Can countless hours of gym time ever prepare you for life's great adversities? Does the ability to toy with heavy weights strengthen you to handle the burden of a real crisis? Do the full muscle bellies and deep striations of a well-chiseled body suggest a character that is equally defined and unwavering?
Tragedy visits us all. How each of us faces those desperate situations tells the story of who we are on the inside. Our character, determination, perseverance... all qualities that have nothing to do with a 315 lb bench press. Or do they?
You're about to meet Rich and his sons Sam, Adam and Colt; a family that faced some of the hardest trials life offers, and, amazingly, relied on what they learned in the gym to triumph over incredible hardship. It's a lesson we can all take to heart.
Building Up a Family
One of the most difficult tests a person can face is the test of parenthood. How to love, raise and teach, while being a role model to children is, unfortunately, something that you can not study for or get tested on.
As Rich's children were entering their teen years he wanted to make certain he taught them a few things. First, he wanted to educate his boys on how to be successful by teaching them how to set goals in life. He also felt it was important to show them how it was possible to achieve and conquer those goals. Finally, he wanted to make sure that his boys knew how to continue setting new goals as they moved through life.
Having set these principles in place, Rich decided the best way to show his sons how to apply them was in the gym. What better place to demonstrate how best to dream a dream, work hard to make it a reality, and bask in achievement before moving to the next goal!
He quickly put his middle son Adam to the test. Adam was a freshman in high school who wanted to be on the school football team. Because of poor judgment on his part, he was unable to play that year. Rich decided to show his son Adam how it was possible to turn a negative situation into a positive one. Rich wanted to show him how he could set the goal of playing football in his sophomore year by focusing his attention on weight training and goal setting.
Training Pictures [ click thumbnails to enlarge ]
Because Rich wanted his son Adam to be successful at weight training, he knew that he had to lead by example. He also knew that he had to keep the workouts short and fun, with goal-setting being the main focus. By April of 1998 Adam had achieved his goal of benching 300 lbs., which is a great accomplishment for any teen in high school. Adam continued to train hard with great success.
By February of 1999 he caught the attention of the Warren Local High School football coach, who asked him to compete in the Philo Invitational Powerlifting Meet on February 20th. That day, Adam would break three records. The first was an 11 year old record he broke by squatting 515 lbs. The second was a bench press record, which he beat by pressing 305 lbs. Third was the meet record, which he bested with a total of 1205 lbs (his deadlift that day was 385 lbs.).
His accomplishment ignited a passion in Adam, who went on to win the Ohio High School Powerlifting Meet, as well as the USPF National Powerlifting Championship in Philadelphia, PA later that year.
During the summer of the same year Adam would spark a desire in his younger brother Colt, who was 14 at the time, to begin weight training in his pursuit of playing football. Both Adam and Colt shared the goal of doing well in football and winning the state Powerlifting Championship together.
When Tragedy Strikes
As Rich proudly watched his sons Adam and Colt grow in body and character, he was unaware of the tragedy about to change their lives forever.
On November 29, 1999, during a hunting excursion, Colt fell from a tree stand and fractured his spine, resulting in him being paralyzed from the waist down. During the next seven weeks Rich would learn the true meaning of courage and spirit, as he recognized that this accident may have broken his son's back, but not his spirit.
Because Colt's back surgery was postponed due to infections, Rich asked the doctor if his son could start lifting weights while waiting for the infections to clear. As soon as the doctor gave the O.K., Colt started lifting weights in his hospital bed in order to gain strength for rehab. Quickly progressing through the ten pound dumbbells on hand at the hospital, Rich was more that happy to haul in a wagonfull more in order to support his son.
Colt's hospital bed training consisted of flyes and dumbbell presses for his chest, and curls and tricep extensions for his arms. Colt was very determined and was an inspiration to everyone. After weeks of waiting, Colt finally had his surgery. He was released January 19, 2000 for rehabilitation in order to start life anew.
Hospital Training Pictures [ click thumbnails to enlarge ]
Although he had to learn many simple tasks over again, he never complained. Colt soon became known as "Colt, the workhorse of rehab."
Courage When Facing Crisis
While learning to adjust to his new way of life at home with Colt, Rich was hit with yet a second crisis. His oldest son, Sam, was admitted to the local Care Unit for drug abuse. To make matters worse, Rich and his wife of five years separated. These series of events nearly destroyed Rich, as they would anyone. Although Rich knew that his son partied a little, he wasn't aware of the seriousness of the situation. He says: "With the family's support, we were able to put Sam back on track again."
Sam spent thirty days in the Care Unit and continued the twelve-step program after his release. It was then that Sam showed an interest in weight training with Adam, Colt and his father, Rich.
With encouragement, Sam joined them and was able to make great gains with the help and support from caring friends like Mike McKenna at Scitec Nutrition. Mike supplied him with a six-week cycle of Scitec supplements. Sam now had a purpose and was ready to make his mark. In six short weeks, Sam had become the family's icon. He brought a presence to the gym that inspred everyone.
Sam's Transformation Pictures [ click thumbnails to enlarge ]
In the spring of 2001, Adam and Colt trained for the Ohio High School State Powerlifting Championships. They were determined to win together. Applying the principles that Rich had instilled in them, they did just that. Adam set a new state record with a 600 lb squat. This gave him three back-to-back State Championships.
Colt, now 15 and paralyzed from the waist down, was able to come home with a victory by benching 245 lbs. in his weight class of 135 lbs. It also gave him the State Bench Press Champion title for his class. The two brothers were able to accomplish their Championship goals together.
Despite their success, Rich noticed his oldest son Sam didn't seem to be himself. It wasn't long before Sam ended up back in the hospital. Although Rich and his son received a lot of support (particularly from Mike at Scitec Nutrition and Rob from All Pro Nutrition), he was unable to hold on. Sam lost his battle with drug addiction on September 14, 2001, at the age of 20.
Rich's story is full of heartwarming highs and devastating lows. Through it all Rich used the sport of weightlifting to both teach his children about life, and to overcome life's obstacles. Along the way he learned something valuable from each of his sons.
From oldest son Sam, he learned about change. From his middle son Adam, he learned the value of having a strong heart, and that one of God's greatest gifts is family. His youngest son Colt taught him that life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.
Miscellaneous Pictures [ click thumbnails to enlarge ]
Colt is proof that you have to accept whatever comes your way with a positive attitude and nothing can hold you down. As it turned out, Colt had his sights set on the NPC Nationals, March 16, 2002, in honor of his brother, Sam. Because he had such desire and passion to win, he was able to turn dreams into relity by capturing his division and placing 2nd overall. What an accomplishment!
Colt did it, for Sam. Surely, he knows that this accomplishment is one his brother would be very proud of. At 16 years of age, Colt has proven to be a true champion!
Building Character And Strength Within Us
Rich was faced with a lot of different issues that many parents thankfully don't have to deal with. When confronted with some pretty frightening challenges he learned that there were only two choices he could make. He could choose to wallow in self-pity.
Or, he could choose to thank the good Lord for what he has and see what tomorrow brings. Back when he first introduced Adam to weight training Rich never dreamed his three sons would be his strength, and responsible for making him the man he is today... a man that is proud to have his sons call him dad.