Former prisoner, turned gym owner gives back to kids of incarcerated parents through Angel Tree program

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After spending years in prison, Louis Centeno is using his past time behind bars and his passion for fitness, to help children with incarcerated parents enjoy presents under their tree during the Christmas holiday.

Around Christmas 2002, Centeno found himself sitting inside of a federal prison cell, sentenced to 10 years for selling drugs. At the time, Centeno was a father of two young children, when members of Angel Tree Program, a program of Prison Fellowship, approached him.

"I was incarcerated, I had no money, I had no means whatsoever to actually buy a present for my children," Centeno said. "I was kind of surprised that they were going to buy presents and was going to drop them off to my children. I thought that was an awesome idea."

Angel Tree delivered presents to Centeno's children during the nine Christmases he was in prison. But once he got out of prison, Centeno said he found starting over again wasn't easy.

"I got rejected in jobs, I couldn't even open up a bank account," Centeno recalled.

That's when Centeno turned to his true passion: fitness. So, Centeno opened Fit-Results Gym in Chicago's South Loop.

For the past three years, Centeno has organized special workouts to raise money for the Angel Tree program. But Centeno had never shared his story with his gym members - until Saturday.

"Surprise, I've never exposed what I had been through in my life because I didn't think that was an introduction of who I was," Centeno told his members.



Centeno's gym members, who he calls his "fit fam," have been responsive and supportive of their beloved gym owner.

"We live in a society where it's so hard to come back from choices and mistakes that we all make, we all make our mistakes, but it's all about how we come back from those mistakes," said Fit-Results Gym Partner Paul Tadalan. "Lou is a primary example that anything is possible with hard work and love."

"I was proud of him for coming out to us to let us know his struggle, what he's been through," said Lonie Hawks, a gym member. "When you come to the gym you understand his passion more, why he is so hard on us, why he pushes us so hard, because of what he's been through, he knows that anything is possible."

Centeno is married and now a father of four children. He speaks to prisoners to help them stay out of trouble and hopes to start a non-profit organization.

For more information about the Angel Tree program or to make a donation, visit angeltree.org/FITRESULTS.
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