hit with the ladies and by early morning the buzz about the kickoff electrified the area. Downtown, the Meltdown sign-ups at Kirby Park kept the troops busy as a rapid-fire series of morning radio interviews flooded the airways. The team manning the Meltdown mobile and registration tables did a great job – signing up over 1,600 people by the kickoff (over 2,000 by day’s end).

Among those signing up was Janice, a delightful woman from Northeastern Pennsylvania who was finally facing her weight issues after years of struggle. Before she had even signed up, she was doing laps around the track at a pace I could only dream about in my old 397-pound days!

We followed that up with an energized rally at the Blue Cross Wellness Center as all the months of hard work and planning paid off. Sprinkled in with a crowd of excited Blue Cross and TV station employees were more folks eager to tackle their weight challenges, which is what this campaign is all about.

Several hundred walked from in front of the Wellness Center to Saxton Pavilion for a fun visit to their fitness center and a talk to their employees.

On that walk, I met nice guy named Richard, who has lost 100 of his 400 pounds. He heard about the Meltdown in the media, came out and peppered me with questions. It was great and I could tell from Richard’s attitude and gentle want-to-learn spirit that he was a man on the path to health – much like I was back in 2000. In the audience, during speeches by Dr. Carmella and myself, a sweet woman named Judy was learning as much as she could about emotional eating – or what I call Post Traumatic Stretch Disorder. Judy had been through a tough year relationshipwise and had recently lost her mother. We all go through tough periods and I’m confident that with the help of this amazing and unprecedented effort this woman will have happier and healthier days ahead.

We ended Day 1 at Offset Paperback, another chance to spread the Gospel of Girth. The packed crowd of 150 people were wonderful and their CEO Joe is a model for encouraging his employees to stay fit and healthy. How confident? His company pays for 100 percent of their health insurance.

Those are the kind of stories I will bring you in the days ahead.


Day 2, June 9 - A great walk and talk in Hazleton and Jim Thorpe!

Day 2 of the Million Pound Meltdown! We’re off and running now and already it’s apparent that this effort is a movement, not just an event. The Meltdown team started the day as we always do: morning radio and a short trip to the first “walk and talk” of the day, Hazleton Health Alliance. There we had a great walk with an enthusiastic crowd around the area followed by a speaking presentation. My co-host, Dr. Steve Rothstien from Blue Cross and I met dozens of people taking the first steps toward better health.

People like Wendy – a very sweet lady dealing with weight gain following an emotional roller coaster. She has every right – her 17-year old son was killed by a drunken driver and she’s on many medications including anti-depressants. Still this lady has a gleam in her eye and a beautiful smile on her face. She came to join the Meltdown and find her path to health. I recognize the look in her eyes, the look of a person who knows tomorrow is going to be a better day. We will help her get there.

Also joining the Meltdown – Frank – a very nice guy who has managed to lose a lot of weight already: over 120 pounds!

Judy and her mother also came out to walk with me. She’s hoping to lose over 100 pounds with our help. Her mom is incredibly supportive, walking with her daughter daily. That type of support can sometimes make all the difference in life. Kerry Shahen, my adorable co-host, was there as always covering the event for WBRE. A gaggle of media reporters also showed up - and the mood at the event was simply infectious! Perhaps the untold story of the day was registration for The Million Pound Meltdown - which many, many people showed up to do. I like the attitude folks, I really do.

From there we walked with a fun group of Blue Cross employees into downtown Hazleton to the senior center, where Mayor Louis Barletta joined us as well as WBRE’s Andy Mehalshick for a talk and lunch with a spirited group of seniors. Obesity knows no age limits and effects all types of people differently, and Dr. Steve and I brought a message about extending your life through eating right and exercise, and being around longer for your kids and grandkids. Many of the seniors actually ended up being more active and healthy than the younger people I have met with, right down to the 91-year old woman who walks every day and vowed to walk with me through all 13 counties this month!

Commissioner Bill O’Gurek of the beautiful town of Jim Thorpe presented Blue Cross with a proclamation later in the day. It recognized the amazing effort put forth by BCNEPA, WYOU and WBRE to turn this area’s obesity crisis around. Following the press conference we led a quick walk through town, which resembled a Swiss Village. Local residents seemed to get a kick out of a new addition to our tour: The Million Pound Meltdown moving billboard! This massive sign mounted on the back of a flatbed trails us in the Meltdownmobile. No one can say this new effort isn’t a colorful, upbeat campaign!

Next tour stop – Pocono Medical Center – East Stroudsburg. See you there!


Day 3, June 10 - The Meltdown shows support for people in the Poconos

Day three of the Meltdown and it’s been a great ride already. Actually it’s not a ride at all when you think about it – it’s a walk – but you get the drift!

