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On the road to health 

Five years ago, Gary Marino couldn’t imagine inspiring anyone to lose weight. At 5 foot 9 inches tall, Marino weighed 397 pounds.

“I was just a Super Bowl party away from 400 pounds,”the 38-year-old Boston, Mass. man says. “I couldn’t walk to the corner. Ihad sleep apnea and my heart was failing. I had my own company, but I was sleeping through the day.”

Today, Marino is 120 pounds lighter and well on the way to his goal of losing another 60 to 70 pounds. To increase awareness of obesity and to raise money for his foundation, Generation Excel, he is walking 1,200 miles from Jacksonville, Fla. to Boston, Mass. -- an 80-day venture he calls the Million Calorie March.

“I walk 15 miles a day, 90 miles a week,”Marino says. “I do take a day off. I’m not crazy.”

To kick off the march, Marino appeared on “Live With Regis and Kelly.” His story has been featured in the April 29 issue of People magazine.

Generation Excel addresses pediatric obesity by educating and inspiring parents and youth. “We want to put physical education back in the schools,”Marino says. “We want to put salad bars in the schools. These are things that are gong to take a lot of money.”

Connect Savannah caught up with Marino during his recent visit to Savannah and surrounding communities. “Part of the reason I’m doing this is because the country is not ready to accept obesity as a disease,” he says.

After searching fruitlessly for a magic cure for 20 years, Marino decided to take the common sense approach to weight loss. He found a nutritionist, a therapist who deals with eating disorders and a trainer. “It sounds expensive, but it’s not,”Marino says. “It’s something that anyone with health insurance can do.”

Then Marino began taking the pounds off the hard way -- by completely changing his lifestyle. It hasn’t been a quick fix -- he has lost about 40 pounds a year for the past three years.

Marino says there are three parts to the Million Calorie March, the first being inspirational. “If people see I can do this, maybe they will realize they can make changes in their lives,”he says.

“The second part is educational, telling people what I’ve learned,”Marino says. “The third part is taking pledges and donations.”

The first two parts of Marino’s mission have gone smoothly, but he is disappointed that he has not been able to raise more money. But he’s not about to give up. “The pledges are coming in, sure, but very slowly,”Marino says. “Maybe I have to do a better job.”

To learn about the Million Calorie March or to make a pledge, visit www.millioncaloriemarch.com.

Marino has his own support team following him in a mobile home. Even though he was dodging tractor-trailer trucks as he neared the Georgia Ports Authority, he has encountered few difficulties on his journey.

However, crossing into Georgia from Florida caused a bit of concern. “We had to cross the bridge on U.S. 17,”he says. “We basically had to catch our breath and then run as fast as possible before more traffic came.”

Marino notes this incident was documented on film. “We’re shooting the whole thing for a documentary,”he says before adding, “I’m deceptively quick for a man of my size.”

Much of the cost of the trip has been underwritten by a Boston philanthropist and Marino also has gotten corporate sponsorships and private donations. If enough money is raised this year, the foundation will underwrite four Mini Million Calorie Marches next year.

“The plan is to have applications so the public can apply. We’ll choose four people and pay their bills for a month so they can go on the road,”he says.

“I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve met who are desperate to get healthy,”Marino says. “I am addressing this problem on a grassroots level, with an upbeat sense of humor. I’m not the type of person to fix myself and just move on. I’m hoping to inspire people to lose weight and to keep in shape.”

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Linda Sickler

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Connect Today 12.10.2016

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