Kicking butts in Silver Springs

Jim Grant/Nevada Appeal

Jim Grant/Nevada Appeal

When Robert Gamble stopped into a convenience store for some gum Tuesday, the clerks kept a careful eye on him.

"The ladies were all saying, 'You better not be getting any cigarettes,'" he laughed.

Robert and his wife, Kelly, committed to kicking their decades-long, pack-a-day smoking habits Feb. 1 at the prompting of their 14-year-old daughter, Katelyn Santiago.

"Sometimes we don't feel worthy of this child," said Kelly, who told of a time she threw a cup out of the car window when Katelyn was a little girl. She said Katelyn got so upset about littering, Kelly had to turn around and go back to retrieve the cup. "I want to do something she's proud of. I want to make a good impression on her."

It all started when Katelyn read a column in the Nevada Appeal about the dangers of second-hand smoke.

"It just really opened my eyes about it," she said.

Soon after, Kelly said, copies of the article appeared on the walls of their home and tucked inside their cigarette packs.

The hints soon transformed into a challenge.

Calling it, "Take a Gamble on the Gambles," Katelyn organized a fundraiser for the service club, the S-Club, at Silver Stage High School.

She recruited sponsors who pledged $1 for every day the Gambles refrain from smoking during the month of February. If they relapse, the sponsors start over paying $1 per day until they reach 30 days cigarette free.

The Gambles will also donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes.

"Silver Springs is a small town," Kelly said. "Everybody's going to be watching us."

Kelly said the challenge came at the right time. For the last few months, she said, the family has been focused on improving both spiritually and physically. Both she and Robert have lost 40 pounds each.

"Our house is full of treadmills and bicycles ... and cigarette smoke," she said. "We wanted to look at getting healthy from the inside."

Robert, 44, who has been smoking for 32 years, said he was ready.

"I'm actually at the point where I don't like the smell, the taste, the buildup on the inside of my windshield," he said. "If I can stop eating beef, I can give up cigarettes."

And they won't mind saving the roughly $10 a day they spent on their habit.

"It's $3,600 a year," Robert said. "That's like a whole other income."

On the final night in January, Kelly said she smoked one cigarette after another, finishing her last one just before midnight.

"My problem is I enjoy it," she said. "I miss the time with the cigarette, the relationship."

Robert went cold turkey. After his shift at the Silver Strike Casino, where they both work, he sat down at the bar and smoked a cigarette. Then he tossed the pack, still half full, to the back of the bar.

"It didn't bother me at all," he said. "I put on my coat and went home."

Although they admit to being on edge their first day, they remained determined to follow through. Robert focused on the harmful chemicals inside cigarettes, like formaldehyde, that he didn't want in his body.

"That's for dead people," he said. "Your just prepping yourself for death."

Kelly is looking forward to sitting through a movie, enjoying dinner, traveling - without worrying about her next cigarette.

"I just don't want something to have that much control over my life anymore," she said.

And when they run short on willpower, they have the support of the community and co-workers who gambled on their success.

"Even if it's not inspiration," Robert said, "the guilt is murder."


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