He may go down in history as a Hall-of-Fame basketball player, but Lakers Guard Kobe Bryant is also pretty good cheerleader.
A Newport Beach woman who dropped 17 pounds while raising money for cancer patients found an unexpected supporter in the NBA superstar. It all started when Darlene Gardner bumped into the Lakers’ guard at the gym.
Gardner, 48, was one of three contestants who competed in the Fit Foods 4 Life 28-Day Charity Weightloss Challenge. The owner of Antonia's Boutique in Newport Beach, Gardner lost 17 pounds, raising $50 per pound she shed for the Don't Worry, Be Happy Foundation and earning the championship title in the weight-loss competition. Bryant, himself a five-time NBA champion, threw his support behind Gardner.
"He was high-fiving me in the gym every time I saw him," Gardner told Patch.
Along with helping motivate Gardner to shed the weight, Bryant also lent his support to the Don't Worry, Be Happy Foundation, which supports cancer patients who cannot afford treatments through donations and sales of their T-shirts. Bryant wore the shirt and posted a picture of himself wearing it on his Facebook page.
"He put the shirt on and took a picture with me. I heard he doesn't take pictures for anyone. So I was blown away at that," Gardner said. "He's a nice guy."
Consuelo Rodriguez, 55, and Cristina Lopez, 25, also took part in the weight loss challenge. Equinox Gym gave the three contestants a free month membership with access to their trainers. Even with all the perks, they said it wasn't easy.
"It was gruesome," Gardner said. "I got four trainers four days a week. Lot of working out, but everyone should do this. You have nothing to lose except a few pounds."
Lopez weighed in at second place. She lost 14 pounds right in time for her wedding next summer.
"We did a lot of circuit training, a lot of fun dance classes to mix it up. I had Fit Foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Lopez said. "My fiancé is like 'you are so skinny.' It's going to be really fun to go wedding dress shopping now."
Rodriguez did a lot of weight resistance training and lost 13 pounds. She said the experience was life-changing.
"It's surprising. The results happen real quickly," Rodriguez said. "I want to continue doing weight training and walking around the bay and kayaking around the harbor."
Overall Fit Foods 4 Life donated a total of $1,625 to the Don't Worry Be Happy Foundation, The American Diabetes Association and The American Heart Association thanks to the commitments of Gardner, Lopez and Rodriguez.
If you are interested in joining the weight loss challenge, stop by Fit Foods 4 Life to sign-up. Fit Foods 4 Life is located at 2043 Westcliff Drive in Newport Beach. For more information, call 949-722-3663 or visit fitfoods4life.com.