October 6th, 2010
03:47 PM ET

CNN Hero: 'I feel like a gift has been given and I can really use it to help others who are struggling.'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/10/06/art.fondren.cnn.jpg caption="Linda Fondren is helping her Mississippi hometown banish the bulge."]

Programming Note: CNN Heroes received more than ten thousand nominations from 100 countries. A Blue Ribbon Panel selected the Top 10 CNN Heroes for the year. Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year continues through November 18th (6am ET) at CNNHeroes.com

Editor's Note: With her weight-loss challenge, Shape Up Vicksburg, Linda Fondren is helping her Mississippi hometown banish the bulge. Through the group’s free fitness activities and nutrition classes, residents have lost nearly 15,000 pounds to date.

When I answered the phone and heard “This is CNN”, I thought ‘Oh! A follow-up of how things are going.’ It did not cross my overloaded mind about being a CNN Top Ten Hero.

But, there was something different the caller’s voice. My eyes watered first, as I clutched the phone a little tighter. She explained something about the Blue Ribbon Panel and said…”selected as one of the top ten”. I had to contain my emotions as my office has a glass door so members of the gym can see me … I turned my chair away from the glass door and looked at the blue sky. I was overjoyed, my heart sang with moments of ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!’ It was going pitter-pat, pitter-pat, but I know it’s OK, because I work out!

I feel like someone is paying attention and am extremely honored… I feel like a gift has been given and I can really use it to help others who are struggling.

Shape Up Vicksburg brought something magical to it’s community. We learned other’s life stories. We planted something new in the state of Mississippi that people wouldn't expect and most importantly, we are healthier.

I hope that Shape Up Vicksburg can show that we are all heroes when we are responsible. We are heroes when we serve as examples… and help each other.

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