Fred Kelley: 'Pedaling For a Cure'
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
Monroeville, Alabama, is known to many people as the hometown of authors Truman Capote and Harper Lee, as well as the setting for the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. But these days, the town has a new celebrity in Fred Kelley.
Eight years ago, Fred tipped the scales at 308 pounds, but a life-threatening heart attack motivated him to lose 128 pounds.
“I loved to eat, and I found out later that the things I loved to eat were basically killing me. So I just made a complete lifestyle change not just with exercise, but learning how to use food to help you with your energy level and to feel better,” Fred said.
In March of 2000, after having a double cheeseburger and large fries for lunch, Fred began having chest pains at work and asked a co-worker to take him the doctor.
"I was just too sick to go to my local doctor’s office," Fred said.
"‘I’m just going to turn in here to the emergency room. We’re going to run you up here and let them check you out.,’" he rememered his friend saying.
"So we turned into the Monroe County Hospital Emergency Room. And he helped me get inside where they immediately told me there was no doubt about it. I was having a heart attack,” Fred said.
The hospital staff worked on Fred and then prepared to transfer him to a hospital in Mobile. Fred resigned himself to the fact that he might not be coming home. Then, as he was in the back of the ambulance, he saw something that gave him the will to live.
“I was ready to go, if it was my time. I had already made my peace with God," he said. "And they closed the door of the ambulance and I could see my daughter through those windows, crying. And I knew then that I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to fight this thing. So I asked God if He’d help me live, I would do my part to change, whatever it is.”
Fred believes that God honored his request. After his open heart surgery, Fred began walking every day at a nearby community college and revamped his diet.
“What I had to do was figure out what I could eat that would fuel my body, help me have strength and energy, and not weigh me down with high salt and high fat. Most things have plenty of salt in it already,” he said.
One of Fred’s pastimes is hosting a local radio program, The Phil and Fred Show, with Phil Allen. One afternoon in 2004, Fred agreed to help a local charity raise money for cancer. With just 20 minutes left in the show, Fred made his listeners an offer they couldn’t refuse.
“I said if we can raise a thousand dollars for the Relay for Life, I’ll ride a bicycle from the square in Monroeville to the Battleship Alabama," Fred recalled. "I didn’t know when I said I would do that, the battleship was 92 miles away. And at the time I made the wager on the air, I did not even own a bicycle. I had not been on the seat of a bike in 27 years."
The radio station raised $5,000 that day, and Fred made good on his promise. He bought a bike, began training, and a few weeks later rode his bike to the coast.
The following year, other riders joined Fred and the ‘Relay for Life’ eventually became ‘Pedaling for a Cure.’ The event has grown each year in popularity.
In five years, “Pedaling for a Cure” has raised over half a million dollars for cancer research and even earned Fred a trip to the White House.
“I think He spared me to help others to see the problems they could be getting into and don’t even know it. Just by losing ten percent of your body weight, you could help yourself with diabetes, heat disease, and even some cancers,” he said.
Fred recently celebrated his 52nd birthday—with a cake made from Splenda and low fat whipped crème of course.
Fred’s physician, Dr. Sage Smith, has the highest praise for his determination and his new lifestyle.
“Fred is just a model patient for all of us to look to," he said. "He’s done a great job, but his faith was one of the strongest things that helped him. [Also] the love of his family and the love of life [helped him greatly]. Fred said, ‘I want to live and I’ve got a lot to live for.’ He was the only one that could make those changes in his life and with God’s help, he did that."
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