At Thrive, we believe one of the most important ways to fight burnout is to find purpose and meaning in the work you do every day. Our partnership with Walmart enables us to see the power of Thrive’s behavior change platform in action every day. Through small better choices that build momentum over time, Walmart associates (and their friends and family) are able to make changes that drastically improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

Each month, we award 18 winners with a cash prize for their accomplishments in the Thrive Challenge. Reading through their stories and learning how each of them overcame everyday struggles gives us so much inspiration and passion for the work that we do. 

Below, read the stories of our 18 winners for the month of September. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Michelle Wright, Fulfillment Center #2076, Laurens, SC

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“In 2016 my husband, Earl, died of a massive heart attack, and my whole world was turned upside down. I wasn’t eating well and I gained 10 pounds. My friends at work said, ‘You’ve got to do the Thrive Challenge,’ so two years ago, I downloaded the Thrive app. Oh my Lord, it changed everything. I started drinking a lot of water and I stopped eating fast food. I bought an airfryer. I make chicken or steak with asparagus and broccoli. And I make great cauliflower crust pizza. I go to the gym at the YMCA — I do cardio and weights. And I like to ride on the stationary bike. I’m 56 and I feel great. I’ve lost the 10 pounds I’d gained. I have much more energy. I’m in a relationship with a wonderful man. I’ve known my fiancé, James, for 28 years. He’s a Walmart truck driver. He’s a good one! We’re getting married next May and we’re planning our wedding. I never thought I’d get married again — I’m over the moon!”

Valencia Bonner, Distribution Center #6061, Statesboro, GA

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“I lost my mom two years ago. We were very close and it was hard without her. I was eating junk food all the time. I found out my blood pressure was very high and I weighed 225 pounds. My doctor put me on three different medications. I downloaded the Thrive app and started going to the gym. Now, working out is therapeutic for me, and it brings me joy. I bought a bicycle and I ride around the beautiful trails in my neighborhood. Sometimes, my significant other, Stephen, comes with me. We’re cooking and we don’t eat out as much. We make grilled salmon or baked chicken with veggies and black beans. I’ve lost 38 pounds. I’m more confident. My blood pressure is much lower. Stephen and I are planning to get married and start a family. I know I’ll be a great mom because I was raised by a great mom.”

Michael Ball, Walmart Supercenter #3363, Owensboro, KY

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“I was always helping other people, but I neglected myself. I have type 2 diabetes and I was in a lot of pain. I decided I had to do something different when I stepped on the scale and I weighed 349 pounds. I started the Thrive Challenge and began by setting up a daily routine. Drinking a glass of water in the morning gets me off to a good start. I walk a mile at lunch time. For dinner, my wife, Leighanne, and I might have a burger without a bun, and we’re eating lots of veggies. We’re more active and go for bike rides with our grandkids, and I’ve started to do short runs. I’ve lost 27 pounds so far and I have much less pain in my feet and my knees. Leighanne and I are really connecting. We listen to each other, and I’m more open. My goal is to get healthy so I can be active with my grandkids as they grow up. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines.” 

Jerald Buckles, Distribution Center #7055, Gas City, IN

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“I’d wake up in the morning and everything hurt. I was eating fast food and I didn’t feel good. I didn’t have any energy for my wife, Stephanie, and our three kids. It was time for a change. I downloaded the Thrive app, and I started cooking. I make soup with Italian sausage and kale. Everyone loves my chicken enchiladas. And I’m eating lots of veggies. I’ve lost a lot of weight in a year, and I have more energy. I go to the gym and we go on family hikes. We really like Mounds State Park which has ceremonial mounds built by Native Americans. My six-year-old son, Tristan, has autism, and I take him to his therapy. We have parent training and I love helping him progress. I’m also studying for a bachelor’s degree through Walmart. I’m proud of myself. I’m a lot happier and a lot less stressed. Before starting the Thrive Challenge, I didn’t have any direction. Now I have goals. I’m a better father and provider for the family.”

