If you knew that starting a fitness routine, and sticking with it, could change your entire life and radically improve your future, would you be inspired lace up your shoes and make a plan? I hope so. I invite you to share in the glory of 30 brave men and women in our community who shared their stories of transformation recently at Bay Athletic Club’s Fitness Inspired Gala.

The gala was held at the Art in the Loft. More than 150 people attended the annual event where local people are recognized for their hard work in changing their fitness, nutrition and overall health.

“There were titans on the stage tonight and I was just honored to be among them,” said Phil Cooper, one young man who went from eating three volcano burritos in less than ten minutes to losing 30 pounds and being able to run a mile in under eight minutes.

Here is a snapshot of a few stories that were shared.

* Stan Michley is still going strong in his 70s. He has completed 100 triathlons and 65 marathons while overcoming injuries and inspiring others along the way with his friends in the Dork Brothers running organization.

* Sandy Santamour lost nearly 40 pounds by working out at the health club every morning. He achieved a clean bill of health to enjoy retirement and remain active with his 13 grandkids.

* Lauren Brooks achieved happiness after kicking diet pills and smoking to the curb. She no longer skips meals or is defined by the scale. She is now setting a healthy example for her kids and focusing on strength.

* Rachel Savage is a nurse and mom who overcame depression, anxiety and obesity by getting into boot camp programs and planning her workouts and meals. She lost 35 inches, 40 pounds and got off all medications.

At the end of the night, the audience voted for top three most inspiring stories of 2015.

At age 13, Christian O’Neal of Alpena was morbidly obese, had high blood pressure, his body mass index (BMI) was off the chart and he was developing diabetes. As a young teen, he was already 280 pounds. His mom signed him up for a health club membership, he met with a trainer, and started buying healthier food. He is now a high school student who lost 110 pounds and went from failing classes to achieving honor roll. He overcame bullying, shyness and chronic pain to become the young man he is today. Just two years ago, he lacked the motivation to even do his homework and now he dreams of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Kasha Lumsden, age 26, is a wife and nurse who suffered the loss a baby. She fell into depression and weight gain. Fitness helped her find herself, her strength and her determination to live happy. Today, Kasha has lost 70 pounds. She is off medication for chronic pain, IBS and acid reflux. She has more confidence. She is now a mom a young boy and expecting another baby. She even became a certified fitness instructor. Fitness has fueled her new future.

Andrew Libka, age 26, took home the top prize for the most inspiring story of 2015. He shared his painful journey of being diagnosed with cancer at just 10 years old. The disease caused skin lesions and tumors. Travel and treatments left Andrew weak and exhausted. As a result, his self-esteem plummeted. He felt weak and too skinny. He layered on clothes to hide his frail frame. Andrew worried more about what people thought of him than actually living with cancer.

He was scarred emotionally and physically for more than a decade. He lived reclusively and sad. He felt like a “prisoner in his own body.” He was ashamed. A friend invited him to try his fitness routine and he took the brave step. Over the course of two years, Andrew added 30 pounds of muscle and came to life.
He describes himself as a “sick boy to superman” and wants to use his story and his award to inspire others.

Their stories will ripple through our community for years to come.