Winning by losing: Patricia Bates hopes weight-loss camp will be a life-changing experience.

Kids are often inspired to do things by their parents.

When Patricia Bates decided to lose some weight by exercising a few years back, her daughter, Danielle, ended up doing the same. But Danielle, who’ll be entering her junior year at Oak Park and River Forest High School this fall, had another, more personal reason for doing it. Though active at OPRF in various clubs as a student leader and mentor, Danielle, 16, had been teased about her weight by classmates.

“Freshman year was bad. Sophomore year I had a little more confidence,” she said.

Five years ago, she attended the Wellspring Fitness Camp in North Carolina. The national weight-loss program hosts camps every summer in various states, including Texas, Wisconsin and New York, as well as in the United Kingdom. Campers range in age from 11-24.

Campers engage in physical activity and learn how to eat healthier. The last time she went, she lost weight but gained it back. She has wanted to give it another shot ever since.

Danielle and her mom are trying to raise money to attend the two-week camp this summer. They’ve got about three-quarters of the $10,000 needed to cover camp cost and other expenses. Family and friends and a dozen Oak Park business owners have donated.

“She was out there in the heat going from business to business in downtown Oak Park,” Ms. Bates said.

Despite the teasing from certain peers, Danielle has excelled at OPRF as a student leader. She has been a peer mediator at school to help students quell disputes. She’s also been a leader of OPRF’s Best Buddies Program, which pairs students in regular education with students who have special needs for activities in and outside of school. Danielle’s teachers, who saw something special in her, encouraged her to get involved.

“Adults always said I was good with people,” she noted.

But some of her peers give her a hard time about her weight. The bullying and teasing sometimes is just too much to bear, she says. But she wants to lose weight for herself and not for anybody else.

“I don’t want the weight to be a burden. I want to be involved in a lot of things and be as happy as I can be so the words don’t hurt that much.”

Danielle, her mom recalled, searched online to find a weight-loss camp for teens and came across Wellspring. The family has lived in Oak Park for seven years; Danielle attended Whittier elementary and Brooks Middle School. Bates, a real estate broker, thinks what her daughter is doing is very empowering.

“When I decided to lose weight, I also wanted to encourage her. But she did it all on her own, finding out about the camp and doing research online,” Bates said. “She took the initiative and we did what could to help her get in the program.”

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