Pacer Reina Shares His Wellness Journey

"Here is a before and after photo of myself," said Reina as he detailed how he was tired of being overweight and one day decided to take action and work on bettering himself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The Healthy Lifestyle Series, a program offered by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Recreational and Educational Services, continued its January events with Edward “Pacer” Reina sharing his wellness journey. 

On January 17, inside the Accelerated Learning Academy auditorium, Reina spoke and led a slideshow presentation discussing his childhood, his football career in high school, his military service, how fatherhood has motivated him, and the lessons he has learned along the way. 

Reina’s presentation began with a photo of himself on the auditorium screen when he was 8 years old. “My father had custody of us and we were living in Mesa,” he began. “At the time, like many kids, I was growing up by learning by example.” Reina detailed how his teachers gave him the title of “class clown” because he drew a lot of attention in the classroom. 

“In my teen years, something changed,” he admitted. “There were some times that were not very happy. I didn’t get to do the things that high school kids do socially. And that was a good thing, because a lot of my friends were out partying with girlfriends or boyfriends. But when your dad is the chief of police for the community where you live, you don’t get to do a lot of those extracurricular activities,” he said with a smile.

At the time, his teenage self did not appreciate being home, but now, as an adult, he realizes how impactful staying home was for him. Reina explained how he thanked his father for that. “I said, ‘Dad, thank you for keeping me in the home even though I really didn’t enjoy it at the time.’ And my dad told me, ‘You were always a good kid. You always found things to occupy yourself.’”

Next, Reina described how he entered military service. “I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mom,” he began. “I read a lot of books on military history. Then, a friend of mine wanted to go into the military, so I went with him. I ended up being an infantryman. They showed me a video of paratroopers. I was eventually sent on a six-month tour in Egypt, and then coming back I went to serve in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.” 

One day, during his military service, Reina recalls looking at the sunset and thinking about his future. He said, “I told myself, ‘If I get through this, I want to go home and start a family. And that’s what I did.” The slideshow presentation showed a group photo of Reina with his five children in the early 2000s. 

After his marriage resulted in divorce, Reina had to look within himself, as he was responsible for raising his children and improving himself simultaneously. “The two things that shook me back then was the fact I was going to be raising my kids on my own and I could no longer be on autopilot. Who I was had to be altered and changed. I asked myself, ‘What do I need to do to be a better friend/father/husband?’”

Reina said that by “being on autopilot” he was aware of his surroundings, and even appeared to be happy, but deep down he felt an unspoken level of unhappiness. 

Showing a before-and-after photo collage of himself before his divorce and then eight years later, Reina shared a deep truth about himself. “That guy in the ‘before’ picture was huge,” he admitted, alluding to his sweet tooth and love of fast food back then. “There’s so much more to wellness than just the physical. It’s mental, emotional and spiritual. My thoughts have changed about myself.” The “after” photo showed Reina in a weight room, appearing considerably thinner. “I’m still a big guy, but not like how I used to be,” he said. 

While he was transforming his physical self, Reina also was able to improve his mental wellness during the time he was employed at the Huhugam Ki Museum. “At the time, a coworker told me about the Piipaash singing classes. Again, I had to challenge myself,” he stated. “Eventually, it led to me being open to learning, understanding and singing these songs. Once I started singing, my girls, who were entering pageants at the time, eventually started coming with me. My boys, who were nearby watching or playing baseball, eventually they came over too,” Reina said. 

Reina continued his presentation with a photo of himself bird singing at 2023’s spring Piipaash Matasheevm. “It’s been said that the hardest thing in the world is to express who you are. I believe that, because I still struggle with thoughts of the past. Wellness is different for everybody. It helped me change the way I think and react to certain things. Wellness has allowed me to be free.” 

His presentation came to an emotional ending when he shared with the group why he undertook this journey to wellness: He wants to see all of his children and grandchildren succeed. “I want to see my grandchildren graduate high school, go to college and develop a career, that’s my ‘why,’” he said.

The Healthy Lifestyle presentation is a part of the annual Healthy Lifestyle Series brought to the Community in partnership with the Salt River Recreation Education Division Way of Life Facility and the Salt River Tribal Library.

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