[image-1] Yvonne Lafave says there’s only one way to describe the impact local nonprofit Louie’s Kids has had on her family: “It saved our lives.”

Since joining the organization, which works to empower kids to make changes, both physically and mentally, to combat obesity, Lafave and her two children Aiden and Yasmin have collectively lost more than 100 pounds.

“Losing weight has been a true struggle for me my whole entire life. Everyone in our family is massive. I raised my kids to be massive. The only way I knew was to eat,” she says. But she didn’t end up participating in Louie’s Kids Family Race Club, a training program to run the Ravenel Bridge Run, without some arm-twisting. Yvonne’s sister suggested the family try it out after hearing about Louie’s Kids annual Bridge Run.

“I said, ‘I ain’t running nothing. We can run to BiLo and get dinner,” Yvonne recalls. But her sister managed to twist her arm long enough to get the Lafave family to three practices. Then Yvonne hit a wall.

The group was asked to see how long it took them to run a mile, then they worked on push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, and topping 300 pounds, Yvonne said she had tears coming down her face she was in so much pain.

Frustrated and exhausted she told her sister, “I just want to go.” Well, Louie’s Kids founder Louis Yuhasz was standing there and overheard her. “He came over and he was like ‘If you wanna go that’s fine, but you see your daughter actually trying, if you want to go die go ahead.'”

“I looked at my 14-year-old daughter who couldn’t even hardly breathe and the volunteers, and the other family members were in tears as well,” says Yvonne of that moment.

It dawned on her then that food had become more than just a crutch, it had become her family’s way of dealing with everything.

“For me as a single mom for two years, when they’d ask ‘Where’s daddy?’ I’d say here’s candy here’s cookies, here’s treats, here’s burgers. Anything to distract them. I was a soft mother, I could never set my children on the right path. ‘Let mommy hug you, let’s eat.’ Now I’m a mom. I make decisions. I say no. As much as people want to be your friend and say, ‘Oh your kids aren’t fat.’ No. I’m abusing my children, I’m killing them. Louis was the one person to not coddle me.”

And as a result, her family is in the best place it’s been in years, both physically and emotionally, Yvonne says. She’s dropped from a size 24/26 to a 16/18, Aiden has gone from a 38 to a 34, and she says, “My daughter wore a 20/22 at 14 years old. Insane. Now she’s in a medium yoga pants. I think we bought her a size 11 pair of jeans.”

But perhaps the best part has been seeing her children come into their own and get to enjoy things they never would have before like Louie’s Kids upcoming Little Chef Big Chef program, a fundraiser designed to give participants an inside look at a real restaurant kitchen. Yasmin has been working with S.N.O.B.’s Chef Russ Moore while Aiden has been assisting Matt Greene from Halls Signature Events.

“My son, oh my god, he loves this program. He did a plated lunch, an hors d’oeuvres party at TD Bank and my son was there and got a chef’s jacket. This Thursday he’ll do a plated lunch for 50 people at Halls, then an interview on Lowcountry Live Friday morning,” says Yvonne.

As for her daughter, Yvonne gets choked up talking about it.

“My daughter was 14 years old and weighed 262. She is now under 200 pounds. Imagine how difficult it is growing up. She had such a hard life, those kids were little devils to her,” she says. Not so anymore. And that’s the message Yvonne hopes people hear in her family’s story.

“If it can help any other little girl, there are so many girls that sit on that couch and won’t do it, and if it’ll help another little girl, then I’ll put it all out there.”

You can meet the Lafave family at Louie’s Kids’ Little Chef Big Chef, a four-course dinner, which will be held at 5 Faber St. on June 25 from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $240 person or $175 for food but no alcohol.

For tickets, call (843) 724-3808.


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