Jared Pinkerton, Walmart Home Office, Bentonville, AR

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“I struggle with depression and I didn’t feel good. I’m 25 now, and in May I got married. My wife, Saylor, and I are really happy, but I wanted more support. Candie Holland, a Thrive Grand Champ, inspired me to start the Thrive Challenge. First, I established a morning routine. I stretch for five minutes, then I walk outside. It’s important to get sunlight when I wake up. Moving has been a game changer. At work, I go for a 10 minute walk around the building. And after work I go for walks with my dog Clover — we have a close bond. I tend to be a comfort eater. But I’ve shifted my mindset. I have more salads and fruit. I love the Thrive Microstep about making meaningful connections. My connection with Saylor is the most important one in my life. We talk about any struggles we’re going through, and what’s making us happy. I enjoy everything more now and I’m much happier.” 

Christopher Velasco, Walmart Home Office, Bentonville, AR

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“Three years ago I weighed 480 pounds. It was depressing. I had no motivation to do anything and I felt worthless. Two years ago I had weight loss surgery. I lost a lot of weight, but I reached a plateau. I wanted more support so I started the Thrive Challenge. I began to read food labels and educate myself about nutrition. I cut out processed food and sugar. I’m meal prepping. For dinner, I’ll have chicken or fish and seasoned rice. Or I’ll have tuna and broccoli with lentils. Instead of sweets, I eat tons of fruit. Working out has become a way of life. I run before work, I go biking, and I lift weights. I’m moving more easily, and there’s a night and day difference in how I feel and my outlook on life. I’ve lost 30 more pounds on the Challenge. I’m much more confident. I feel proud of myself. I’ve put in so much effort and I look at how far I’ve come — I’m fit, I’m healthy, and I’m happy.”

Elisa Contreras, Return Center #9153, Waco, TX

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“I’m a single mom. I had my daughter, Isabella, when I was very young, and it’s been hard. I was stress eating and I was on high blood pressure medicine. I downloaded the Thrive app and began going to the gym. I started lifting light weights and found myself getting stronger and stronger. My mom is doing the Challenge with me — she’s a Walmart manager — and we hold each other accountable. Isabella and I practice softball in the backyard, we ride our bikes, and go for walks. Instead of eating out, I’m meal prepping. I’ll make baked chicken with broccoli and we have taco nights. And I’m saving money, building a rainy day fund. In the evening, I have a relaxing shower and wind down, and my sleep’s improved a lot. I repeat affirmations: I tell myself I’m beautiful, I’m smart, and I can handle anything that comes my way. Thrive has helped me lower my stress, I’ve lost 30 pounds and I’ve improved my blood pressure. I feel a whole lot happier.”

Chad Dildine, Walmart Supercenter #1976, Horseheads, NY

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“I used to be tired all the time and I had a lot of joint pain. I didn’t pay attention to what I ate. And I weighed 366 pounds. I wanted to have more energy for my wife, Ashleigh, and our nine-year-old son, Ryeder, so I downloaded the Thrive app. I started cooking simple healthy food like seasoned, grilled chicken with veggies, and I cut down on fast food. I’ve also found that plain Greek yogurt is an excellent substitution for sour cream. Since I’ve been eating better, I’ve been feeling better. I’m going to the gym five days a week; I’ll work out on the treadmill. We take Ryeder to the park; he likes to run around, while I chase him. I’ve lost a lot of weight and I’m feeling great. Deep breathing helps me to stay calm. I’m a better role model for my son and a better dad. I’m less stressed, my joints don’t hurt, and I’m much more positive about the future.” 

Tabitia Copeland, Walmart Supercenter #5275, Woodstock, GA

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“I lost my father during COVID, and I was struggling with grief. I used to eat out a lot, and I wasn’t moving well. I wanted to focus on exercising and eating well, so I started the Thrive Challenge. The first thing I did was to stop eating out. I’m food prepping and cutting down on sugar. I love to make stir fries in my airfryer. At work, I’m making sure I step outside in breaks to get some sunshine and I always get in my 10 thousand steps a day. After work, I go to the park with my sister Radhiya. I’m taking the time to meditate each morning. And I’m turning more toward spirituality. Talking to God and devoting time to quiet solitude prepares me for the day. Thrive Resets help me to stay calm. I like them because they’re short, but empowering, and very relaxing. Focusing on self-care has helped me to get over feeling melancholy. I feel happier and rejuvenated — I’m a better version of myself.”

