For the past three years, Savage Barbell Club in Tigard, OR has organized a charity lifting event to benefit the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital of Portland, OR. In their first year, they manage to raise $1,430 for the hospital. In 2016 they broke their goal of raising $12,000 by raising $13,000. This year, their goal was to raise $25,000.
All of the lifters who participate are required to create a fundraising page toward that goal. I have never been able to make it work in my schedule before to participate, but fortunately I was able to make it work this year. And I was really excited to deadlift. This was a deadlift only contest and you could either do three attempts or do an exhibition. I decided to do a 500 lb deadlift for reps with no belt and agreed to go against Richard Hawthorne in a head to head battle. Richard was excited to do this too—we both wanted to put on a show for the crowd. Other powerlifters such as Steve Johnson (Chicago), Patrick Castelli (LW strongman from Washington), Ryan Stills (USAPL Raw Nationals champion), and other local lifters were also coming in to participate.
I set up my fundraising page and began to find out more about this hospital over the next few weeks. A few of my Instagram followers told me that their child was alive and healthy today thanks to Doernbecher. The hospital collaborates with Nike every year to design custom shoes to give to all the children staying long-term in that hospital. And two days before I drove down to this contest, my training partner shared with me his personal experience with Doernbecher. Years ago, his daughter got her arm severed off in a serious car accident. She was Life Flighted to Doernbecher where her arm was reattached. Hearing stories like this fired me up in training because whatever hardship I felt in the gym was nothing compared to what these kids experienced in the hospital. All of us powerlifters coming together as a community to raise money doing something we love was a great way to give back.
The event was held in the brewing area at Ancestry Brewing. All admission fees collected were donated to the charity. Unfortunately, my battle versus Richard Hawthorne did not go as planned because his flight from Mississippi got cancelled due to winter storms. Amateur strongman Joe Chounaird from Oregon took Richard’s place.
The venue was packed and I took a scoop of Animal Fury to get fired up. A DJ was there cutting some awesome music getting us all hyped too. The head judge was the legendary Steve Goggins. Steve is the first man to squat 1,100 lb. The other judge was Chris Duffin from Kabuki Strength. As I was getting warmed up, Pete, the owner of Downing’s Gym in Corvallis, OR, came up to me and told me that one of the bars on the stage belonged to the late Doyle Kenaday. Damn. Doyle is one of the greatest powerlifters from the state of Oregon and his bar was on the main stage. I was going to use the other bar, but after Pete told me that…I stood in front of that legendary bar.
Joe and I faced off standing in front of each other. Steve Goggins was my judge counting reps and Duffin was Joe’s judge. The MC gave us the “go” command. I grabbed the bar and banged out 12 reps unbroken. Joe and I had agreed that we would go to absolute failure. I wanted to do as many as I could without letting go of the bar before I had to grind. The crowd was going crazy and I proceeded to do about 2-3 reps at a time as I got tired. My best was 23 reps, so I knew I had to try to beat that. The local news station was there at the same time as I was pulling, but that was just a blur. The task at hand was to pull a lot of reps for the kids. Joe was slowly grinding away, but I knew that I had the work capacity to pull many today. I could hear Goggins yelling at the crowd to stand up and cheer us on. When I got to 25 reps, I told myself that I had to get 30 somehow. Joe was at 18 reps, starting to fatigue, when I heard Chris Duffin tell him that he had to get to 20.
When I hit 28 reps, my lower back was filling with lactic acid. My mindset was to push my heels into the floor and yank that bar as fast as possible to make my lockouts easier. The crowd was going crazy and I could see my family yelling at me to dig in for the 30th rep. I approached the bar and stayed as tight as possible and stood up with it and held it at the top. Success. Joe and I were out of breath from giving it our all, but it was a great achievement.
As I was catching my breath, my wife Michelle asked me to meet the Woodard family—they had come to watch me lift. He was one of the people who messaged me on Instagram and told me that his son was alive today thanks to the support and care from Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. I kneeled down to shake his son’s little hand and thanked him for coming to cheer me on. The father, lucky now to be able to see his little boy grow up, started to tear up as he told me how much he appreciated what I did today. Having that brief conversation with that man and his little boy made it all worthwhile. This is one of the greatest things I have done as a powerlifter and I will never forget it.