South Bend Kroc’s biggest losers

by Meg Sauer


When the South Bend, Ind., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center introduced “The Biggest Loser Kroc Edition” last October they hoped 10 people would sign up. Instead, 130 did!

“Last fall we wanted to create a program that would increase member retention and get us through the holidays,” said Sharon Dutkowski, director of member services. “Most of all, we wanted to build our Kroc community and open the door for people to learn about Christ in a fitness center.”

Though the idea of holding the “The Biggest Loser” at the center had been discussed since its doors opened two years ago, staff wanted to introduce it only when they were sure it could be successful. “I knew it would take a lot of time and emotional energy to do it right,” said Sandy Sampson, health and fitness manager. “I wasn’t sure we could be successful without the 24/7 controlled environment you see on the TV show. Kroc contestants would see our trainers three hours a week, at the most.” Another consideration was the actual number of trainers needed. Would the center have enough? And would contestants really “buy in”? They’d have to for success.

“The task was daunting, so we would put it off,” said Sharon. “Then God gave us the green light, and one thing after another fell into place.” They made sure trainers were up for the challenge, and Sandy received her certification as a “Biggest Loser Pro.”

What were the results?

  • Contestants collectively lost 631 pounds!
  • Denise found the support she needed to continue her wellness journey. Now she can lift, run and do box jumps again after losing more than 100 pounds!
  • One contestant described how her relationship with her spouse improved, another how the journey brought their family together.
  • These inspiring stories have secured a media sponsor and a handful of prominent business donations for “Biggest Loser Kroc Edition II.”

“The Biggest Loser Kroc Edition” incorporates the six components of wellness: emotional, social, occupational, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Every two weeks the teams come together to learn more about themselves and their health in each of these areas.

“I’ll never forget the powerful reactions at the presentation on spiritual wellness,” said Sandy.  “For some there was absolute joy, and for others a realization of pain they suffered because of poor spiritual health.”

Senior Kroc Officer Major Bob Webster and Youth Development Officer Major Beverly Best were at the presentation to support contestants and help them deal with their emotions. Some cried; others offered heart-felt thanks to the presenter (a contestant). Still, others prayed with the majors.

“It really resonated with everyone,” said Sandy. “We are a faith-based fitness center, and we are making a difference in people’s lives.”


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