It took Frank LeVenia a little while to discover how deep his family’s love for him really was, but now, almost 200 pounds lighter, his heart is heavy with love and his body is light and energetic. It’s all thanks to his family.
Frank’s story starts with the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD) when he was a small boy. He and his brother got sick and both spiked very high fevers. His brother was able to fight off the infection with no long-term damage, but Frank was not as lucky. The high fever Frank endured left him with damage to the brain that resulted in a mild intellectual disability that Frank and his family would deal with throughout his life.
Despite this unfortunate circumstance, Frank has lived a very full life. His family has been with him through it all. As Frank aged, he started to gain weight. Just two years ago, Frank weighed 350 pounds making everything a struggle. Walking, even talking, left Frank breathing heavy and winded. Frank’s sister, Robin Keaton, who is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) was concerned for Frank’s health and finally stepped in.
“We took a short walk one day and I noticed how difficult it was for Frank to not only keep up but to walk at all. I tried to get him to think about exercising or eating healthier but he wouldn’t hear it,” Robin said.
“I thought she was just being mean,” Frank recalled of the conversation, “but now, looking back, I know that she was just trying to help me because she loves me.”
Although Robin’s initial interaction did not result in immediate change, she stayed concerned and continued to try to help Frank focus on his health.
“With the help of the County Board of DD, we were able to get memberships to the Marion Family Y for Frank and his wife, Helen,” Robin said. “Helen got very involved and started taking classes and loved going and exercising, but Frank got bored and discouraged.”
He would walk on the track while Helen was in her classes, but the monotony of the endless laps left Frank not wanting to continue. Robin would not let him give up. She knew Frank liked music and thought that if she could get him to listen to music it might help.
She helped him get an updated cellphone and found an app called “Rock My Run.” Frank loaded that app up with his favorite playlist and that’s all it took to finally flip the switch on his road to fitness. Frank enjoyed the music so much he would not just walk, but dance his way around the walking track at the YMCA.
“All I needed was good music,” Frank said. “I started dancing and spinning and high-fiving others who were on the track with me. They all loved it.”
Now, Frank is almost 200 pounds lighter and can walk almost seven miles. He said he feels great and is thankful for his sister’s persistence in his health.
Robin too is grateful and amazed by Frank’s progress. “I told him, I just want you to be around for a long time, Frank.”
Frank wants people to know that it is important to get active. “I feel so much better. I have more energy,” he said.
He said it’s never too late to start and wants you to know that you need to be patient. It took Frank over a year and a half to lose all of his weight and get healthy but staying active and in a routine helps.
He wants you to know that if he can do it – you can too. “Start today,” he added.
He also wants you to know that if your family is pushing you toward healthy living habits that it is all in the name of love!