DALTON, GA–At first glance, Angela and Travis Rohner appear to be your average couple. Married for 13 years, these high-school sweethearts have lived their entire lives in Dalton, where Travis works as a parking-garage attendant and Angela is a cashier at the local Wal-Mart.
But the Rohners are far from average. They have something that makes them very special, earning them substantial national media coverage and the envy of neighbors near and far. That special something? Their daughter Christina, a morbidly obese three-year-old who is the center of attention wherever she lumbers.
"I love my baby," said Angela, 31, unwrapping a three-pack of Ho-Hos for Christina, whose remarkable girth has won the 80-pounder and her parents spots on such programs as The Maury Povich Show, Jenny Jones, and The Jerry Springer Show. "She's a little heavy, but that's good. That just shows I can provide for my child. Ain't no baby of mine gonna go hungry."
Christina's papa is equally proud. "Everybody love Christina," Travis said. "The man from Montel say she eat so much, they gonna give her 20 minutes on a show next month. That make her real special, 'cause usually, each guest only get 10. I'm gonna buy her a great big new dress for it."
In addition to The Montel Williams Show ("Stop Spoiling Your Tubby Tot!"), in the next month the Rohners are slated to appear on Ricki Lake, National Enquirer TV, and, for the third time in two years, Jenny Jones. Weekly World News is also planning a story on the behemoth tot.
"Everybody wanna hear about the baby," said Angela, her daughter breathing heavily as she labored to reach an open bag of Ruffles on the living-room floor. "The man from Newsweek wanna talk to us for an article about child obesity in America. We been so busy with coverage, we gotta get ourselves one of them publicizers to manage it all."
"Just this morning, when we got back from Popeye's Chicken, there was a man from this big, fancy university on the answering machine who say he wanna see Christina, too," Travis said. "He's an important doctor who say she belong in some kind of medical book."
Not everyone in the Rohner family is pleased with all the media hoopla. Left out of the spotlight have been Christina's two older siblings, 8-year-old Michelle and 11-year-old Jesse.
"Michelle and Jesse, they jealous of Christina, 'cause they skinny and don't nobody wanna talk to them," Travis said. "I told them that if they wanna be on the TV, they gotta put on some weight. Me, I'm a little heavy myself, but not so much that they gonna put me on Montel without the baby."
"I hope Christina behave for the Weekly World News picture-taker," Travis continued. "She ain't potty-trained so good, and sometimes she gets excited when the picture-takers show up, 'cause they always give her a treat to eat so they can get good pictures."
In any success, there is some risk involved, and Christina's case is no exception. The Rohner family pediatrician recently warned Angela and Travis that their daughter faces serious health problems if she does not bring her weight down substantially.
"The doctor say Christina gotta get within 20 percent of her target weight by the time she turn five, or there's gonna be trouble," Angela said. "Luckily, she only three now, so we still got plenty of time to give her love and Twinkies until we gotta worry."
"My baby got me on the TV," Angela added. "What your baby do?"