LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE)- Obesity is one of the most serious health risks children face, with direct links to heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Kentucky ranks third in the country for childhood obesity with 21% of kids dangerously obese.
And the statistics are especially high in the African American communities.
It's why the Louisville Urban League is sounding the alarm in an effort to get families moving.
The West family in Louisville's west end is listening after a few of them noticed some recent weight gain.
"I think one of the biggest problems is that we don't want to hurt our children's feelings," says Shay West, "but we're hurting them if we don't be real about ourselves."
The family of six now walks to nearby Shawnee Park in the afternoons to do a 3 mile walk or jog.
17 year old Raven was surprised when she realized weight was becoming a problem for her. "I was like daag, what did I do?" said Raven. But her 15 year old sister Leigh Anne knew the problem exactly, "like honestly, Little Debbie is my best friend."
But jokes aside, no real friend is going to put your health at risk "because we come from a family that has sugar diabetes and high blood pressure," Shay said. "I have to look at myself in the mirror and see I've gained weight and I have to look at my daughter and see she gained weight. I would do her an injustice if I didn't say something."
Shay's now refusing to buy unhealthy snacks and is instead stocking the refrigerator with more fruits and vegetables. She's taking parental control before weight gets out of control.
42 year old Robin Hinkle knows prevention is a much easier road and a much kinder one for kids.
Hinkle weighed over 200 pounds when she was in the 7th grade.
"It wasn't pleasant being around some kids that turned out to be bullies. Just mean and cruel kids" said Hinkle. Robin made a life-saving decision by cutting out sugary snacks, soda and second helpings. She lost over 50 pounds in 6 months and has kept it off for 30 years.
Robin's path is an inspiration for kids now struggling.
And the West family is already making some powerful strides. 11 year old Darren is thankful for his mom, "she keeps trying to get us to do things so we wouldn't become overweight."
"It's not about their feelings and emotions, It's about health. It's about life and death," Shay said.
Robin, Shay and her family are all taking part in the Louisville Urban League Walk to Defeat Childhood Obesity, Saturday at Churchill Downs. Check in is at 9:30, and the 1 mile walk starts at 10:30 at gate 10.