MTV cameras follow overweight kids at Camp Pocono Trails  

By Gema Maria Duarte

For the Pocono Record

A REEDERS - Matthew Liber joined New Image Weight Loss Camp at Pocono Trails last summer for the fourth time, but there was one difference this time.

His weight-loss summer became a documentary for the popular music video channel, MTV.

"It was exciting," said the 17-year-old camper from New Jersey. "It was a surreal experience."

Jason Farmer/Pocono Record
Campers build self-confidence while exercising -- and losing weight -- at Camp Pocono Trails in Reeders.


The nationally televised two-hour documentary "Fat Camp" was recorded in Reeders, where Tony and Dale Sparber have set up camp on their private 350 acres for children 7 to 19 years old. The facility has been open from June to August every year since 1991.

The show airs on Sunday at 8 p.m. and Monday at 11 a.m. on MTV.

The camp's mission is to provide an environment where weight loss is an integral part of the summer camp experience that promotes health, wellness, integrity and learning; builds self-esteem and provides individualized attention that gets results.

MTV recorded the struggles of overweight children who are looking to improve their self-image and make friends in an almost country club environment. They keep physically active with the help of certified weight trainers, nurses, dieticians and sports trainers.

Throughout the summer, campers also take cooking classes and learn behavior modification, said Tony Sparber.

After summer, Sparber said, camp staff keep track of campers and their weight.

"It's a 50-50 chance that they keep it off," he said.

At the start of camp, Liber weighed in around 250 pounds. By the end of camp, he was down to 216.

"I do great at camp, then I do good for a month, then I go back to my old eating ways," Liber said.

"When you leave camp, you tell yourself 'Wow, I look better than when I started.'"

Marisa Cristinzio has kept 92 pounds off since she first started camp three summers ago.

As MTV documented her weight, the numbers didn't make her uncomfortable, she said. Instead, she kept focused on her goal to keep lean.

"The numbers don't matter," said the 17-year-old Chalfont resident. "What matters is how you feel about yourself."

Diabetes runs in her family, she said, so it motivated her to lose weight.

"I don't want to die young," she said. "And I wanted what all teenage kids want. I want to be skinny and be accepted."

Cristinzio's current weight is 172 - her goal is 150.

On Saturday she was proud of herself, she said, when she got a job at LA Fitness as a personal trainer assistant.

Copyright © February 27, 2006, Pocono Record
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