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Strength and conditioning coach Kermit Cannon (center) puts his Santa Monica High School students through a series of strength building workouts on Thursday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SAMOHI — Imagine local fitness guru Kermit Cannon’s surprise when he opened his mail one day to find a presidential award.

That was the scene last week when Santa Monica High School’s physical activities specialist and fitness company owner went to his mail box and found the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition’s Community Leadership Award.

“I had no idea that I was even nominated,” Cannon said of the award that was given to just 38 people this year. “It’s an amazing honor to receive it.”

The council honored Cannon for his work with hundreds of youth, teaching them the finer points of healthy living both through his work at Samohi and his own company, Youth Sports Training.

“It is our pleasure to present this award to Kermit Cannon,” said Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the council. “Physical activity and good nutrition are important components of living a healthy lifestyle, and we are pleased to recognize individuals like Kermit Cannon who are committed to making a difference and positively influencing the health of their communities.”

He was also recognized for his tutelage of 250 kids in Child Development Services and over 100 with the Santa Monica Police Department’s Police Activities League.

“For the past three years Kermit and Youth Sports Training have had a tremendous impact on youth in our city, engaging them in fitness routines that are fun and interactive,” said Karen Humphrey, a city of Santa Monica program supervisor. “The kids have so much fun that they don’t realize they are actually exercising.”

Cannon’s work with local youth runs deep. He’s been the strength and conditioning coach for a number of Samohi sports teams during his 19 years at the school. Most recently, he worked with the boys’ volleyball team that won the CIF-Southern Section title last month. He also trained the girls’ basketball team that won a regional championship two years ago.

He plans on continuing his work with those teams and is open to helping any other squad at the school that needs conditioning.

“I hope to work with as many programs as I can,” Cannon said. “I’m really excited about helping [Samohi’s] teams, they are super athletes.”

In addition to his work with Samohi’s athletic program, it’s a special project he’s created at the school that excites him most. He created the Beast Factory to help kids who need an extra nudge toward fitness. Run as a referral program from other physical education classes, Cannon has helped kids with weight issues slim down and learn a bit about a healthy lifestyle. He currently is training a group of seniors who plan to enlist with the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I feel like I’m helping our country with these boys when they come to me,” he said.

He teaches the approximately 30 kids in the program about nutrition and getting enough sleep. Aside from the education, Cannon isn’t afraid to get after it with his pupils. He works them out five times a week all year long with the hope that something clicks in their minds.

“I just want to change how they look at eating and getting in shape,” he said.

That experience has culminated in Cannon’s first foray into publishing. He’s penned “The Beast Factory” to further his fitness philosophy when it comes to youth.

It includes over 75 workouts from over the years and advances his drive to make kids take fitness seriously.

“It will be one of the only fitness books for youth on the market,” he said.

daniela@smdp.com