550-pound teen loses weight, gains hope for future - FOX Carolina 21

550-pound teen loses weight, gains hope for future

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Alex Draper before he began losing weight. (File) Alex Draper before he began losing weight. (File)
Alex Draper talks to FOX Carolina about his weight loss and his new life. (FOX Carolina) Alex Draper talks to FOX Carolina about his weight loss and his new life. (FOX Carolina)

Alex Draper wants to graduate from Travelers Rest High School next year. He is taking extra classes this summer and working hard on his school credits. He is making up for months lost when he was younger - when he tipped the scales at more than 550 pounds.

He was 14 years old when his mother, Jerri Gray, got word that the South Carolina Department of Social Services might take Draper from her. The day of a scheduled court hearing, she put him in her van and started driving. They ended up in Baltimore, MD, where authorities caught up to them a couple of days later. Gray was charged with child neglect and spent about five weeks in jail, while Draper went to live with relatives.

Three years later, both Draper and Gray have changed. Draper is busy with school, his social life and working as manager for a local basketball team. He is active in his church and with his extended family. Plus, he works out nearly every day with trainers at the gym and in the pool at the Travelers Rest YMCA.

He looks like a different person. Draper has lost about 250 pounds. He credits many people for his dramatic weight loss, including relatives, friends, counselors and trainers. He told FOX Carolina that he plans to keep working out and hopes to lose even more weight.

Draper will attend college in Huntsville, AL, after he graduates from high school. He wants to study architecture and said he wants to help others.

"My main plan is to lose all that weight and stuff like that, and do my architecture and stuff like that, and go overseas and build houses," Draper said.

He said he hopes to combine mission work with his area of study. He said that helping others is a big part of his new life.

As for Draper's mother, she is trying to get back on her feet. She said she has lost more than 60 pounds and hopes to lose even more. She lives alone, with Draper visiting her on the weekends. She called what happened three years ago a mistake, but said she is a good mother and was only trying to protect her son.

Gray spends her free time singing at Triune Mercy Center in Greenville and painting. She has created a number of paintings and sold them to people in the Upstate. She said her criminal record was cleared after she completed community service, and her next step is to find a job.

Both Draper and Gray said they wish the best for each other and are looking forward to the future. They both said they appreciate the support they are receiving from the people around them and they hope the image in many people's minds of them three years ago, will be replaced with the people they are now.

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