The rates of health disparities among African-American teens are continuing to rise. According to stateofobesity.org, childhood obesity in the black community is 20.2 percent compared to the national average of 14.3 percent, and overweight children is 35.1 percent compared to the national average of 28.5 percent. Rob Howze and Camp Fit are empowering and motivating youth through the discipline of fitness.
It was in one of these worlds that Howze encountered a life changing experience that unbeknownst to him, would place him on a path that eventually led to a career of offering life changing experiences for others. A few days before going to college, he and a friend went to a local store. When Howze came out, he saw someone leaned in on the passenger side of the vehicle. Assuming it was a friend, he approached only to be met by a stranger with a gun who forced Howze to get in the vehicle in an attempt to rob both men.
In a moment of adrenaline, Howze’s friend, Rob, grabbed the weapon and shots went off. The robber ran and both Howze and his friend were shot in the arm and in the leg, respectively.
“When I tell people this story, I say Rob and Rob got robbed,” Howze stated jokingly.
After returning from the hospital, Howze remembers quite vividly his Barry Sanders jersey that was bloody. But what he also noticed was four holes near the chest area. He recollects that the gun was pointed at his chest and the bullet went through his wrinkled shirt into his friend’s leg. From that moment, Howze made a decision to get better for himself and never look back.
“I had an awareness awakening,” Howze says. “I began to think critically of the decisions I was making, I could have died. I had a moment of gratitude, thankful and appreciative of the new opportunities I have.”
At Howard University, Howze studied child psychology and musical theatre. Not satisfied with the pace life was going, he decided to spur his entrepreneurial spirit by renting a U-Haul truck and offering his moving services to many homeowners, guaranteeing the lowest prices around. Howze later began a series of entrepreneurial ventures, which proved to be very lucrative, but he lacked the passion behind his work. He received his biggest joy in helping youth, so he became a youth pastor and worked in local community organizations.
“You can make all the money in the world,” says Howze. “But it doesn’t matter unless you are making a difference, leaving a positive impact on the world. The future is affected by those we help today.”
For nine years, Howze has helped run a non-profit organization called Worldwide Community. The organization hosts a number of afterschool programs, summer camps, sports teams, and other activities for kids in local communities. At a board meeting for the organization, he was asked a question that would lead to one of his greatest successes.
“Rob, why don’t you start a Biggest Loser for kids?” recalls Howze. “It was at that moment, I had an epiphany, and I never looked back.” After researching the name Camp Fit, Howze saw that it was available and trademarked the name and proceeded to secure the help of a television production within weeks. Camp Fit focuses not only on the physical aspects, but also personal life decisions and academic enrichment. The 8-week training experience focuses on the holistic health of the child: strength physically, mentally, and, emotionally. This goal is accomplished with a team of Certified Personal Trainers, Dietitians, Fitness Instructors and others who aid in the complete health of the youth. Weekly progress checks are conducted, and adjustments are made based off of that. Students are taught, tested and awarded of five key areas, where everyone has the opportunity to become a winner.
Howze believes the biggest challenge in starting any business is money; having access to financial resources, inventory and other expenses. “It wasn’t until I was transparent that blessings started coming,” Howze says. “Once people saw the character of the founder, we received overwhelming support as a non-profit in the form of grants and sponsorships, which really helped jumpstart the organization.”
Camp Fit airs Saturday’s at 11:30 (EST) on DirecTV’s channel 378, and there are talks to expand to a major network syndication, including currently, there is talk of alignment with the Oprah Winfrey Network. Howze has always been a fan of her work since her role in the Color Purple. Next year, the show will be available on Roku, Netflix, and Hulu. As early as Christmas, there are plans to franchise the concept and make the module and its components available for schools, non-for-profit organizations, and churches.
“I would say one of the biggest things for any entrepreneur, teacher, or leader is being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Stepping out your comfort zone has produced the most results.”
Check out episode one of Camp Fit 2015!
Photos: Courtesy of Rob Howze