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Army veteran helps depressed teens boost self-esteem

Posted at 3:18 PM, Apr 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-28 18:40:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Mark and Anthony are building more than just muscles. Each sweat soaked rep cements their bond.

When they first met last October at Mark Rabon’s gym in Richmond, Anthony was skeptical about the stranger. But he knew he desperately needed help.

"I just saw an opportunity to change his life really," Mark said.

Last spring, Anthony was a 5’7’’ teen who tipped the scales at 370 pounds. He was failing in high school and sinking into a state of depression.

Anthony didn’t like what he saw staring back in the mirror.

"I kept putting myself down and down," Anthony said.

Anthony’s mother was worried sick about her son's health, so out of desperation she turned to Mark.

"It was hard. I didn’t want to see him go through that," Latrima Wright said about her son.

The timing of Mark’s and Anthony’s meeting was perfect.

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Mark, who ballooned from 180 to 255 pounds after he left the military in 2009, saw a lot of himself in Anthony.

"One day I said I got to do something about it is getting out of control," Mark said.

The veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq started a new mission in life -- as a personal trainer.

He now helps overweight, depressed and bullied teens drop pounds and boost their self-esteem.

He does this work -- for free.

"I kind of made it my passion," Mark said.

With Mark’s guidance Anthony grinded through push ups and lunges five days a week.

Slowly, Anthony started seeing the fruits of his labor.

The progress hasn’t stopped both outside and in.

Anthony has dropped more than 120 pounds. Now his confidence is soaring, especially in front of a mirror.

"You say what do I see now? A good looking guy. I do," a laughing Anthony said.

The teen and his mom credit this mentor with helping Anthony reach his lofty goals.

"I feel like he saved my son’s life," Latrima said.

"He is one of the best persons I ever met. A great person to work with. A great person to be around," Anthony said.

Five days a week Mark and Anthony are chiseling muscles and a friendship that is stronger than steel.

"It makes me feel like a better person," Anthony said. "Like I achieved something."

"I guess there are no words to describe it," Mark said. "It’s like I’ve been successful in doing something great. That money can’t buy."

If you would like to learn more about Mark’s free fitness program for overweight teens click here.

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Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.