In the end, it was a pair of sweat-soaked shorts that held Gary Walters back from his goal of losing 100 pounds in a year.
After several attempts on the scale following an eight-hour workout Thursday at FitQuest in Baxter, Walters was barely missing his target weight of 190 pounds in his final weigh-in.
Crammed into the men's locker room with family, friends and media members, Walters' first attempt to weigh himself only brought quiet disappointment as he was still just a shave above 190 pounds.
He checked the scale to make sure it was working properly and tried to position himself differently on the scale. After an anguished pause, an exhausted Walters cleared the room, threw off his shorts and met his Kinship Wellness Challenge goal to go from 290 pounds to 190 pounds in 2007.
Gary Walters got a hug from his son, Reggie, after Walters met his goal Thursday, losing 100 pounds for the 2007 Kinship Wellness Challenge. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The results brought a sigh of relief from the weary Walters and cheers from family and friends.
"Those last five pounds were killer," Walters said. "The scale didn't want to cooperate at first so we had to make it work. I guess those shorts were just too ... heavy."
His wife, Lisa, said though the challenge was difficult for her husband, he will reap the benefits for years.
"I think he's absolutely unbelievable," Lisa Walters said prior to the final weigh in. "I will be glad when it's all done, though. It's been very stressful for the whole family."
For years, Walters has worked to raise funds and awareness for Kinship, the nonprofit that matches adult mentors with children. He picked projects that created a few doubts he'd complete the task - biking from Louisiana to Brainerd, walking the length of the state, swimming across Lake Mille Lacs.
But this year's challenge proved the most difficult, he said. A week ago, he had lost 85 pounds. When he arrived at FitQuest Thursday morning, he needed to lose about 5 pounds before midnight to meet his goal. He spent the entire day working out in aerobics classes, on an exercise bike and treadmills. He sat in a steam room to work up a sweat and he drank as little water as possible to keep weight off.
Gary Walters stepped on the scale for the final time during the 2007 Kinship Wellness Challenge, weighing in at 190 pounds. His goal was to lose 100 pounds during the year, which he accomplished Thursday afternoon by shedding the final 5 pounds at FitQuest in Baxter. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Not the recommended way to lose weight, Walters noted, but he wanted to make sure he met his goal. He did that at 4:30 p.m., well before his deadline.
"A lot of people said 90 or 95 pounds is good enough but I'm going to fight to the end to get that last (5 pounds to reach) 100," he said while pedaling at a stationary bike. "A lot of friends and Kinship supporters came in and encouraged me to suck it up, don't be a wuss and finish it off. It's great for them because they are all proud of what this accomplishes."
Unlike in past years, where the goal was to raise mentors, the 2007 Kinship challenge was primarily for educating people - especially children - about getting in shape, Walters said. He worked with FitQuest owner and trainer Joan Peterson throughout the year to monitor his diet and exercise.
"Without her I would have been floundering at 50 pounds, maybe, on my own," Walters said. "Now I look at it and say, 'How do you not have time to put in 20 to 40 minutes of exercise in a day?'"
Peterson had no doubt Walters would reach his goal of losing 100 pounds.
"He's just so determined to get it," Peterson said. "I think he has done a phenomenal job."
Kinship Partners is a youth mentoring program, providing volunteer mentors for children ages 5-15. The children are usually from single-parent families and are referred to Kinship through the school system.
David Downing, Kinship Partners executive director, said there are about 170 active mentor-child matches and the program just completed a successful recruitment campaign.
"For many, many years we've had a waiting list of 50 kids or more, and because of the mentor recruitment campaign and Gary's effort, in the first couple months of 2008, we will virtually wipe out the waiting list for the first time ever," Downing said.
In 2006, Walters' Kinship challenge - swimming across Mille Lacs - brought in about $20,000 in pledges. Downing said he expects $20,000 to $25,000 for this year.
"Our goal is just to get Kinship a common household name so when people think about doing something good, and there are all kinds of great charities, Kinship will at least come to their mind and how they can help a kid," Walters said.
With this year's challenge accomplished, was it off to Disney World? No, it was dinner with family and friends at Pancho and Lefty's in Baxter for a chimichanga with extra sour cream.
"And lots of water. Right now water would be the greatest thing anybody could ever get me," Walters said.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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