We started out the day visiting the hard-working team at the Blue Cross office on Main Street in Stroudsburg. The employees were exited about the obesity campaign – and it wasn’t long until our Meltdownmobile pulled up in front of the office to register local folks for the weight loss contest.

These included a woman named Toni and her son Tyler. Toni had recently lost 90 pounds with the help of gastric bypass surgery. So why is she getting involved in the Meltdown? Well, with more weight to lose, Toni is looking for help and support, and that’s where we come in. I’ve always said that the surgery is a help – but by no means a quick fix for weight loss. In the end folks will still have to eat right and exercise. The effort by Blue Cross, WYOU, WBRE and myself will help guide her on to her goal weight. Who knows, this sweet lady may end up winning $1,000 from WYOU and WBRE as well!

Next stop for the tour? Pocono Medical Center, for a very fun lunch, speaking presentation and group walk. The crowd was engaged and excited, and Dr. Carmella from Blue Cross and myself talked the talk and walked the walk. One mother in attendance was there to get educated for her obese 11-year-old. That’s what I love about this effort – everybody in the audiences are there for a different reason, and all come away with a piece of a very complicated puzzle.

When the speaking presentation wrapped, we headed out for a quick walk around the area. Halfway through the walk the skies opened up and a heavy downpour rained on the group. Personally, after walking that morning I was enjoying the shower as was a sweet Italian woman named Johanna who walked with the crowd. Johanna, like the rest of us, was looking for inspiration – and since both her and I come from Italian families, who better to give her support than a former 397-pound Lasagna lover like me? Also walking with me was young Angelina Sebastian, the 11-year-old daughter of my co-host, Dr. Carmella Sebastian.

Speaking of kids, the day ended with an outdoor walk and talk with hundreds of excited School kids at Delaware Valley Elementary School in Milford. Now I love kids – and hope to one day become a father myself – but in the meantime bringing the message of eating right and exercise is something else I love to do. What can I say, I’m like a board game – good for kids 6 to 60!

Until next time, Northeastern Pennsylvania.


Day 4, June 13, Scranton

Up at 6am. Breakfast in RV on the way to the first event of the day. Morning radio via cell phone. Signing people up for the weight loss contest immediately upon arrival.

Ahhh - life on The Million Pound Meltdown. Deja Vu my friends – for me it’s 2004 the way it was meant to be done.

A nice guy named Philip approached the team outside our first stop – at The Community Medical Center in Scranton. I talked to Philip for a little bit and recognized the look in his eyes and the frustration in his voice. He was hoping to lose 150 pounds or better and was asking to register for the weight loss contest attached to our obesity awareness campaign. He’d just made the first step – getting involved in this extraordinary movement. Inside the Community Medical Center – a packed audience including a nursing group and the general public greeted Dr. Sebastian and myself with a warm welcome. People like Ann Harrington, The Dolly sisters and Mary Dipalma – all who came out to get on their paths to better health, or support our efforts to help others.

From there – myself and some of my Blue Cross entourage led a walk around the neighborhood and then over to stop #2 for the day, Marywood University. In tow was our “moving billboard”, police escort and our Million Pound Meltdown RV (the literal weight loss version of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine!). At Marywood, Dr. Carmella and I talked about the long-term weight loss fix (the path I’m on) versus the short term fix. It was great to meet so many people from NEPA excited about the Meltdown. We did Q&A, trivia, and laughed a whole lot (which I understand now burns calories as well!) as well as gave out t-shirts, wristbands and copies of my book “Big & Tall Chronicles”.

Later in the afternoon at The Boys & Girls Club in Scranton I talked with a group of 85 kids about the changes they can expect in the coming years – and how they will be less active and around more unhealthy food than they have encountered in their young lives. Were there a handful of “little Garys” there? If the statistics are correct, you can bet on it. But maybe, just maybe we broke through to some of them during our stop here to help them avoid a “waisted youth” like mine.

Peace,

Gary


Day 5, June 14, Honesdale & Tunkhannock

Over past couple of days we’ve hit some of the great restaurants here in NEPA (Smokey Bones and Coopers Seafood for instance) and every time we pull into the parking lot I ask my longtime road manager, Russell Surette, to park around back so folks won’t see our “Meltdown” mobile and lose faith in our message. Then it occurs to me that eating in these places IS the right message. You CAN eat out in outrageous restaurants like these – just be healthy about it. At Smokey’s I enjoyed a giant Cobb Salad (one of the best I’ve ever had). And at Coopers some delicious Baked Haddock with rice and even an appetizer of shrimp. And I swear to you I ate like this because I wanted to – not because of dozens of people who recognized me and wanted to check out what I was eating! Friends, my point is this: you don’t have to deny yourselves to get on the path to health – just eat healthy where you can, and treat yourself only every once in a while. Take it from me – I’ll probably have the ribs at Smokey Bones next time – but the difference is that I’ll also workout that day and eat lightly for breakfast and lunch. Okay, there’s my sermon for the day!

