Dahrnaz Tigner’s little sister, Jade, once weighed nearly 300 pounds. She was ill. He was ambitious. So to bring attention to childhood obesity, the 27-year-old former high school athlete recently walked more than 1,300 miles from his home in Pompano Beach to the White House. It took two months.
"At first my sister was shocked. She kept asking why I [had] to do something so big," Tigner says. “It’s more than her. I want [people struggling with obesity] to know that there are people who believe in them and [are] willing to go the extra mile.”
Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, Tigner spent four years researching and planning the effort, which he called the Walk of Hearts. He met with kids of all ages at the YMCA and basketball courts. This past June 18, Tigner, who works as a community liason with the Broward Sheriff’s Office, departed Pompano Beach and walked more than 1,300 miles in the scorching summer heat until reaching the White House on August 9. He flew back to South Florida last week.
“It felt good to know that I had kept my promise to so many children that I told I would do it,” he says. “If I can walk almost 1,400 miles for you, you can play for 30 minutes a day or talk to your parents about living a healthier lifestyle.”
Tigner’s favorite parts of the journey were the people he met. He recalls a 90-year-old woman he helped cross the street, the family he stayed with in Orlando, and the inspiring folks he met at the Pulse nightclub memorial. Tigner appreciates his two brothers, Aris Knight and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Jabari Price, who accompanied him for two separate walking stints.
The walking covered his feet in blisters. They were so bad that sometimes his socks would wind up drenched in blood. The swelling in Tigner’s feet was so severe that he had to buy new shoes because his feet had grown two sizes, from 12 to 14. His calves were always sore, and one knee grew finicky. Along the way, Tigner had to invest in a brace. His shoulders ached from carrying a 60-pound backpack every day with his belongings.
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But the biggest battle, he says, was mental. To overcome the physical pain, Tigner would listen to motivational speeches and music.
“It was the most transforming thing I ever did,” Tigner says. “I was able to clear my mind and reassess a lot of things. Every day, I realized that my body is going to hurt, but things will slowly get easier.”
When Tigner finally arrived at the White House last Tuesday, he broke down. He says he started crying. Snot and tears covered the sidewalk, he says. “It was so emotional that I can’t put it into words,” he says. “It’s a moment I’ll always remember.”
Back home, Tigner reports that his sister has lost nearly 60 pounds and is already living a much healthier lifestyle. In the future, Tigner wants to keep working with children and helping them lead healthier lifestyles. He’s already planning a childhood weight loss summer camp.