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Army veteran combats childhood obesity by creating a gym for youth

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Little Giants Gym
Posted at 4:00 PM, Sep 16, 2021

EUCLID, Ohio — An Army veteran who watched his cousin struggle with childhood obesity carved out his own mission. Now a personal fitness coach, Calvin Love works with the littlest of clients, determined to help other young children get in better physical shape while boosting their confidence.

Love's actions, and his one-of-a-kind gym, are helping to make A Better Land.

Working out is now a regular thing for 15-year-old Russell Peterson, but four months ago, that wasn’t the case. He came to Little Giants gym hoping to make some serious changes.

“Didn’t really like my body that much. I wanted to lose some weight,” the teen said.

Russell says he had a goal: “To lose around 35 pounds.”

With the help of Little Giants fitness center and Love, the head personal trainer and founder, Russell was able to make his transformation.

He exceeded his goal of dropping 35 pounds, and it didn’t take long for his friends and classmates to notice.

“They’ll just come up to me like, is that you? You lost so many pounds. It was amazing. It was amazing. It was like a dream come true,” said Russell.

“We developed goals that were specifically designed for him and after a week he lost seven pounds. Another week went by and he lost another three pounds. That ultimately changed the way he viewed himself,” Love said.

In 2017, “Coach Cal,” created this program and space known as “Little Giants.”

He told News 5 it’s the only gym in the state that targets children between 6 and 17 to help them achieve their fitness goals while combating childhood obesity.

“Childhood obesity is plaguing our community. We have so many children living a sedentary lifestyle,” Love said.

The Centers for Disease Control says childhood obesity is prevalent among children of color, with Black and brown kids seeing the highest rates — 24.2% and 25.6% respectively — as compared to white children, who have about a 16.1% rate.

Love said things have gotten worse since the pandemic, with children cutting their physical activity and extracurricular activities.

“A lot of them are developing diabetes and hypertension at an early age,” he said.

Whether it’s boxing, HIIT classes, ellipticals, or nutrition lessons, Little Giants uses an array of tools to get kids to understand the importance of correcting poor habits and creating discipline, now.

“Unhealthy children, become unhealthy adults. We want to create healthy adults. We teach them how to read a nutrition label. We teach them what sugar does to your body," Love said.

Since Little Giants was created, Coach Cal says he’s been able to help about 300 kids, like Russell, build self-esteem.

“I was motivated from the start and he helped me even more with confidence and even more motivation,” said Russell.

“It’s so gratifying. It makes it all worthwhile. Just knowing that you’re actually seeing and witnessing a transformation, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally,” said Love.

Kids memberships for Little Giants start at $25 a month.

Coach Cal says he’s currently trying to raise money to move into a bigger facility and buy a transport van, both of which will help him serve more children.

To learn more about the fitness program and gym, click here.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.