A year ago, Special Olympics Watauga athlete Karen Hendrix fell in love with a beautiful gown she longed to wear to Joy Prom, an elegant dance for people with special needs. Unfortunately Hendrix wasn’t able to fit into the dress and watched as a friend got the honor instead. Her disappointment was palpable. Hendrix weighed 245 lbs., had been diagnosed with diabetes, and was living a very sedentary lifestyle. Fast forward to April 2016 and dress shopping was a completely different experience! This year the 54 year-old had her choice of gowns having lost more than 50 lbs.!
“The girl who wore last year’s favorite dress offered it to Karen this year,” said Deb Walters, Hendrix’s caregiver. “But again Karen couldn’t fit into it….because the dress was now too big! She actually chose a mint green dress and is so happy because it is very slimming and flattering on her. She just beamed when she put it on and we knew it was the one.”
The drastic turnaround in Hendrix’s life begin in late summer/early fall, 2015. She was one of 60 Watauga County Special Olympics athletes who began participating in the Special Olympics Healthy Athlete Challenge, a fitness and nutrition based program, funded by the NC GlaxoSmithKline Ribbon of Hope grant. The Challenge coincided with Walters becoming her caregiver and Hendrix moving into her home.
“I have a reputation for being gung-ho for health,” joked Walters. “So right away we started walking daily and I started helping her learn to eat healthy foods.”
Hendrix has also learned how to keep track of her steps each day with a pedometer and when her work schedule allows, has attended aquacise, yoga and jazzercise classes with her job coach and her fellow Special Olympics athletes. She has also learned about portion control and Walters is teaching her how to cook healthy too.
“It didn’t take long for her to get excited about exercise,” said Walters. “She likes feeling strong and healthy and she likes the positive attention she’s getting too. “
By far, Hendrix’s doctor is the most impressed with her transformation. At her appointment in October, the doctor complimented her on her low blood sugar, cholesterol and weight numbers. But it was a big deal in December, when her doctor proudly announced that Hendrix no longer tested as diabetic!
“That was a big deal,” smiled Walters. “Karen even got a handwritten letter from the doctor days later commending her on her healthy habits and encouraging her to keep up the good work! Today she has so much confidence in herself and is on less medication than ever before. It’s just made a huge difference in her life.”
The beautiful Joy Prom gown and her wide smile affirm that healthy looks good on Hendrix!