Bradbury Ketelhut’s seashell collection isn’t a typical one.
It’s not about the best or the biggest, the most unique or even the most valuable. Instead, it’s just about having them. Five hundred of them, to be exact.
For Ketelhut, the shells are hash marks. Each one represents the systematic crossing off of yet another item on his 500-mile long “to-do” list. Though, like Ketelhut’s shell collection, his “to-do” list is also a little different. The list is long in length, yet it only has one single action item: walk.
It’s all part of the part-time Naples resident’s new mission, Project Seashell.
“I was walking on the beach by myself in November, and my wife, Julee, called and said, ‘Pick me up a seashell.’ I had just made the decision that I wanted to get back in shape, and I was thinking of pairing that decision with a charity. From there, Project Seashell was born,” says Ketelhut.
From now until May, Ketelhut, who owns Englishman Fine Art in Naples, aims to walk 500 miles, traversing the beaches of Naples and collecting a single shell for every mile completed. But not only is his hoping to lose weight and gain a serious shell collection, Ketelhut also wants to use Project Seashell as a vehicle for raising money and awareness for the American Heart Association.
“We wanted something where people could participate,” says Ketelhut, adding, “heart disease has affected the lives of so many people around us, joining up with the American Heart Association just made sense.” Ketelhut’s wife, Julee, adds, “My father actually had a valve replacement a year ago, so it’s touched us personally.”
And while Ketelhut is usually a very private person, he’s decided to go public with his weight loss campaign.
“At first collecting the seashells was more of a metaphor, but now everyone’s asking to see them,” reveals Ketelhut, who anticipates turning the collection into the filling for a hurricane lamp, or some other memento that will ultimately remind him of his weight loss journey. “It’s making me be accountable for the changes I vowed to make.”
Like many of us, it’s not the first time Ketelhut has tried to make a change. In a former life, Ketelhut was actually a professional downhill skier. His body was a finely tuned machine, used to six-plus hours a day of training. When he left ski racing to go to graduate school, real life kicked in, and he slowly found himself battling the bulge.
Ketelhut thought maybe a quick fix would do the trick, but it didn’t.
“We’ve tried the fad diets,” says Ketelhut. His wife, Julee chimes in with, “Oh, we’re pretty much fad diet veterans, but the truth is fad diets don’t work.”
What Ketelhut needed wasn’t just a quick fix; instead he needed a total lifestyle revamping. And that’s why he turned to the America Heart Association.
“At the American Heart Association we really focus on healthy eating and exercise,” says Reagan Goldberg, executive director of the Southwest Florida chapter of the organization. Goldberg adds, “These are easy, controllable factors that can lessen your risk for heart disease.”
After an initial meeting, which Ketelhut described at, “ridiculously encouraging,” the AHA set him up with their “Start Walking Now” website, which tracks mileage, nutrition and other exercise information.
“What’s neat is every year at the annual Heart Walk we have a lifestyle change champion,” says Goldberg, adding, “I really hope we see Bradley apply for that next year.”
And although Ketelhut, as a former athlete, is naturally competitive, this isn’t necessarily a competition for him. Instead, he hopes others in Naples will join him, either through supporting his cause with a donation to the American Heart Association, or by making a change in their own lives.
“If one person pays attention to this and decides to make a change in their life because if it, then I’ve reached one of my goals.”
His other goals, however, he knows he has to reach on his own.
“Ideally, I want to lose about 40 during this four month campaign,” says Ketelhut, adding, “the biggest thing I’ve found is that I have to be doing it and making the change for me, and I am. I’m doing this because I want to help the community, and raise some money, but ultimately, I’m doing it for me.”
Want to support Ketelhut or start your own life chance? Visit www.projectseashell.com or the American Heart Association’s website at www.heart.org.