Animal Outreach: Higa Style

On Saturday, November 6th, Grant Higa brought the Animal Outreach movement West, reaching out to the youth of Seattle. Putting the “man” in strongman, HIGAMONSTER displayed tremendous leadership and altruism, making the Animal Nation proud by enriching the lives of others.

Remember when you were a kid and all the mischief we used to get ourselves into? Riding our bikes for miles to play somewhere, or even walk miles to see a buddy across town? Head out to some abandoned building and play “Hide & seek” in an old refrigerator and not even care if that appliance could suffocate you or your buddies? We never had cell phones. Hell, we hardly even had extra change to make a call on a pay phone! However, when you heard your Mom or Dad whistle or call out your name to come home, you bet your ass that you better starting running like a mutha or your ass will get beat down because you were late for dinner.

Things are different now. I see these kids walking around texting like crazy. They might be hanging out at McDonald's everyday because the “Dollar Menu” is affordable and all their friends hang out there. Shit there are a lot of kids who go to a restaurant and are playing handheld videogames and have no manners. They sit there and play their damn games and don't engage in any conversation with their families unless told to. They don't even say “thank you” or “please” anymore. Our youth are different now. Some of them shine despite these examples I have given. What if we as adults make an effort to speak and get through to these youths? Give back to the community and hopefully make a positive impact on a few kids.

This past May I was asked to MC an inaugural contest in Seattle called “Washington's Strongest School”. There were a few teams that were competing and were all high schools from the Seattle area. The winning team of 8 would win $500 each towards higher education, a serious incentive. You could buy a laptop for school, or maybe that could pay for some books. The team that got 2nd place overall was a group of Polynesian kids from the West Seattle area.

SW Youth & Family Services offers counseling, education, and family support programs for West Seattle and nearby neighborhoods. Most of their programs are free and many individuals use more than one program. Since I was born and raised in Hawaii, I really clicked with these kids and was impressed with their natural talent and enthusiasm. I exchanged business cards with their Program Director and told him that if any of these kids want to come and workout at my Strongman warehouse, they were more than welcome.

Last October, I received a phone call from the SW Community Center via a referral from Youth & Family Services. A lot of these Polynesian kids use the weight room at SW Community Center. He asked if there was a weekend where I could talk to these kids about nutrition or weight lifting. I told him, “It would be better if I could personally take them through a workout and then do a Strongman demonstration afterwards!” and that is exactly what we did.

I proposed a few weekends that I would be available and we settled on a date that was only 3.5 weeks away. Not a problem. I was confident that we could put this together and get some sponsors on board to help us. He said that Costco was on board and so was the University of Washington. I told him that I would ask Animal and was pretty sure that I could get some t-shirts and goodies to give away to the kids. I thought it could be like a big ABC.

G Diesel made a suggestion that this is actually more of an Animal Outreach program that I was going to be a part of. Even better. This wasn't about me lifting a Log to show how strong I might be, it was about making a connection to our local youth and making us all connected at this seminar. Hopefully, the end result is that our communities become stronger, the positive changes last, and the impact can be felt wherever you are in this city.

So on Saturday morning of November 6, 2010, I set up for a workout seminar with about 30 kids and parents in the gymnasium of the SW Community Center. My goal was to show these teenagers that you can still get a great workout even if you don't have a gym membership. Exercises like push-ups, crunches, jumping jacks, shuttle runs, bear crawls, and planks are great ways to work out. People seem to think that if they don't go to a gym, they can't workout. So they end up sitting on their ass. Unacceptable.. We've got to make a difference and get these kids active again. I beat them up a little, but the workout was far from rigorous.

I was really surprised at how tough this was for these kids and I thought it was some very basic bodyweight calisthenics I was running them through. If this makes them tired, we need to focus on getting our kids back to basics. Walk more or bicycle more instead of catching a bus to your friend's house to play video games. If it's sunny out, go and throw a football with your boys or play a game of pick-up basketball. Go to the weight room and learn proper technique from a coach and maybe that can lead to a college scholarship down the road.

The best part of this whole experience was that all these kids were laughing while working out. They were joking to each other that someone was struggling during that exercise and kidding around. Seeing this kind of innocence gives me hope. Kids will always be kids but it's our responsibility as adults to make sure they go on the right path of life whether they are family, friends or other kids in our local community. Give them the tools they need to live right, to be better and to expect more from themselves-that was the goal.

Because out on the streets, it's easy to get caught up with the wrong crowd. Let's hope that Animal & I got a point across and hit home a few of these kids. Maybe when they wear the Animal shirt that I gave them, they will remember this workout and how fun it was to just be a kid playing with other kids in the neighborhood. How good it felt to spend their time productively, learning and improving their health at the same time.


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