Major Jeffery Dorman of the Anderson Prep Academy has always urged his students to hit the weights after school, but kept running into the same argument time after time. "Why would we come here and work out?" the students asked. "The equipment's no good, so we won't get results even if we go."
Major Dorman, a coach at the public charter military school in Anderson, Indiana, couldn't refute their argument without being a hypocrite: He had been working out at a local commercial gym in town for the very same reason.
"I realized that if I was going to try and be a salesman for what we have here, I had to be our number one customer, too," he says. So Dorman cancelled his gym membership and started training at the school's facility.
Dorman knows that when it comes to playing sports, strength and conditioning can be the great equalizer, helping to make up for a lack of size or talent. Growing up, he played sports even though he was smaller than most kids his age. During his freshman year in high school, his coach pulled him aside and asked him not to play; he was so small that they feared for his safety. That prompted Dorman to start training, and his body responded by growing bigger and stronger. He learned an important lesson, too.
"You begin to discover that the harder you work, the more successful you are," he says.
Dorman wanted to transfer that feeling of empowerment to his own students. Yet that subpar gym was an obstacle to competing with other schools that had better facilities. A patchwork of old and new equipment included handmade pieces to mismatched bumper plates. Old kegs filled with sand or water were scattered around, a DIY attempt at training with imbalanced loading.
Enter Bodybuilding.com's nonprofit organization, Lift Life. The goal: to transform the rough-hewn gym at Anderson Prep into a facility worthy of its student athletes. Out went slippery flooring; in came turf for pushing sleds. In all, 130,000 pounds of new equipment was hauled into the gym over two weeks. The end result embodies Bodybuilding.com's "We Change Lives" slogan.
This is the third weight room transformation led by the Lift Life foundation—the first was in Firth, Idaho, and the second was in Knoxville, Tennessee—but it's definitely not the last. Lift Life is already hard at work on their fourth project in Livingston, Montana. If giving young athletes a head start in life is as exciting for you as it is for us, you can donate to the Lift Life Foundation or nominate a school to be considered for a future renovation.