As founder of Heart Esteem, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the emotional impacts of childhood obesity, the Toronto area native has charted a dizzying global itinerary over the past year, seeking momentum for an array of creative projects in places as far afield as Toronto, Dubai, Mexico City – and Mill Valley.
She’s reached out to Pope Francis, First Lady Michelle Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, trying to get each to “Draw a Heart” in an effort to create a viral art project that will have an accompanying app and a documentary chronicling the journey.
“I don’t have dreams any more,” says the former advertising executive. “I have goals.”
Maxx draws energy and determination for her campaign from her own battle with childhood obesity. “Childhood obesity and related mental and emotional issues have plagued and ravaged every aspect of my life,” she says.
By the time Maxx was 17 yearsold, she’d already tried to commit suicide twice. At that moment, she found solace – and hope – in Elton John’s song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” By 28, she was 285 pounds. She had vertical banded gastroplasty surgery and lost 100 pounds as a result.
“But I didn’t fix my psychological or emotional issues, so I gained back a lot of the weight,” she says.
With so much attention paid to nutrition and exercise as ways to combat obesity, little attention is focused on the emotional drivers of over-eating, Maxx says.
“There’s no difference between me and an alcoholic,” she says. “But mine is socially acceptable. I won’t end up in jail but I might end up with diabetes. It’s like a drug – sugar is my cocaine. When you get depressed, you go have a milkshake.”
Maxx continues to draw on “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” for inspiration.
“Someone’s passion and creativity really helped me get through something,” she says.
Maxx is determined to see her vision through. In April 2015, she launched her campaign to have CEOs and leaders in 10 countries draw their own version of a heart on posterboard.The goal is to raise $10 million – $1 million in each of the 10 countries, including Canada, United States, Mexico and Italy – to raise awareness of the emotional and psychological causes and impacts of childhood obesity.
“I’ve really endured a lot of pain in my life. It’s too late for me in many ways. There are many things I cannot regain that I’ve lost. I’ve missed out on a lot in life. But I have survived because of my and other’s creativity and that’s what made it all ok for me.”
The effort is slated to last 100 weeks, with the scheduled conclusion being March 11, 2017, which will be Maxx’s 50th birthday. She’s hoping to have one million hearts drawn world-wide by then.
Maxx has close friends in Mill Valley, and was so drawn to the community that she’s been staying here in between her worldwide jaunts on behalf of HeartEsteem.
“I love this community and I’m hoping that my friends here will help to sprea thw word about this campaign,” she says. “I don’t care how I get this done, I’ve just got to get it done.”
The 411: More info on the Heart Esteem Foundation.