Kayla Kirchner, Walmart Supercenter #593; Douglas, GA

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“I was in a very dark place a few months ago. I weighed 300 pounds and I had high blood pressure. I’m 33, and my husband, William, and I have five kids; that’s quite a houseful! I felt very stressed. I got started on the Thrive Challenge and I began by cutting out fast food and sugar. My 10-year-old daughter, Eryn, is helping me cook. One of our favorite recipes is oven baked whole wheat noodles with deer meat, which is low in fat. Eryn and I are doing Zumba together — we’re having a blast. It’s a chance to act silly together and laugh! We go for walks as a family, we go fishing and hunting, and we like to have family cookouts. My life has changed so much; I’ve lost 40 pounds. And I’m breathing easier. My blood pressure is normal after 15 years. I have more confidence as a woman. I feel happy and peaceful.”

Laura Flaherty, Walmart Supercenter #1503, Dayton, OH

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“I used to let negative thoughts take control of me, which wasn’t working. I was just over it. So I downloaded the Thrive app. I started to meditate, slow down and breathe, which helped me lower my stress. Exercise is the biggest game changer for me. It helps clear my mind and it gives me more energy. I love running and I can run three miles now. I have a big goal — I want to run a marathon! I’m drinking tons of water, and my husband, Matthew, and I cook dinner together. Our favorite recipe is Greek chicken with zucchini and peppers. Gratitude is everything. I have my gratitude journal by my bed and I write three things I’m grateful for every night, like my black cats, Gotham and Salem. There’s always something to be grateful for: your pet, your family, and the fact that you woke up healthy. My mindset has changed and I’m more positive. I hope my smile and sunshine can brighten up other people’s days.”

Shawnda Archer, Distribution Center #6064, Cleburne, TX

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“As a mom I always put my family and my children’s needs and wants before mine. My knees hurt, my legs and my back hurt, and I wasn’t sleeping well. I turned 37 in February and I weighed 243 pounds. I decided I had to change and downloaded the Thrive app. I began doing step aerobics at home. I started working out on the stair-stepper at the gym and doing weight training. Next, I focused on food — I eat more chicken, fish, vegetables, and fruit. I make simple meals like taco salad. I’ve lost a lot of weight and I’m pain-free. I’m connecting with my family. We go on family hikes and unplug from everything. This summer we did our first family river floating trip. Making memories with everyone is very fulfilling. My heart is full with all the positive things I’ve accomplished in the last year. Thrive has helped me see the world in a different light. I wake up in the mornings refreshed and ready to start another adventure.”

Phuong Gibson, Walmart Store #2308, Lihue, HI

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“A year ago, I wasn’t feeling good. My husband, Robin, and I weren’t getting along, and I was stressed. I downloaded the Thrive app, and I started by making sure I get the sleep I need. Before bedtime, I relax by closing my eyes and breathing deeply, then I fall asleep easily. When I wake up, I feel ready for the day. Every morning, I say “I invite joy into my life.” Thrive Resets, like the breathing and nature videos, help me focus. I’m spending more time with my husband. We’re talking openly with each other every day. So even if I am mad at him, I calm down and we sort things out. I’m communicating with my kids and showing them how much I care. And I’m more active. I bought online shuffle dancing classes. Dancing brings me a lot of joy and has really helped my confidence. I’m also enjoying gardening. I feel happy. My marriage is healed and I have good habits to help me stay healthy.” 

