NEW PORT RICHEY — Visit the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center and there’s a good chance you will run into Justin Lawrence.
The Center’s Strength and Conditioning Coordinator is always encouraging visitors to get active, either in the gym, the pool or the weight room. More than a year ago, Lawrence and a friend played pickleball for 24 hours straight in an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. While struggling to find a new project to get involved in, one evening Lawrence saw a TV show that intrigued him.
“It all started while I was watching an extreme weight loss program,” Lawrence, 27, said. “I got emotional watching it and decided to try it locally.”
Lawrence created the Extreme Weight Loss Challenge. To qualify, a local resident must weigh between 275-375 pounds and be committed to losing 100 pounds over the next year. On a broader level, Lawrence hopes the program will raise awareness about the nationwide problem of obesity.
Lawrence has gathered a team of physical, nutritional and medical experts to oversee the progress of the person selected. Model/actress Michelle Baker, who hosts the TV show Tampa Bay Night Life, will use her expertise in stress management to counsel and motivate the individual selected. Award winning bodybuilder Tonya Griffin will conduct strength training sessions. Others, including New Port Richey Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas and businessman Regan Weiss, will coordinate the marketing efforts. Others will provide nutritional, medical and emotional advice. There is no charge to participate, though the benefits from this volunteer team of experts is estimated to be worth more than $30,000.
Lawrence is accepting applications through the end of the year. Early next month, he and a panel of judges will invite the candidates in to tell their story and convince them why they should be selected. The program’s official starting date is Feb. 1, 2014 and will end Jan. 31, 2015. One stipulation is the candidate selected is required to sign an expectations agreement.
“Since I’m committing much of my life to this person for a full year, I want him/her to agree to commit to this wholeheartedly,” Lawrence said. “I only want someone who is 100 percent committed. I don’t want to waste their time or mine.”
Throughout the year, the participant will take a photo to show progress. The hope is the program and contest will encourage others to lose weight and get in shape.
“I want to change lives and make a difference,” Lawrence said. “Plus, I want people to make a positive change and stick with it for life. If you’ve worked hard and sacrificed for a full year, it’s very likely you won’t go back to an unhealthy lifestyle.”
For information, email Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to his Facebook event page at EXWL Challenge.
Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ReporterCliff.