On Track to a Healthy Life

Special Olympics helps athletes succeed on the playing field and in life. Sixth-grader Johnathan used to be too heavy even for the scale in the nurse’s office. Coach and mentor Tonya Becnel helped Johnathan learn healthy habits and with her support Johnathan has already lost more than 100 pounds -- and gained confidence.

300x200-Johnathan-Before-and-After

At his heaviest Johnathan weighed in at 380 lbs. Now after eating right and regular exercise he has lost more than 100 lbs.

Meeting Johnathan

When Tonya Becnel first met Johnathan, he was a sad-looking 6th grader, trudging slowly as he dragged his feet, keeping his eyes to the ground. “Johnathan was really shy and extremely obese,” says Tonya, a coach who was attending her first Special Olympics State Games. “He struggled to walk from our dorm to the cafeteria and we had to stop often for him to rest before our group could continue on.”

One day in the cafeteria, Johnathan sat next to Tonya for lunch. That’s when she got a look at what he was eating. Nothing too terrible really -- just too much! Even the salad was covered in Ranch dressing. “Have a little salad with your dressing?” Tonya asked. “What do you mean by that?” asked Johnathan. It’s what they call a “teachable moment” – and Tonya began to teach. The big surprise? How eager Johnathan was to learn.


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Coach Tonya (on left) began to coach and mentor Johnathan after attending her first Special Olympics State Games.

Breaking Bad Habits

Eventually, Tonya asked Johnathan if he was serious about losing weight. He said yes. So they headed to the nurse’s office to weigh in – but the scale kept reading “Er” for error. Johnathan was too heavy for the scale. Tonya ended up buying a special oversized scale. Then, she says, “It was official: he weighed in at 380 pounds.”

Little by little, Johnathan began to change his habits and make progress. He’d eat two hotdogs instead of six; one hamburger instead of three; he’d drink water instead of sodas and even cut down on French fries. He tried exercising, but couldn’t really balance on a two-wheel bike; plus, he ended up with lots of flat tires. With the help of a three-wheeled bike and swimming practice, he made lots of progress.

By the time fall rolled around, Johnathan had lost 100 pounds. His school even announced it over the intercom. Tonya says you could hear the entire school clapping for him all down the halls. Johnathan has been an inspiration and now is helping other people to lose weight as well. His coach says he loves the competition!

Over the holidays, Johnathan did gain about 15 pounds. But he’s back on track to trying and lose more. He’s already lost 110 pounds; his goal is to lose about 30 more. 


The Results of Discipline and Hard Work

 In 2010, Johnathan’s event was the 25-Meter Walk, because he wasn’t able to run. A year later, Johnathan was competing in the 50-Meter dash. And he ran that race in 12.30 seconds – twice as fast as he did the 25-Meter walk (and twice as far)!

Tonya says Johnathan is much more outgoing now, has lots of confidence and is able to talk to people. She adds, “He says he has a lot more friends this year – and the daily smiles on his face are priceless.”

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