Joseph Wysocki, Walmart Supercenter #2024, Tunkhannock, PA

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“My number one struggle has been my health and my weight. I had hypertension and high blood pressure. I’m 49 and I weighed 220 pounds and I wasn’t taking care of myself. Tracy, who works for Walmart like me, has been doing the Thrive Challenge for a long time. She was always encouraging me to start and I finally decided to download the Thrive app! We used to eat a bunch of fast food, but now Tracy and I sit down for dinner together. I cook jerk chicken on the grill and add it to salads. I used to eat a bag or two of chips a week. I started making cinnamon almonds, a much healthier choice. On my days off, I take a walk with my dog, Sam. And I use my weight bench several times a week. I’ve lost 10 pounds and my cholesterol is lower, which my doctor is pleased about. I’m a more active person, I feel happier, and I know I’ll be around for my family.” 

Luis Colon, Walmart Supercenter #2302, Barceloneta, PR

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“I was having trouble focusing, and that led to anxiety and depression. I was eating a lot of fast food — and I had stomach problems.I heard about the Thrive Challenge and downloaded the Thrive app. I started by cutting out fast food and cut down on unhealthy fat in my diet. No more fried food! My wife, Unagh, and I are making grilled or boiled chicken which we have with a little salad and rice, and we’re eating more veggies. My stomach is so much better now, and my digestion has improved a lot. I’m not in pain anymore. I’m moving, and getting exercise and fresh air. I go for walks with our three dogs; and my daughter, Janine, comes too, which is bonding for both of us. I’m enjoying mowing the lawn and working in the garden. We’re growing plantains, bananas, pomegranates, and passion fruit. I’m not depressed anymore — my attitude has improved. I’m a more caring person — I’m joyful, and I’m more motivated.”

Cassandra Mans, Walmart Supercenter #1578, Roswell, GA

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“Losing weight has been difficult for me. I did a lot of comfort eating and I weighed 565 pounds. I had high blood pressure, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes. I’m 53 with two grown children and three grandbabies. I want to live a long time to enjoy my family, so I got started on the Thrive Challenge. I stopped buying fast food. Microsteps, like food prepping, really encouraged me, because they’re easy to commit to. I make delicious veggie stir fries and wraps. And instead of chips, I’ll have fruit — I love watermelon, I’m a Southern girl! Every day I exercise at home. I use my hand weights. I’m also enjoying chair yoga. And I’ve joined a water aerobics class. Being in the water is awesome. I feel light and I can move without any pain. I’m connecting with my family. And my self-care and self-love have gone through the roof. So far, I’ve lost 30 pounds and my blood pressure has dropped tremendously. I am learning to live and enjoy life.”

Miya Cottrell, Walmart Store #210, Holdenville, OK

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“Since I was little, I’ve struggled with my weight. I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and losing weight has always been hard. I struggled with anxiety and depression. Kathryn Carpitcher inspired me to download the Thrive app. I buckled down and began with movement. I started stretching in the morning. I’ll move my arms in a circular motion and I’ll run in place while I’m on a phone call. Every day I go for a walk around the neighborhood or to the park with my five dogs. I soon noticed I had more energy and my muscles don’t ache all the time and my headaches started going away. Gardening makes me happy — it’s a great way to relax and spend time outdoors. The Thrive Challenge has given me a confidence I didn’t have before. I’ve lost a lot of weight, I’m in much less pain, my face is slimmer, my skin is clear, and I have more energy.”

Renaye Sirianni, Walmart Store #2326, Hornell, NY

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“I felt sluggish and I had no energy for my family and friends. It took a toll on me. When I found out I was going to be an aunt, I decided to change. I wanted to be a better me for my niece. My coach, Kirsten Ohara, inspired me to get started on the Thrive Challenge. And I began by getting my body moving. I used my dog, Maya, as motivation and got her involved in my challenge. We play games and go for walks. Now I’m also running and doing pilates, I have much more stamina and strength. And I do yoga to relax my mind, unwind, and prepare for a good night’s sleep. My fiancé, Amanda, and I just bought a house. We’re spending a lot of time doing lots of repairs together. Having our own house feels completely incredible. I love taking my baby niece, Isabella, out in her stroller, and playing with her. I’m more enthusiastic about everything in my life.”