June 26, 2007 12:01 AM by Joe Blackmon
Childhood obesity is a fast-growing epidemic in the U.S. Obese children
face a shorter lifespan due to weight-related illnesses such as
increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. But hope has arrived for
America’s children. Shaquille O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion and a
role model to millions, is on a quest to battle this scourge and help
kids across America live more healthfully. His new series, "Shaq’s Big
Challenge," will debut TUESDAY, JUNE 26 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the
ABC Television Network.
Shaq and his hand-picked "dream team" of experts embark on a crusade to help transform six obese middle school youngsters from Florida into healthy, fit kids – and, along the way, demonstrate how communities nationwide can help fight childhood obesity. In "Shaq’s Big Challenge" he puts six obese youngsters through the most intense, emotional and rewarding time of their young lives. He is aided by six specialists, including: Shaq’s own physician and trainer, Dr. Carlon "Doc" Colker, M.D.; personal trainer Tarik Tyler; nutritionist Joy Bauer; childhood obesity expert Dr. William Muinos, M.D. from Miami Children’s Hospital; Food Network celebrity chef Tyler Florence; and Shaq’s Louisiana State University coach, Dale Brown. Together they go into the kids’ homes and schools, then expand their scope to meet with the local school and government officials to develop and implement a wellness program for the children of the community, and later for the entire state of Florida.
In "Episode 101," viewers will meet the kids taking "Shaq’s Big Challenge:
* Walter, 14, 285 lbs. – A videogame addict (five hours a day), Walter is a sensitive and lonely teen who is often teased about his weight and his acne. He dreams of developing his own videogames, and his favorite food is "pizza burritos."
* Kit, 14, 263 lbs. – Kit is a talented artist but, due to her weight, she’s treated like an outsider at school. She’s sheltered by her protective parents, and her mom blames herself for Kit’s obesity.
* Kevin, 13, 230 lbs. — Kevin says his dad is his biggest motivator. He’s teased at school, but when tested, is able to complete the most push-ups of the kids in the show — 6. But it’s still painfully short of the national norm for his age.
* Chris, 11, 206 lbs. – a prankster who adores his mom’s Cuban cooking, Chris’ big weakness is portion control. He aspires to be a professional Yankee, but is the butt of jokes among other kids due to his weight.
* James, 11, 182 lbs. – A good-natured redhead who dreams of being a professional wrestler, this junk food junkie loves his "fryburgers" — hamburgers with fries on top. His mom normally melts two sticks of butter into an average batch of popcorn.
* Ariel, 14, 211 lbs. – An emotional eater, Ariel developed a weight problem after her parents’ break-up when she was younger. She’s very optimistic about her decision to lose the weight, but she collapses five minutes into her stress test. Fit kids last 20-30 minutes.
This mission does not end with these six children. The goal is for every child in the local schools to take part in Shaq’s plan. His dream team addresses the challenges of providing tasty, kid-friendly nutritious meals on a budget, as well as incorporating more exercise into the kids’ days. For instance, physical education is no longer mandatory in many public schools across the U.S., so Shaq and his team will develop revolutionary programs to allow every child to get consistent exercise while at school. Once he has accomplished his mission at this school, Shaq and his team will have laid the groundwork to achieve their ultimate goal: to create a fitness plan that could be accepted across the whole of Florida and serve as a template for the entire country. "Shaq’s Big Challenge" will change the way we approach the health of a nation — one child, one community, one state at a time, until we truly are a happier, healthier, fitter America.
Executive producers are Rick Ringbakk, Greg Goldman, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Coelen, Christopher Handy, Perry Rogers, Michael Parris and Stephen Lambert. The series is produced by RDF USA ("Wife Swap"). It is based on the hit UK series "Unfit Kids."