We racked up two more great events on our “walking & talking tour” today. In the AM, Dr. Steve from Blue Cross and I talked to a great group of folks at an outdoor event at the Wayne Memorial Hospital at the Stourbridge Mall in Honesdale. Kerry Shahen from WBRE and my assistant “The Kid” Jones introduced me to Dan – a great guy who drove over 30 miles to join the “Meltdown”. Dan IS a Gary Marino circa 2001 and is passionate about turning his health, and his life around. It says a lot about a guy clearly caught in the weight loss struggle who’s not only willing to come out to this event, but who talked to everyone – and I mean everyone - about his desire to lose the weight. Dan’s got a great personality and gentle soul and he’s one of the reasons I’m doing this event. I gave him a copy of my book, but after helping him register, I told him he HAD to email me as well. I want to keep in touch with him and do all I can to keep him on the road to health. I want Dan to live life the way it was meant to be lived!

After that, we headed to Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock. This much loved partner of Blue Cross’ really rose to the occasion for us – forming a committee two months ago to plan for our visit. And all that effort paid off. A packed crowd gathered in and around a tent for our speaking presentation on “The Meltdown” and immediately after joined me for a quick walk around the hospital in 90-degree heat. Real troopers all of them – but after all it is the meltdown! Walking with me in the crowd were people from all walks of life who all had a weight loss story of some kind. One beautiful young lady came to tell me that she had lost 70 pounds the same way I did – reading fitness magazines, studying her environment and learning about things she’d probably long been ignoring. When we interviewed her for the cameras she showed me her “before” photo and I was simply bowled over! AND even though she now looked like a true American beauty she was there in the audience and signed up for our weight loss challenge. This is a lady who realizes that the road of life is always under construction and she wants to keep on her health game. That’s what I call a person who’s changed for the long term.

Others from the Tunkhannock area visited with me - people who had lost weight with bypass surgery, Low Carb diets and just good diet and exercise over the past couple of years. As there always are at these events – there were several folks who were just looking for the inspiration to take that first step. Take it from me my friends – I’m not sure where my journey to health will end – but with 45 pounds of 200 left to go I can promise it always begins with one step!

See you tomorrow in Montrose and Towanda everybody. Come on join “The Meltdown!”


Day 6, June 15 - Montrose & Towanda

Hello Montrose!

Day 6 of "The Meltdown" and it gets better and better with each passing day. With every stop we make and with every daily tally of pounds lost through out the 13 counties we become more and more convinced that this was the right effort at the right time by the right team of people. BCNEPA, WYOU and WBRE have launched an effort that IS going to save lives.

We arrived in Montrose and led a 'Walk with the Doc" around the High School track- a long-standing tradition in this neck of the woods. A spirited group of people joined me for the walk - including a woman named Debbie and her 10 year old son John looking to get involved in the "Meltdown". No mother ever wants to see her child grow up with a weight problem and this woman is no different. We registered them for the contest and gave them both copies of "Big & Tall Chronicles" courtesy of Blue Cross. Also at the event I met a wonderful soul named Herman. He was recovering from knee replacement surgery and vowing to exercise more as soon as his recovery was complete. He was there with his supportive wife and I could see just from spending 30 seconds that he is passionate and genuine about turning his health around. Something tells me that with the help of the "Meltdown" Herman's got a shot to lose the weight and live life the way it was meant to be lived.

Later at our stop in Towanda at Memorial Hospital a packed crowd under a tent gave Dr. Steve and myself a warm welcome. Representative Tina Pickett presented Blue Cross with yet another Proclamation for its unprecedented efforts. It was another great stop for our "walking & talking tour" and the folks in attendance laughed, learned and worked on getting in shape. As always there were many different types of stories in the crowd. People who'd just lost some of the weight and were already enjoying the benefits of feeling healthy and looking better. People involved in great weight loss programs such as TOPs, Weight Watchers and OA also seem to be at every stop - taking advantage of the additional motivation and mental conditioning "The Meltdown" can bring. Young and old came out - and a good amount of them stuck around for our walk in the heat.

Three ladies in particular who joined our group walk really made us laugh: Frannie, Laura and the simply infectious Charlene. All three joined the Meltdown because they understand that this is about prolonging life at any age. I love hearing the stories of success at all these stops - and how people are getting motivation from our effort.

