MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. - A central Georgia community has taken big steps to fight childhood obesity, and residents are now starting to see results.
Milledgeville resident Tom Glover and his 10-year-old daughter, Stella, love to ride mountain bikes, but that wasn't always the case. Just two years ago, Glover weighed almost 300 pounds. He also was on multiple medications.
Glover said a health scare made him evaluate his life.
"I was fighting a really bad cold and woke up in the middle of the night coughing, and as a reaction from the coughing, I fainted. It kind of scared me," said Glover.
He said it forced him to turn his life around. Glover dropped close to 100 pounds by cycling and eating healthier.
By changing his life, he may have saved his daughter's life, too. Before her father's health scare, she said she liked to watch television and play video games. Now, she's picked up her dad's healthy eating habits, and she's an avid cycler.
There are plenty of stories like the Glovers in the town of Milledgeville in Baldwin County. A recent study of third graders found 62 percent of the city's boys and 51 percent of the city's girls are overweight or obese.
Dr. Jim Lidstone realized something had to be done. He's the director for the Center for Health and Social Issues at Georgia College. He applied for and received a $360,000 federal grant. Using it, he created Live Healthy Baldwin, which is a push to get the entire community to eat right and exercise, especially children.
Lidstone said it's a message the community had heard for years.
"It's like scattering seeds on concrete," Lidstone said. "It's not going to grow unless you provide the right opportunity."
That opportunity started with a summer camp to teach children about portion control and healthier food choices. The county also is building 9 miles of bike trails so families can exercise. Plus, for the first time in Milledgeville, school and community gardens are popping up, so people can grow and eat fresh vegetables.
Lidstone said it's too early to tell if Live Healthy Baldwin is working. Still, he said it has created opportunities for people to live a healthier lifestyle.
Tom and Stella Glover are examples of that. Both said they'll never go back to their sedentary lifestyle. Stella has become one of the best mountain bike racers in the Southeast. Her father is training for a 100-mile bike race.
Glover said getting healthy together has added another benefit.
"She and I have actually gotten closer," Glover said. "It's hard to describe the feeling I have spending 10 hours with just the two of us talking."
"We've got more time to bond and know more stuff about each (other)," said Stella. "We've grown an even tighter bond, all from exercise."