The goal of advocacy is something that we infuse within the consciousness of our students who we hope will fight the good fight for themselves and others. We always celebrate when self-advocacy extends beyond the program and as staff we try to set a good example for our students to follow.
Staff member, Jesse Saperstein has been Facebook friends since 2014 with a man named, David Elmore Smith who is now in his early forties. David has always been morbidly obese with his highest weight surpassing 600 pounds. About fifteen years ago, David decided he needed to make a change in his life and sought the help of a personal trainer named, Chris Powell who would eventually go on to become the host of the ABC TV show, “Extreme Weight Loss.”
David had lost 400 pounds with the help of Chris and went on to become a national celebrity as the star of the TLC documentary, “The 650 Pound Virgin.” Despite the superficial improvements and positive changes in his realities, David was still suffering from emotional distress and turned back to food after having tried to numb the anguish with drugs and alcohol at first. Ultimately, David ended up regaining all 400 of the pounds he had worked for two years to lose!
Jesse was inspired to reach out to David through Facebook because of having related to David’s experiences of being brutally bullied throughout his entire childhood. They became good friends and kept in touch despite never having met in person considering David lives in Arizona and Jesse is in New York.
On Wednesday, January 8, 2020 Jesse sent a producer for the Dr. Phil Show a letter about David’s story and asked for help for his friend who had an estimated few more years to live with this self-destructive path of food addiction. The pitch was promptly accepted with the producers making arrangements for David, his family, and Jesse to travel to Hollywood, CA to meet for the first time in person on the show!
David is now getting the help he needs with the nutritionist from Dr. Phil having traveled to his home in Arizona in an effort to revitalize his lifestyle with a new fridge stocked with healthier items. (Dr. Phil explained, “There should never be a time when you are hungry. You should always have something to eat, but it is all about eating the right things.”) The show ended with Dr. Phil introducing Jesse and having him come up in front of the studio audience to meet David in person for the very first time! The show should air sometime during the week of February 10-14, 2020).
Jesse subsequently purchased sixty California postcards from the hotel gift shop and is mailing one postcard a day to David in an effort to continue motivating him to make the changes necessary to seize back his life. But most of David’s motivation comes from his own strength considering he has already lost over thirty pounds since the show aired!
The College Experience will always celebrate the endeavors of our students and staff to make the world a kinder place where others have more of a fighting chance. Included in the photographs are of Jesse and his mother, Janis in the dressing room of the studio. We all wish David continued success in his journey losing the weight and serving as a role model for those struggling with addition and other lingering traumas!