FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – Every step for Eric Ekis is a step in the right direction. Eric is a freshman at Franklin Community High School who weighs around 500 pounds.
“Mr. Wettrick called me out to the hallway one day and he asked me if I wanted to come before school and walk with him,” said Eric.
That was the beginning of a school project for seniors Kevin Stahl and Grace Siebert, both students in Don Wettrick’s “innovation class” at Franklin. Kevin was looking for an opportunity to help someone. Wettrick, who had Eric in another class and was concerned about his health, recommended Kevin find a way to help Eric. Turns out, Eric lost his father a couple of years ago and has struggled ever since.
“It started out as just working with Eric and just to kind of help him with his grades and his life and try to get his weight down some and it’s evolved since then,” said Kevin.
As part of this innovation project, Eric and Kevin now walk the high school halls together. It was just a few students walking at first, but now, teacher Lesleigh Groce says other students who want to make healthy changes have joined in too.
“It’s been really cool to see him inspire other kids,” said Groce – kids like Tessa Chawford.
“I hated talking and I didn’t like walking through the hallways,” said Tessa.
But after working out with Groce and other students, the girl who used to be shy and quiet because she’d been bullied, is now 20 pounds lighter and confident.
“Now it’s like I’m walking faster than most people out there,” said Tessa. “Passing the football guys and I’m standing taller. I like looking up now, I look at people.”
Eric, who is also down 20 pounds, sees a difference too.
“I’ve actually felt great, in the beginning I was really depressed and it’s just been so exciting for me,” said Eric. “I feel a whole lot better than I used to.”
So much better, that he now wants to use his story to inspire others. So he’s vlogging about his journey.
“I’m not alone in this, there are so many other kids out there like me,” said Eric.
So innovation becomes inspiration. And a link between unlikely friends, changes lives – all because of a class project.
“These are relationships that I have in my life now,” said Grace. “I don’t look at it as a project anymore, I just look at it as my friends.”
“Everyone celebrates each others victories,” said Groce.
“It makes me happier knowing that I actually have the confidence to speak out,” said Tessa.
“I want to be the inspiration that helps other kids like me,” said Eric. To check out Eric’s vlog, click here.
Since Eric’s story hit the news, North Central graduate, Jared the Subway guy, has offered to help Eric in his weight loss journey.