For Eric Ekis, high school was a struggle.
The 14-year-old entered his freshman year at Franklin Community High School in Franklin, Ind., weighing 510 pounds, making him an easy target for his peers to pick on, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Not only was Eric struggling with bullying and his weight, but he was dealing with difficult family issues as well. In 2010, his father died from a brain aneurysm, according to the Star. Later that year, Eric fell in the shower and shattered his leg, Today reported. He eventually underwent a slew of surgeries, which left him bedridden while also mourning his father's death.
"After that is when he started putting weight on. Bedridden and upset and depressed," Laura Ekis, Eric’s mother, told Today.
It was Eric's English teacher, Don Wettrick, who came to the rescue, according to the Indianapolis Star. Under his guidance, Eric and Kevin Stahl, a senior on the school's swim team, began to take walks together. Now, the two say they are best friends. Eric also met with a dietitian to develop healthier eating habits, the outlet reported.
"I'm proud of him," Kevin told the Star. "This is how peers can help out and influence each other in a positive way."
Eric hopes his story will inspire other kids who are having a hard time.
"From the beginning, I wanted this to help other kids just like me -- overweight kids that need the help and the support," he said, according to Today.
In addition to his lifestyles changes, Eric has also gained a new sense of confidence.
"I feel a whole lot better about myself," he told the Star. "I'm not the kid that hides anymore."