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Money Center celebrates one-year anniversary

Samuel Cook lifts weights at ACU's Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center, a $21 million facility that opened Sept. 2, 2011.
Samuel Cook is a little more than half the man he used to be. To be more precise, he’s lost nearly a third of his body weight.
He’s done it by pumping weight – cumulatively, more than a million pounds of it. Staff at the Royce and Pam Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center recently recognized Cook for pushing past the mark of a million pounds lifted since the center’s opening last September as recorded by the Wellness Key he inserts into the center’s fitness equipment to monitor his progress and provide informative personal workout data.
Between Cook’s determined regimen of working out and his attention to better nutrition and eating habits, he has utterly transformed himself.
“My motivation has been to get healthy, and then to stay consistent in maintaining the new lifestyle, because it reaps so many good results in my physical, mental and spiritual health,” says Cook. “I feel the benefits in all aspects of my life, so it’s easy to keep up the routine.”
Cook, an artist-in-residence, opera director and associate professor of voice at Abilene Christian, is one of hundreds of faculty, staff and students who visit the Money Center on a daily basis. The center averages more than 6,000 member visits a week, and 25,000 visits per month.
Sept. 2 marks the one-year anniversary of the $21 million facility, which houses a fitness center, four gyms, three racquetball courts, a lap pool and a leisure pool, a bouldering wall, a one-eighth-mile running track, two aerobics studios, a lighted outdoor basketball court, a juice and snack bar, classrooms and offices for the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, as well as new facilities for the Ann and O.J. Weber Medical and Counseling Care Center.
Cook is shown before and after his weight loss. He began his journey to a healthier lifestyle about a year ago.
Joel Swedlund (’93), executive director of the center, loves hearing success stories such as Cook’s.
“We’ve had so many students and employees that have made great strides in improving their physical health,” he says. “It’s exciting to see their energy level, attitude, and confidence improve as they stay true to their workout routines. However, the most amazing thing to me is hearing stories from people who credit this facility to changing and even saving their lives.”
Cook’s turnaround began last spring.
“In May 2011, I stepped on the scale and saw that I was 260 pounds, and it scared me. I realized I was heading for 300 – a very unhealthy place to be for a guy who is 5’8″,” Cook says.
“I took a suit to be let out and the seamstress said, ‘You’re too fat! There’s no material in this suit to take out!’ She encouraged me to try some herbal supplements that have really worked for me. I also began to hit the gym,” he says.
From a high of 260, Cook has dropped nearly 80 pounds, and he says he’s committed to reaching his goal weight of 170.
“I believe the Holy Spirit has given me discipline that could have only come from outside myself,” Cook says. “I’ve been praying to God to help me with this struggle because I’ve been heavy most of my life, and He has been with me.”
Cook also is quick to credit members of the Money Center staff who greet him every day on his way in to work out.
“They are so supporting and encouraging – always very positive. Coming into that environment, I hear the staff say nice things about the changes they’re seeing. The kind words are an incentive to keep working,” Cook says.
As for the Wellness Key he uses with the fitness equipment: “The key is the key, you might say. It’s my personal trainer – my personal pat-on-the-back. I had always ignored weights when I worked out before, but now when the data on the key gives me an ‘A’ grade after my workout and I see the flashing lights on the read-out, it’s very satisfying.”
ACU students will celebrate the Money Center tonight during its second annual RecFest, featuring birthday cake, demo exercise classes, tournaments, pool activities and live music from 4 p.m. to midnight.