See you when we come to your town!


Day 7, June 16 - Wellsboro

My Lord do I love this town. Located among the roving hills and beautiful farmlands of central Pennsylvania it offers quaint shops, friendly people and programs designed to help turn the tide against the areas obesity crisis. Okay and I'll admit it - some great restaurants as well! Food is still great folks and one day or so a week I do treat myself -trust me my friends! Here's the difference between the old me and the new me: The old me would go back to the hotel after a great dinner and go to sleep. The new me understands that you need to exercise whether it was a healthy day or not! So there we were - my road manager Russ, Dr. Steve and myself (Gary Version 2.0) walking the treadmill at 9:30 at night.

We stopped today at another great partner of BCNEPA's the Tioga Obesity Collaborative. Sometimes it not the size of the crowd - it's the spirit of the crowd and that's what we had on the steps of the Rock L. Butler Middle School today. All types - young, old, healthcare professionals and people looking to get started showed up to say hello and register for the Million Pound Meltdown. And speaking of spirit - my co-host Kerry Shahen from WBRE and her talented cameraman came out as well - far from Wilkes Barre and late in the day considering they are up at 2-3am to do "Pennsylvania Morning". The coverage from both stations has only helped get the message out - that people have a real chance to change their lives in the summer of 2005!

As we always do, Dr. Steve Rothstien (who I'm convinced is the next big media star from NEPA) led a group walk following our brief speaking presentation. When we say we're getting all types of people involved I mean all types. Take for example Brandy, a healthy and beautiful young mother who brought her healthy and adorable son Riley. Why are they there? Brandy's family has just gone 100% organic and she wants to instill in her young son the importance of always eating right and exercising. Perhaps even having him hear stories like the ones walking with us will stay with this young one and keep him from a "waisted youth". What a great mom.

Amy also came up to tell me how inspired she is by the efforts myself, Blue Cross and WYOU, WBRE are making. Just what we want to hear Amy! What's more Amy is doing it not for cosmetic reasons - but because she wants to be around for her son and grandchildren. The gleam in her eye and the fact that she came out tells me this lady is about to turn her life around. Very cool.

See you tomorrow in Sullivan County!


Day 8, June 17 - Sullivan County

The tour is in Laporte now and no matter how far in the great outdoors we travel it’s clear that the “Million Pound Meltdown” is registering on people’s personal Richter scales. At stops in Eagles Mere and Lock Haven, I feel like the Toastmaster General of the “Meltdown” Majority!

More importantly, people like Carol from Muncy Valley are attending our events. Carol came out to our stop at County Courthouse today and she’s passionate about two things: first to lose the weight and get healthy for herself and second to be a good role model for her students. Now that’s a person who embodies the heart and soul of a teacher. Carol acknowledged that there are a lot of “little Garys” at her school – not unexpected in a country where one in three are obese. Type 2 Diabetes - once known as “Adult Onset” diabetes - is now a major threat to our children. In fact, one in three born in the year 2000 will develop type 2 Diabetes. Here’s what else concerns me at the YMCA and school stops we’ve done: some of the children are seriously overweight at alarmingly young ages. 6,8,10, 12 years old. Now even I was skin and bones at that age my friends. You have to ask yourself Northeastern Pennsylvania – what becomes of a child who is already overweight at such a young age? What is their quality of life and state of health at 16, 20, 25 and 30? The mission of our “Meltdown” is to help turn this around for both the kids and their parents. Ultimately, both must support each other in order to succeed.

Next stop of the day? Weis Market in Lock Haven, a company who (like Offset Printing last week) encourages employees to keep healthy lifestyles. They even publish their own healthy paper these days called “Health Weis”. Not long after we arrived a nice lady named Roberta strolled up and informed us that her husband Wayne had already registered for the contest. And although she had some weight to lose herself, Roberta felt she was healthy overall and decided against signing up. Now maybe it was the $1000 prizes WYOU and WBRE are offering, or maybe she wanted to be a good wife and support her husband, but whatever the reason Roberta signed up 10 minutes later. Perhaps in the end what Roberta realized is that obesity can affect the quality of your life even if your blood pressure, cholesterol and heart is still good. Whatever her reason for reconsidering – I’m proud of her for signing up!

By the end of our visit we’d signed dozens and dozens of “Meltdown” enthusiasts for the weight loss contest and obesity campaign and met many nice employees excited about their supermarkets involvement with our effort.

See you back in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre on Saturday!

