MERRIFIELD — Gary Walters, 46, wants to go from Jell-O man to iron man.
And he wants to take as many people with him as possible.
In Walters’ 10th challenge to raise funds, awareness and mentors for Kinship Partners, he is planning what he calls a trifecta of activities aimed at getting into a small club of Americans at a healthy weight.
Walters said estimates show 38 percent of Americans are at that healthy weight mark. At Clow Stamping in Merrifield for the kick-off announcement, Walters said he wasn’t among that healthy weight minority.
At 5 feet 7 inches-and-a-half, Walters said the health charts note his weight should be 178 pounds. He joked with Clow Stamping employees that he wasn’t quite at that target, weighing in that morning at 272.
Getting in shape isn’t as glitzy as a walking or biking across the nation. But Walters said with Americans at alarming rates for being overweight or obese, getting in shape is the most difficult task.
Unlike his other challenges where people followed the progress through trip updates, this challenge invites them to take an active part.
“Everybody can literally participate this year,” Walters said.
Individuals can use the Walters Wacky Adventures Facebook page to set healthy fitness goals, offer suggestions for activities and workouts and even set up group workout sessions even if it’s getting together for dog walking.
Walters’ goal is to reach his fitness level by either losing 94 pounds or reaching a healthy body mass index of 25 percent or lower. Walters said Twyla Flaws, personnel manager at Clow Stamping, wanted him to participate in the company’s fitness challenge and be able to maintain a healthy weight through June 2013.
“I have to get it off and keep it off, which isn’t American,” Walters said. He gained weight back after losing 100 pounds in one year for his Kinship challenge in 2007. To reach his goal, Walters told gathered Clow employees he needs others.
“Peer pressure is an interesting way to make sure you are doing what you are supposed to do,” he said.
People are invited to put together their own fitness plans and goals and add them to the Facebook page. Walters said they may become the Jell-Oites.
Walters plans for the trifecta include bicycling 200 miles in one day in September and running the Twin Cities Marathon in October.
To lose the weight, Walters plans to eat a healthy diet, control portions and be more active, including walking and running.
“Once in my life — just for a day — I’d like to have abs,” he said.
Wednesday, Tara (Clow) Moghadam, a Clow Stamping owner, encouraged employees to take part in Every Body Wins, the Clow wellness program. The company offered incentives and challenges to encourage employees to participate.
The wellness program was something Walters, through his company Fiducia Benefits Group, worked on with Clow Stamping, which is one of his clients.
Moghadam said the company cares about the well being of employees. She said: “Too often people don’t start paying attention to their health until it’s compromised.”
She said Walters’ challenges, which are aimed at helping Kinship Partners and its work to match children with adult mentors, are a valuable tool to draw attention to a worthwhile organization.
Walters said: “Kinship Partners is why we do all this stuff.”
Kinship Partners is a youth mentoring program, providing volunteer mentors for children ages 5-14. The children are usually from single-parent families and are referred to Kinship through the school system.
David Downing, Kinship Partners executive director, said it’s sad to think in this area rich with lakes, there are children who don’t have the opportunity to go out fishing because there isn’t an adult in their life who can do that with them. There are 46 children on the waiting list for mentors.
Downing said the more influential adults are in a person’s life, the more successful they are. Kinship Partners works with children from Backus to Fort Ripley and from Garrison to Staples and points in between. Families are not looking for an additional parent, Downing said, they just want an adult mentor to do everyday activities with children.
Walters isn’t a stranger to physical challenges.
In 2003, Walters biked from New Orleans to Baxter. In 2004, he lived nine days on a ledge of Brainerd’s historic water tower. In 2005, Walters and his children walked the length of Minnesota covering 437 miles in 22.5 days.
In 2006, Walters swam across Lake Mille Lacs, raising about $20,000 in pledges. In 2007, he lost 100 pounds in a year, going from 290 pounds to 190. In 2008, Walters and son Jackson uni-cycled for 24 hours around the track at Brainerd High School.
In 2009, Walters and Jackson traveled on inline skates from Brainerd to Washington D.C. (with daughter Jessica on her bike). In 2010, Walters completed the Twin Cities Marathon in six hours and 32 minutes. This year, Walters would like to cut his marathon time to 4 hours and 15 minutes.
And last year, Walters, along with Jackson and Jessica, completed the “Coast to Coast for Kids” challenge, riding 3,179 miles on bicycles on a 54-day trek covering the width of the nation between the East Coast and the West Coast.
At Wednesday’s kick-off Clow Stamping added 25 cents to every $1 donated by employees to Kinship Partners. An anonymous donor added another 25-cent match. By the end of the afternoon, Walters raised $4,000 in pledges toward a $20,000 goal.