Lace up and save lives with the ‘Weight Saint’

Lace up and save lives with the ‘Weight Saint’

Mark the date of Saturday, Sept. 29, when The Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program presents a wonderful opportunity to help a truly good cause in the community and to have some fun guests will not soon forget. The second annual Julie Richardson Procter 5K Ribbon Run/Walk will take place in downtown Beaumont, and internationally renowned health and fitness guru Richard Simmons will be the celebrity guest of the event. Simmons will be joined by Yvonne Washington, Queen of Rhythm and Blues, back by popular demand. Casa Ole and H-E-B are sponsors in connection with the “Gift of Life” Program.

Registration begins at 7 a.m. with a welcome and warm-up with the celebrity guest. The starting line is in front of city hall. The start time is 8 a.m. with the Pink and Teal Plaza Activities followed by a Stayin’ Alive Picnic in the Park at 10 a.m. with Simmons.

Putting on the Pink is a celebration of survivorship and hope in observance of breast and ovarian cancer awareness month. Registration packets may be picked up Tuesday through Thursday, Sept. 25-27, at the “Gift of Life” office. You may also register online at or call the “Gift of Life” office at (409) 833-3663. The “Gift of Life” will provide complimentary passes to survivors of breast, ovarian or other gynecological cancers to the 5K Ribbon Run/Walk.

Along with having the opportunity of meeting Richard Simon, guests will hear the soulful sounds of soloist Yvonne Washington during the program. A team of committee members has joined co-chairs of the Julie Richardson 5K Ribbon Run/Walk Tanya Hansen and Amber Woodall to see that all goes well and that this important event is long remembered.

In honor of Julie Richardson Procter

The 5K Ribbon Run/Walk is named in loving memory of Julie Richardson Procter, (Feb. 17, 1960 – April 30, 2011), a well-respected Southeast Texas attorney and devoted “Gift of Life” board member and volunteer who lost her battle with ovarian cancer last year.

Although Procter’s cancer was diagnosed at an advanced stage, she approached each day with optimism and grace, hoping that her illness would serve as a meaningful platform to educate more women about the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer. With the support of her husband, Beau Procter, a trust in her name and proceeds from last year’s Ribbon Run/Walk, the “Gift of Life” established an Ovarian Cancer Educational Awareness Initiative reaching thousands of Southeast Texans.

“We are thrilled to have Richard Simmons as our celebrity speaker and performer for this Southeast Texas celebration of survivorship,” said Regina Rogers, “Gift of Life” founder and chair. “He is an American treasure whose popularity is legendary. Simmons has dedicated his life to helping other achieve wellness through exercise and a healthy lifestyle. With a passionate and enthusiastic approach to fitness, Richard will inspire and energize survivors and all other participants.”

Celebrity guest

In connection with Simmons’ guest appearance in Beaumont, The Examiner was able to speak to him in Los Angeles where he has maintained his Slimmons Studio since moving there in 1973. Richard Simmons is kind, genuine and funny as all get out. He truly oozes energy, excitement and enthusiasm for what he does, and makes the hearers want to get up and join up in his fun, frolic, and commitment to good health for all.

Simmons is a near neighbor since he was born and raised in New Orleans. He remembers growing up in the French quarter as an obese young man where he laughingly said he thought lard was a food group and that dessert was mandatory. He weighed 268 pounds when he graduated high school. As a young entrepreneur, he sold pralines on New Orleans street corners where his abundant charm entertained his customers. He was a big hit — literally. After trying bizarre diets, he took control of his weight problem by adopting the lifestyle he has taught for these many years: balance, moderate eating and exercise.

Relocating to Los Angeles in 1973 and realizing that there was no significant fitness movement in this country at the time, he attempted to find a health club that wasn’t designed for people who were already in shape. He could not locate such a facility and so he created one in 1974 where the overweight of the world were welcome. Simmons made a point of consulting carefully with doctors and nutritionists to ensure the safety of the program. Now, 30 years and 3 million pounds later, this human dynamo is still going strong and enjoys a worldwide reputation for helping others.

His success as a fitness expert and advocate for the overweight, thus the name “The Weight Saint,” has led to numerous local and national television and radio appearances including a four-year run on the popular “General Hospital.” He also hosted “The Richard Simmons Show,” which ran for four years and received several Emmy Awards. He has also created a series of products that integrate the two components of sensible weight loss. Loving many different kinds of music, Simmons has also incorporated that into his exercise plans with “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” “Dance Your Pants Off,” “Blast Off the Pounds” and others. He chooses well-known popular music for the ultimate workout experience. This dynamic personality is also the author of nine successful books including the New York Times Best Seller “Never Say Diet.”

You will also find three cookbooks on the shelves authored by Simmons. He has led 29 cruises aboard Carnival Cruise Lines in his popular Cruise to Lose programs.

Simmons is perhaps best known in some circles for his colorful outfits, which he often helps designs. “Oh, you should see what I’ve done in pink for this cancer program,” he said. “It is stunning.” Turning serious for a moment and with a catch in his voice, he explains how much he believes in helping with cancer prevention, education, treatment and just plain old concern. “This is the ninth such event I’ve done this year,” he added.

Asking if he would be willing to play a little word association game with me, he said, “Of course. This will be fun. Ask away.” And, here are his answers.


  • Favorite color – Red! 
  • Pet – Hattie, his Dalmatian (He once had eight but is now down to one.) 
  • Book – Everything James Patterson writes 
  • Food – Anything fried! 
  • Flower – Orchid (He grows them at his home and had seven or eight new ones.) 
  • Most inspirational person in his life – His mother, Shirley, who is deceased 
  • Training – Attention to detail (because he was educated by Catholic nuns who made him do it right) 
  • Music – Disco (But he hastily adds he likes lots of different kinds.) 
  • Best gift – Being able to say, “I love you” to people who need to hear it 
  • Remembered for – “I would like to be thought of as the happy court jester,” he said thoughtfully. “When the king is troubled or distressed, he doesn’t call for the leader of the great army. Sometimes, he doesn’t call for his wife. He may not call for books to be read to him. But he will call for the court jester. He needs someone to make him laugh and enjoy life a bit more. That’s what I want to be remembered for. I want to make people life and help them to be healthy and to enjoy their lives more.”

Richard’s family still lives in New Orleans and on the day we talked, his brother and his family were in the process of evacuating from Hurricane Isaac. Richard Simmons cam across as caring and a man concerned for all humanity, and many Southeast Texans look forward to meeting him in person in Beaumont at the “Gift of Life” event.The “Gift of Life” Program office is at 2390 Dowlen Road in Beaumont. Call (409) 833-3663 or visit online at

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.