If you need a hero, these firefighters are ready with a new agility.
Nine volunteers at the Huntington Manor firehouse on Long Island have lost a collective total of more than 1,200 pounds over the past few years.
“There’s even more camaraderie because of the weight loss,” First Assistant Chief Chuck Brady — who shed 160 pounds — told The Post. “Our energy levels are off the charts.”
Previously, some of the members were plagued by risky health conditions such as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea. But as one after another started to get healthy, it inspired the others.
“Word got around as we saw people’s amazing results,” said Chief Jon Hoffmann, 41, who has lost 119 pounds since his July 2018 operation. “It was like: ‘Wow, what a difference! I want that, too.’ ”
In addition to exercise and changing their diets, the colleagues all underwent bariatric procedures by the same physician, Dr. David Buchin, head of Long Island Obesity Surgery PC and director of bariatric surgery at Huntington Hospital.
“It feels good to give back to those who save the lives of others,” said Buchin.
Karl McGinn, 50, has dropped 154 pounds since his surgery last September. He was inspired to do so for his daughter Lulu, 7 — because he lost his own overweight father to a heart attack when he was only 3 years old.
“I didn’t want to leave my daughter the way I was left,” said the firefighter, who weighed 364 pounds at his heaviest point.
“Last week I did fire-service training where we had to crawl through a narrow maze, an exercise I would never have completed a couple of years ago because it would have been too taxing.”
As for Brady, he hopes the team’s enormous loss will continue to inspire others battling the bulge.
“Nobody wants to listen to the fat guy eating the doughnut sitting on the sidelines telling them to exercise more and eat better,” he laughed. “They want to hear from the thin guy who can show them how he did it.” Here are some of the firehouse’s slimming stories:
Chief Jon Hoffman, 41 — lost 119 pounds
Previous weight: 290 lbs
Current weight: 171 lbs
When Hoffman was overweight, he would abandon hikes after barely a mile, exhausted by the extra bulk he was carrying. “Now I’m covering five miles and feeling great,” said the 5-foot-6 mechanic, who underwent bariatric surgery in 2018. He consumes around 2,000 calories a day of protein-rich food, lifts weights and does cardio at least three days a week.
First assistant chief Chuck Brady, 49 — lost 161 pounds
Previous weight: 351 pounds
Current weight: 190 pounds
“I’m a foodie who drives all the way to Philly for a cheesesteak or Boston for clam chowder,” said Brady, who stands 5-foot-8 and works as a dispatcher at his day job. “I knew I had to do something when at the age of 44 my doctor told me I was prediabetic.” After his 2016 surgery, his waist shrank from 52 to 34 inches and he took up yoga to help with his posture. “I’m this big tattooed guy who said there was no way I’d ever do yoga. But it’s changed my whole world.”
Firefighter Tyler Gibbs, 29 — lost 145 pounds
Previous weight: 320 pounds
Current weight: 175 pounds
Gibbs, who stands 6-foot-3, blames his “big-boned” family and lack of portion control for weight issues that forced him to wear size 3XL clothing. Thanks to his 2016 operation and revised eating habits, he’s now a medium to large. It has also helped the EMT’s performance as a firefighter: “I used to go through two Scott packs [air cylinders] during training but now I don’t get out of breath and only need one bottle.”
Second assistant chief Jimmy Glidden, 54 — lost 140 pounds
Previous weight: 348 pounds
Current weight 208 pounds
The lure of McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy’s often proved too much for Glidden, who had repeated knee surgeries because of the damage caused to his joints by excess weight. Terrified of leaving his four kids without a father, he opted for surgery in 2017 and has morphed into a healthy food enthusiast. “We joke that, when there is a call, I can climb the ladder on the truck like a spider monkey,” said the 5-foot-10 mechanic. “My breathing has improved, my blood pressure is down and I feel safer doing the job.”
Firefighter Karl McGinn, 50 — lost 154 pounds
Previous weight: 364 pounds
Current weight: 210 pounds
McGinn, a mechanic, found his metabolism slowing after he reached 40. Standing 6-foot-4, he dubbed his extra weight “happy fat” because he was content in his marriage and enjoyed hearty family meals. But his mobility was poor and he couldn’t keep up with daughter, Lulu, now seven. That all changed following his 2019 gastric sleeve surgery and commitment to portion control. “These days, I can run around the playground instead of sitting on a bench watching Lulu. It’s been a life changer.”
Firefighter Tom Costas, 50 — lost 155 pounds
Previous weight: 375 lbs
Current weight: 220 lbs
Costas suffered a range of problems due to his weight including worryingly high cholesterol and sleep apnea — scaring his wife as he struggled to breathe in the middle of the night. Lacking energy, he would avoid playing with his kids in the pool as he was self-conscious about wearing swim gear. “Getting back my self-image alone is worth its weight in gold,” said the 6-foot-2 dad of two, who also works for the Town of Huntington Highway Department and had his surgery two years ago. “I just wish I’d done it sooner.”
Firefighter John Hall, 54 — lost 87 pounds
Previous weight: 282 lbs
Current weight: 195 lbs
A recovering emotional eater, the 5-foot-10 Hall struggled with his weight since childhood and was prescribed medication for high cholesterol and diabetes as an adult. Since his surgery in 2018, the only pills he takes now are multivitamins. He is more active, going biking and camping, and enjoys fitting into fashionable clothes. But Hall, a foreman in the Huntington Sanitation Department, is cautious about giving advice. “Weight loss and personal challenges in life are based on the individual,” he said. “[They] will move forward when they are ready in their own mind.”
Firefighter Vito Reciniello, 50 — lost 149 pounds
Previous weight: 340 lbs
Current weight: 191 lbs
Reciniello — a former yo-yo dieter and binge-eater — battled obesity due to his reliance on fast food coupled with poor sleeping habits as a result of paramedic shift work. A “cardiac event” at his son’s communion proved a wake-up call. In 2009, he was the first member of the fire house to have bariatric surgery. It rebooted his life. “It’s not something to be taken lightly because it’s major surgery,” said Reciniello, who stands 5-foot-8 and now works for the American Red Cross as a disaster program manager. “But I’m so glad I did this.”
First aid squad captain Kathleen Castillo, 47 — lost 179 pounds
Previous weight: 341 lbs
Current weight: 162 lbs
Castillo, a personal home-care assistant by day, says she was the kind of person who would watch TV shows like “My 600-lb. Life” while chowing down on a Big Mac. Addicted to fast food, she “existed, rather than lived” and became prediabetic and prehypertensive while volunteering for a First Aid Squad that works closely with the Huntington Manor Firehouse. She finally took action after her obese mom suffered a stroke. “I knew I was killing myself,” said the 5-foot-6 Castillo, who had surgery in 2017. “Now I cook healthy meals for myself and am an active grandma to my 4-year-old granddaughter, Marley.” It also gave her the confidence to make another big life change: She is studying to be an RN.