A few months after my father’s death, I watched an episode of Oprah; it was about a woman who was helping some kids in a camp that didn’t have much money for supplies like crayons, coloring books and art supplies. She decided to begin randomly sending things to help offset expenses at this camp to honor the memory of a child, or perhaps it was a loved one, I don’t remember specifically but I remember knowing in that instant that my life would change again in a good way because of my Dad. I knew what I would do.
When you or a loved one is obese you learn to live with a prejudice unlike most. You learn to live with stares, humiliation and people pointing or laughing or asking how you got so ‘fat’. We learned with pride to ignore it. They didn’t know our Dad and his tremendous heart; they only saw his tremendous size. Our Dad made us better human beings because of his compassion and fearlessness, and he never missed an opportunity to stand up for himself. He rarely missed a day of work in a career than spanned 50+ years.
In January of 2001 I lost my father to complications due to obesity. He weighed 550 lbs at the time of his death and had suffered a stroke; A second stroke subsequently took his life. His second stroke could have been prevented had his body been able to fit in any CAT scan machine in the State of Virginia. My family and I worked day and night to care for my father throughout his 6-month, 6- different-hospitals ordeal, while many healthcare professionals turned a blind eye to the care of my Dad because of his size.
With privately raised funds (I begged everyone I knew for any amount of money they could give, and gave thousands myself).I was able to send a couple of kids from my hometown to summer camp that first year, 2001. They both were kids who otherwise would not have had a chance to experience anything like a summer weight loss camp where kids just like them could wear bathing suits unafraid of ridicule from their peers. Kids at this camp talked about their weight, exercised and learned sports to foster their sense of self. The City of Alexandria, Virginia (my hometown—the same city my father was a proud employee of for over 46 years) aligned with us immediately. Scholarships were given to the children of City of Alexandria employees. In addition to offering scholarships to 3 Alexandria-area recipients in 2004, “Louie’s Kids” also hosted 3 additional campers from different parts of the United States.
I promised a 10-year commitment to this program but I know this is my life’s work. What an experience to see children who are struggling with their size and all the “baggage” that comes with it to just be able to be themselves in an environment that fosters love and teaches kids “lifestyle changes” rather that fad dieting. To see the smiles on kids faces as they complete a climb up a rock wall, repel from one mountain to the next, hike 4.5 miles, participate in a sport (as opposed to warming the bench) or find a lifelong friend, as so many of them have, is like no other experience I’ve known. Selfishly I was able to feel the presence of my father and be with him there, which was an added blessing. It’s so hard to describe with just the written word. But I think if you ever met these little girls and boys, you would get the kind of goose bumps I get when I think about having made any sort of difference in their lives.
We can all make a difference helping children free themselves from a life of obesity – and the medical problems that come with it. On behalf of the whole Yuhasz family and our Staff and Board of Directors, I thank you for visiting our web site. And on behalf of the family, and the children we’re able to help, we extend our appreciation in advance for any contribution you can make.
Louis A. Yuhasz
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