Andy Staton still remembers vividly when, as a youth, he looked out his bedroom window and saw a word burned on his front lawn: FAT.
Although the Rehoboth realtor and budding philanthropist doesn’t appear to carry any extra poundage today, deep down that experience inspires self-conversations on a regular basis.
“If I’m going to eat pizza for lunch, I have to make up for that later. It’s a lifelong approach to maintaining my weight and achieving a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
These days, those conversations are no longer just moments of self-talk. Staton has established a foundation that gives grants to the YMCA of Sussex County, Girls on the Run and other programs designed to help kids lose weight and pursue healthy lifestyles.
“Sure, I lost 150 pounds, and a lot of people paid attention to me because of that. But now the question is, ‘How can my weight loss help others?’” he said.
A former state Senate candidate who now serves on the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council and several other community associations, Staton attributes his upbringing as influential in his pursuit of public service as well as his participation in Leadership Delaware, a program established just a few years ago.
“Leadership Delaware really instills a sense of service and self-responsibility that left me and the other participants asking ourselves, ‘What can I do to become the best, and how might I help people live a dream?’” Staton said.
In 2009, Delaware businessman Terry Strine and his wife established the nonpartisan Leadership Delaware organization to identify and mentor outstanding young Delawareans exhibiting the capacity, desire and courage to seek and excel at community, nonprofit, political, professional and corporate leadership in Delaware.
“Andy is a superstar, a visionary and a perfect example of the impact one person can have,” Strine said. “And that’s what Leadership Delaware is all about.”
More than 90 individuals have completed the one-year Leadership Delaware program, including Staton in 2010.
“I grew up with the innate thought that public service was important, and Leadership Delaware has helped that instinct grow in me,” Staton said. “And I think an important part of leadership is to set an example, to show that you did something, so other people can too, especially young people.”
Hence Staton’s motivation to establish his foundation in 2009.
“Kids sometimes need to be inspired, especially when it comes to changing such everyday basics as their eating habits. If they know that some guy lost a lot of weight by turning away from potato chips, cookies and soda, then they are more likely to believe that they can do it too. And I’m more than happy to be that guy,” he said.
But food choices aren’t the only way Staton keeps his weight down. He has developed into an endurance athlete competing in five Ironman competitions and multiple ultra-marathons. Earlier this year, he ran rim to rim to rim across the Grand Canyon in one day.
Just like with food temptations, Staton says these competitions are harder some days than others. “But I have a lot of motivations, starting with my own health and of course hopefully being an inspiration especially to young people. If they’re getting teased or bullied about their weight, maybe I can balance that with encouragement and inspiration,” he said.
More information can be found at www.leadershipdelaware.org.