Throughout the year, thousands of Walmart and Sam’s Club associates take the Thrive Challenge and share their inspiring stories of resilience, perseverance, connection, and joy. Some winners are awarded cash prizes. And from that pool of winners, we select our Grand Champs — exceptional individuals who have gone above and beyond in their commitment to their own well-being, making positive changes in their lives, one Microstep at a time.
We’re thrilled to introduce our latest Grand Champs: Samantha Watson, Guadalupe Flores, and John Tyler. Not only have they overcome major obstacles and turned their own lives around, but they’ve inspired their families and friends and had a positive impact on their communities, too.
Here are excerpts from the stories of our 2023 Grand Champs.
I met my husband, Dan, at Walmart. He has cerebral palsy and he’s on disability now — it’s been tough. We have three kids between us. During COVID, my grandfather, who I was caring for, passed away. I got super depressed and I was exhausted. I’d eat for comfort; I’d have a whole bag of ranch flavored chips and treat myself to T.V. dinners whenever I felt anxious. One morning in July 2020, I woke up and I’d lost vision in my left eye. It was scary. I had an MRI and I was referred to a neurologist who diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis. At that time I was also losing feeling and control in my left arm and leg. It became difficult to do everyday tasks because my leg wasn’t following along with what I would tell it to do. I was afraid I’d become completely disabled and I wouldn’t be able to take care of my kids. I’m 39, and my doctor told me I needed to focus on diet and exercise to decrease my stress, which would improve my condition. I began watching videos and reading articles about nutrition on the Thrive app. I took simple Microsteps, like keeping a bottle of water with me at work to make sure I stayed hydrated. Dan and I joined Planet Fitness through Walmart. I began walking slowly on the treadmill, nothing crazy, because I didn’t want to overstress my body. Over the months, I built muscle and the pain decreased. Every time I exercised, I’d check off my Microsteps on the app. Dan and I began going for walks and connecting with each other. Amazingly, the vision in my left eye gradually came back. I also got back full control of my arm and my leg. I was able to go walking through my own woods again on our property, without fear of tripping and falling. And now I can run around with my kids and take them to the beach without getting tired. I’ll always have MS, but I’m more content and I have less pain and less stress. Thrive has changed my life.
A few years ago, my life was not going well. My husband Chris and I weren’t getting along, and we got divorced. I wasn’t spending enough time with our four grown kids or my grandkids. I was eating junk food, and I sometimes missed meals completely. I felt stressed and I had high blood pressure. I was living paycheck to paycheck, just barely surviving. In 2012, I started working at Walmart in the warehouse, but my dream was to be a Walmart truck driver. My journey began with Money Microsteps. I had to save $4000 to go back to school and get my CDL (commercial driver’s license). So I stopped eating out and spending money on things I didn’t need, like shoes and home decor. After six months, I’d saved enough to take the course and get my license. I got my CDL, and then I had to do more training for three years, learning to get comfortable on the road. But with Thrive, I knew I could do everything step by step. I’d do breathing exercises to lower my stress. I’d watch Thrive nature Resets and videos that helped me stay positive. In May 2022, I got my job as a Walmart truck driver — it was like, wow, I finally made it! On the road, I never stop for fast food. There’s a small refrigerator in the truck, and I keep it full of veggies, and fruit like peaches, pears, and tangerines. Chris and I are back together. The Connection Microsteps are helping us communicate better. Being with my family makes me happy. We visit our son Ray, who’s a welder, his wife Hilda and their two young kids, Eli and Marcus. I have more energy for my grandkids now; I’m always running around after them. I’m taking care of my body and my soul. I had a physical recently and my blood pressure is back to normal. I’m enjoying life instead of just surviving, and I feel grateful when I wake up in the morning. I turned 49 in June, and I don’t feel nearly 50 at all. I want to keep challenging myself. I have a whole new life — I’m happy.
My mom raised me and my sister on her own and it was a struggle. She did her best, but we didn’t have a lot of money and we mostly ate junk food. Later, in my 20s, I was classified as obese. Also, I’d been smoking since I was 12 years old. I was out of breath doing simple tasks like putting on socks and shoes. My wife Rachel and I both work at Walmart and we have three amazing kids: 15-year-old Piper, 18-year-old Jazlyn, and Dayton, who’s 22. But I had no energy to do anything with my family. One day, nine years ago, I almost passed out at work and ended up in the hospital. I found out I had pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I started seeing a cardiologist and taking medications, but I still didn’t take care of myself. In 2022, my doctor said if I continued the way I was going, I’d be prone to heart attacks and could face an early death. Rachel encouraged me to start the Thrive Challenge, and we’re taking it together. My first Microstep was just moving my body. I began walking a thousand steps a day, which isn’t a lot, but now I easily walk five miles. At the gym, I began lifting light weights and gradually got stronger. I changed my diet with Microsteps, like starting my day with a drink of water. I’ve quit smoking. It was hard, but now, when I’m stressed, instead of picking up a cigarette, I’ll calm myself by watching a Thrive Reset. Because I’m moving more and less stressed, I’m sleeping six to eight hours a night. Before Thrive, I only used to get a couple of hours. I’ve lost a lot of weight and I feel tremendous — the best I’ve ever felt in my life. My sister and my mom were in tears when they saw how much weight I’d lost. I think they were worried I’d never change. The best thing is that I can fit in the rides at Disneyland. We were there last month and it felt so great to be an active dad. When I went to see my cardiologist for a checkup, he said, “Wow what happened?” I love who I am and who I’m becoming. The way I was rolling, I wasn’t going to be around for much longer. Now, I can look forward to Christmases for years to come. To be honest, I feel 10 years younger. I feel I can do anything. I know I’m on the way to having a longer life — I’ll be here for the people I love.