G


Day 9, June 20 - Williamsport

Get ready for a shocker: Last year’s “Million Calorie March” did not change me as a person. Repeat – my 1205-mile walk of the Eastern seaboard last year – where I met thousands of people during our stops in various cities and towns did NOT change me as a person. I always thought it would – but in the end perhaps the 15 –20 mile walking days combined with the busy media stops and live events was too rigorous to ever truly get to know the people on the road from Florida to Boston.

Do you want to know what has changed me? The Million Pound Meltdown - the event and campaign for which Blue Cross, WYOU and WBRE asked me to be the spokesman. Moreover, the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania, whom I’ve met during this very important event, have changed me forever – and made me a better person. At every one of our stops I’ve met people exactly like I was back in 2001. Good people who have struggled for years to get control of their eating disorders and food addictions. Folks whose lives have become a left hand turn because of an extremly difficult and very complex problem none of us ever saw coming.

The past two weeks all across the 13 counties I’ve met scores of people suffering from any one of the 51 diseases associated with obesity: diabetes, stroke, cancers and the disorder that was nearly written on my death certificate back in 1999, Sleep Apnea. And many more people who may not be dealing with the inevitable health problems quite yet – but who know their quality of life will never be what it should be unless they get control of their weight problems once and for all.

Many came out to our registration stops at the Steamtown Mall in Scranton on Saturday and at Sneaker King in Wilkes–Barre (a proud new sponsor of The Million Pound Meltdown!) and were looking to kick start their lives. And at our stops today in Williamsport guys like Mark and Mike came out to our Lycoming County Mall walk at noon (everything but the food court!) to learn about losing weight for the long term and keeping it off. Mike in particular – with a new baby at home and another on the way - realizes that this is about being around for his kids and grandkids.

Brave people from all across NEPA have all come out to our events and I recognize the look in their eyes. It’s the look that only someone who has been there can truly understand. I admire everyone’s courage and willingness to talk to the media and myself about their very personal reasons for joining “The Meltdown”. In the end there are just two things I want them to realize: first that obesity is the common denominator in many, many of the health problems they are suffering with everyday. By eating for their bodies and not for their taste buds and building 30 minutes of exercise into every day – they CAN reverse the damaging effects of obesity.

And second, we are not asking you to give up food – which is one of the things many of us look forward to everyday. I am asking you to change your approach to food and what it may have done to your life. As the summer of 2005 moves on and this effort continues on – I hope these two things continue to orbit people’s conscience here in NEPA.

As our kickoff tour for the “Meltdown” winds down, please know that I’ll be back and forth a lot over the course of the next year doing whatever I can to support you on your path to health.

See you back in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday!


Day 10, June 21 - Wilkes-Barre

Well the "kickoff" walk of all 13 counties in NEPA is complete - the final stops being CTE Corporation, Motorworld and finally a walk and "rally" at the Wyoming Valley Mall.

The walks at Wyoming Valley Mall were an absolute blast. We did three "mall walks" and were joined by great people. One of those people was Jaime, a woman with a great sense of humor and sweet spirit. Jaime came out to let me know she'd already lost 6 pounds on "the meltdown". She handed me a handwritten card, which said it all:

"Thank you for doing the Meltdown to let everyone know there is always hope left even when you feel it is all gone. I can do it, I really can. I know after today I will probably not see you again, but I will always feel you behind me backing me up to continue making myself healthier each and every day."

Well, Jaime, this recovered food addict isn't going anywhere. Myself, Blue Cross and everyone else involved in "The Meltdown" will always be there for people like yourself who believe you can find the path to help and happiness.

I never thought I was the type of person who could inspire people to get in shape. Back in 2001 I definitely thought I was the type who could inspire people to STAY in shape! Just one look at me would put the fear of God in them to hit the local gym and avoid ending up like me. But now after 150 pounds, a 1200-mile walk and a walking and talking "Meltdown" tour of NEPA I feel I do have something to give.

There's been a lot of talk about "believing" in this area lately. Some are trying and others are still cynical. But at the end of the day, Northeastern Pennsylvania, just know that I believe in you. I believe you have the power to change, and to dig deep to fix yourselves, just like I did back in 2001. Perhaps in the end - overcoming personal challenges like obesity and the 51 other diseases associated with it might be what we are all here for to begin with. In the end, perhaps we can all evolve to be better healthier people live our lives the way they were meant to be lived.

I'll see you in September to award the $1000 winners of the contest and see how everybody's doing. I love Blue Cross and both TV stations for believing in me and asking me to be their spokesman. I love the Times Leader for printing my road journals. And I love the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Keep dissecting your eating habits. Build 30 days or more into your daily life. Stay vigilant about your health. And in the end my friends - keep on "Melting!"

See you in September!