By Kathy Yanchus • Review Staff
It was in the middle of the night four years ago when the name came to him.
Exhausted and wide awake after undergoing six weeks of chemotherapy for lymphatic cancer, which followed an earlier diagnosis of testicular cancer, the words HEAL 4 Life came to Kyle Williams.
Kyle and his brother Drew have always wanted to pursue something together that would allow them to give back to the community and promote health and wellness.
“We just didn’t realize the type of platform, what business we were going to create,” said Kyle, who was diagnosed at the age of 23, while pursuing a football career at Bishops’ University. “Then going through that (cancer), things lined up and made sense. I thought of the name HEAL 4 Life, something as a starting point for us to go somewhere; I wasn’t sure of what direction it was going to go in, but I figured starting with the name was great.”
Their three-year-old mantra of HEAL (Health Everyday Active Living) 4 Life has been amped up recently with the creation of the brothers’ Turn it Up Campaign, which they are taking into high schools “to turn up the awareness on healthy living, eating well, being active, keeping a positive mind and turning up the awareness on testicular cancer.”
Earlier this week, the Williams brothers were on Newstalk 1010’s The Live Drive with John Tory radio show, yet another promotional avenue to spread their story.
“This has been my dream since going through chemotherapy,” said Kyle, now 27. “I want to recreate the energy that I find is missing in a lot of kids. I think it’s because there’s so much overload with technology and an absence of parenting. I’m not taking the negative front that parents are bad, I just think we need to reevaluate the time spent with family and people we care about, whether it’s your mom and dad, or you live with your grandmother, whoever is your support system, to give kids that empowerment and confidence that they are worth it.”
The responsibility of healthy living is slowly shifting away from the family and being placed on others, be it trainers or schools, which must now provide healthy food and activity, noted Drew.
“I think it has to get back to the family, because as individuals, as adults, as parents and as kids, we have to take responsibility for that because it’s in our control. The only person who has the best interest in ourselves is our family and us as individuals,” he said.
In March, the brothers left their full-time jobs to dedicate the bulk of their time to HEAL 4 Life.
Both spoke during the re-dedication of their former high school, Waterdown District High School, where Kyle held early morning workouts for the community this past summer at the high school’s track.
“We focus on promoting health and wellness and motivating people, inspiring people to take that first step to living a healthier lifestyle,” said Drew. “We’re not promoting any certain diet or any certain exercises, it’s about making small changes throughout your life to live a healthier life and also keeping you accountable for those choices, because you can’t do it alone, you have to have some support system. That’s why we’ve created the healthy living tool on our web site and this is also why we do different events in the community. It’s a matter of doing as much as we can to promote health and wellness.”
The brothers, now living outside of Waterdown, still run programs at the local high school Tuesday evenings, when they invite youth , in the community to come to the gym, have some fun and exercise with others.
“These are just some of the things we do just to give back to the community and promote health and wellness that we’ll be doing forever because that’s our passion and our love. We’ve always loved coaching and teaching people and educating and just being active with people,” said Drew.
The Williams brothers also recently spoke to approximately 50 male students, members of a club raising money for testicular cancer, at a secondary school in Waterloo, .
“We have over 1,000 views on the Waterdown (High School) talk on YouTube, over 600 followers on Twitter, 360-plus likes on Facebook, and we hope to just keep growing,” said Drew.
Any opportunity they have to interact with young people they hope is an opportunity to help kids realize that with such diversity in the world, that “being you is okay.”
“And whether you’re fat, skinny, white, black, you name it, with the world we live in today, with different families, we have to accept being me, because being me is where it all starts,” said Kyle. “It doesn’t matter about my body, or the Louis crest across my chest, it’s not going to separate me from the rest of the kids and I think more than ever now, we’re starting to break those barriers down, to ‘Who do you really want to be?’ I was an individual who had a football jersey that gave me all the recognition, acknowledgement and friends I could ever ask for, but as soon as that was stripped away from me, I needed to realize what really mattered and who really mattered.”
It’s important for all those unpredictable moments in life, when rather than you relying on your body to perform, your body relies on your decisions to keep it going, said the Williams.
“If you’re preparing yourself as a good quality individual and taking care of the ones you love, so that no matter what situation or circumstances or success comes your way, you’re at the best physical and mental position to be able to take care of it and achieve the best out of life.”
Kyle said he has already achieved everything he has ever wanted to.
“My whole goal, I just remember driving home from my last day of chemo, and saying, ‘I have to get my story out there, just to help a few people.’”
“It starts by looking in the mirror. If you’re unhappy with your body, and the way you’re eating, I want you to start your day off with a smile. The more kids we chitchat with, who hear my story, they’ll realize all that other stuff is not that important in life. I’ll be the first person to tell them there’s somebody who’s much worse off than me. You take every circumstance for what it is and make the best of it.”
“I would second that,” added Drew. “The most rewarding time is not during the presentation, it’s after our presentations or talks or events, when people come up to us and share a personal story, or say they have been touched, or they have somebody going through the same thing. For those kids to be able to open up, to be comfortable with themselves in their own situation and take the next step and do something about it and live a happier life or a healthier life, or be apart of HEAL 4 life in some way and promote health and wellness and touch another person’s life….”
For more information on HEAL 4 Life, or to make a commitment to live a healthier life or to book the brothers to speak to your school or organization, visit www.heal4life.ca.