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Former Hornet stings at obesity

Tra Collins.

Two words that make fat cells quiver in fear.

Collins is a native of Brookhaven, a graduate of Loyd Star High and a lieutenant in the Canton Fire Department. He’s also on a mission to help make Mississippi healthier, starting with his hometown.

The 34-year-old father of four hosts fitness bootcamps every Monday in the Bi-Centennial Building on Main Street in Brookhaven. It’s not unusual to see him take to social media to rally friends and neighbors to a park or community center for an impromptu workout. On March 9, he’s holding a two-hour aerobic dance party at the Brookhaven Building at 1154 Beltline Drive.

He juggles his busy schedule to make time to motivate.

“I don’t want us to keep being known as the most obese state in the nation,” he said.

Collins was an active teenager. He played basketball at Loyd Star and was the Hornet mascot. He had dreams of being a coach and a school teacher when he went to Copiah-Lincoln Community College on a mascot scholarship.

Then he lost focus. Life happened. Friends changed. He was hanging with the wrong crowd and it was bringing him down.

Then someone asked him and his buddies if they wanted to meet at the park and work out and apply to be a Brookhaven firefighter.

The group he was with scoffed at the idea and said no.

Collins had an ah-ha moment.

“I said, ‘Don’t speak for me. I want to do it,’” he said. “And the rest is history. The fire department saved me. Jumping off the truck, you kind of feel like superman. Kids look up to you.”

He stayed at the Brookhaven Fire Department for four years, then eventually made his way to Canton, where he moved up the ranks quickly.

Determination was something he learned it from his grandmother, Mary Wilson of Loyd Star.

But rescuing people from burning buildings wasn’t enough. He felt the need to rescue them from themselves, by correcting bad habits and eliminating lethargic lifestyles.

And what better place to start than his hometown?

He began with the fitness bootcamp. Eighty-five people showed up for the first one and they were forced to move to a larger space. Now he holds two classes each Monday night.

The $5 fee per class is minimal. He’s going into the fifth week of a six-week bootcamp, which is designed to increase the intensity of the exercises as the participants progress through the program.

When these sessions are over, he plans to start it again. And again.

“We are at war with obesity,” he said. “We’re at war with high blood pressure.”

Because exercise should also be fun, Collins is hosting an aerobic dance party March 9 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Cost is $10 per person and $5 for one or more additional family members 16 years old and younger. “We’ll have them at age 2 all the way up to 92,” he said. “It’s kid friendly. It’s family oriented. We’re going to have good, clean energetic music.”

What it won’t be, is boring, he said.

“Working out can be boring. We’re making it fun,” he said. “Hopefully, if this is a success, people will begin to do things on their own and be more active.”

Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable neon workout clothes.

At least four first responders from Canton, Jackson and Brookhaven will be on hand for any medical emergencies.

It’s all about raising awareness about the dangers of obesity. “The key is in the prevention, not the cure,” he said.

Collins has started his own company, Love2Live LLC.

“What that means is loving who you are,” he said. “Not comparing yourself to anyone. Being confident and taking your health and life very seriously.

“Focus on body mind and spirit. You can be who you want to be if you put the work in.”

His target audience is women. “Coming from the east side of Brookhaven, I see so many single parents. See so many ladies working two jobs to provide for their their children,” he said. “They take care of everybody else. They let themselves go. Then they look up and say, ‘What happened to me?’ I want them to know if you don’t love yourself first you can’t take care of anyone else.”

His goal for Brookhaven is 1,000 pounds down.

He’ll bring his bootcamp to churches, schools or businesses if at least 20 people will register. “Whatever helps you be better, I’m here,” he said. “I want to make it a movement to wake people and be more active. Love conquers all. We’re all we got.”

For more information, contact Collins at collinstra@gmail.com.