Last night, ABC aired the finale of Shaq’s Big Challenge, showing us what a group of kids can do if they put their mind to it.  Shaquille O’Neal was looking to make a difference in kids’ lives.  Childhood obesity has gotten out of control and it’s time he took matters into his own hands.  We first met the six participants over nine months ago.  Each came with their own serious weight and eating issue.  Chris began the program at 206 pounds as an overeater.  Ariel, an emotional eater, first weighed in at 211 pounds. 

Low self-esteem kept Kevin from reaching his potential and he weighed in at 230 pounds.  A lover of junk food, James began at 182 pounds while outsider Kit got on the scale the first day, weighing in at 263 pounds.  Last but not least was Walter, a video game loving couch potato, who topped the scale at 285 pounds.

When the program first began, the kids all seemed enthusiastic.  Who wouldn’t be with Shaq cheering you on?  But they quickly learned that this was not a game and not just a fun time on tv.  They were really going to have to work for it.  All six fail the President’s Fitness Test miserably and learn just how terrible their health is when they visit chidhood obesity expert, Dr. Munos. 

When they began slacking off at workouts, Shaq sent in tough as nails trainer Tarik Tyler and some couldn’t handle the pressure.  Kit collapses the first day with Mr. Tyler in a panic attack and her parents pull her out of the program.  It takes a lot of coercing from Shaq and his health specialist, Carlon “Doc” Colker but in the third episode, Kit returned to the program.  The remaining kids have not warmed up to Mr. Tyler, particularly James, who slacked off especially when Halloween rolled around.

Shaq enlisted the help of his former college coach, Dale Brown, to head to Olsen Middle School and attempt to get physical education a mandatory class.  They face an uphill battle as there is a lack of funding and time.  Shaq and Coach Brown come up with a new plan: each teacher will perform 20 minutes of exercise each day during homeroom.  The school agrees to give it a try.  Shaq also, at the halfway point, wants each kid to lose 20 pounds.  Then, he’ll take them in style to a Miami Heat game to see him play.

A great moment in the season came in episode 4, when all the kids reached their goal and were able to see Shaq play.  They were picked up in a Hummer limo and spent the night living the good life.  Meanwhile, Shaq called on celebrity chef Tyler Florence to start thinking of ways to make an affordable and healthy school lunch.  His first two attempts fail miserably.  They are too time-consuming, expensive, and the students don’t eat all they are given, wasting tons of food.  His third attempt, in episode 5, finally wins everyone over from students to teachers to administration.

Shaq also started a program called Shaq’s Wheel of Wellness that would teach students proper nutrition and exercise.  The program is a success, leading the way towards the governor’s meeting in episode 6.  In the finale, we see just how much weight the kids have lost.  In front of thousands, the kids reveal their new and improved selves, having lost between 27 and 77 pounds!  Perhaps the greatest reveals were Walter and Chris, who lost 64 and 77 pounds respectively.

The kids pass the President’s Fitness Test, often beating the national average, officially proving that Shaq’s program has been a success.  Their last stop was to meet with Florida governor Charlie Crist who agrees that a change needs to come in the Florida school system to help children become healthier.  It was a great season, one that you could feel comfortable watching with your kids, and learn something about how we can all live a healthier life!

– Gina Scarpa, BuddyTV Staff Writer

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Gina Scarpa

Staff Writer, BuddyTV