The first time Dennis Brochey approached Carol Adamczyk about donating proceeds from the Red Brick Bench Press Championship to the 107th Air Refueling Wing Family Readiness Support Group, she was shocked that he'd make such a magnanimous gesture.
Her reaction to Brochey's news of his intent to do likewise with the proceeds from this year's event?
"I was more surprised," said Adamczyk, the support groups's coordinator. "It's incredible what they're doing."
In a time when non-military personnel often debate the pros and cons about the nation's involvement in Iraq, Brochey and his Niagara Powerlifting Club teammates have found a different way to show their patriotism. They, along with their wives, have been hard at work for months preparing for the third annual bench press competition scheduled for 10 a.m. next Saturday in the Red Brick School, in the Village of Lewiston. More than 40 contestants had signed up as of late last week, and Brochey said he anticipates some last-minute walk-ups may be allowed to compete.
Brochey and team members Thomas Delorimiere, Bob Petrie and John Elsberry of Niagara Falls, Tony Evans of Lockport, Jeff Miller of Barker and Lewiston's Mike Torrie and their spouses never served in the military. But they felt the need to do more than just have a magnet affixed to their vehicles as a way of showing their support for the men and women risking their lives in the Middle East.
"Watching TV, it's kind of sad when you watch the news . . . to see one or two guys from the Army or Marines get wounded or killed," the 54-year-old Brochey said recently while training at Falls Fitness Factory on Porter Road. "We watch that at 6 o'clock and we watch that on the 11 o'clock news or [read] it in the newspaper and that's the extent of the war for us. We just kind of want to open up everybody's eyes that there is a war going on and we should support [our troops] any way we can."
Last year's event raised $3,900 in cash and an additional $1,500 in non-perishable goods that were donated to the 107th Family Support Group of Volunteers and given to the families who most needed financial assistance at a time when their primary breadwinners were busy serving in a war zone.
>A positive draw
Some of the non-perishable items also were sent to Iraq and given to soldiers such as Staff Sgt. Adam Harvey of Niagara Falls. While the military may provide the necessities needed for survival on the battlefield, it's hard to get books, magazines, snacks or toothbrushes and other toiletries readily available to civilians at the store in a war zone.
"For someone like me, I've benefited so much from Family Readiness," said Harvey, who served in Iraq from October 2004 to April 2005. "It means a lot to me that they're doing it again [donating the proceeds from the competition]. It's a huge thing for [Adamczyk] to be able to take care of us if we ever needed anything. . . . It's very reassuring when you have groups like this who are doing a fund-raiser and are going to donate the money to us."
The items sent to the soldiers by the support group were shared with military personnel from other units as well, according to Harvey. Adamczyk said the weightlifting event produced the second-largest donation received by the support group last year. Soldiers also received a giant banner from the competition that included photos and support greetings from lifters and event sponsors.
"[The families and solders] are all very grateful for this," said Adamczyk, whose husband, Master Sgt. Walter Adamczyk, has been in the Air National Guard for 28 years. "They always say things [like], 'Am I taking it from someone else who needs more?' They're just as surprised as me by the donation. Most of them, being part of the military for a long time, they never had this in the past. That's why they're very surprised by it."
Brochey was surprised by the number of lifters attracted to last year's event. The inaugural competition, whose proceeds were donated to the Lewiston Recreation Department, drew 23 participants. Last year's event attracted 53 novice and experienced competitors.
Brochey hopes to eclipse that number this year, and signs point toward that happening. As of Tuesday, 33 competitors preregistered for the event. Although registration for the event officially ended Saturday, Brochey said the competition will continue to accept applications through next Saturday.
Typically, weightlifters wait until the final day of registration to enter events because injuries happen frequently, and at any time. They want to make sure they're as healthy as can be before entering an event.
Lifters will be placed in divisions based on weight, gender and age. Besides individual awards being available, there also will be team awards on the line. Besides honors for traditional powerlifting teams, parent and child teams also will vie for hardware.
The Niagara Powerlifting Club will not compete in this event since team members will be busy running the meet. They will serve as spotters and judges, among other things.
"This is the perfect meet, really, for people who have never bench pressed before and always wanted to try it," Brochey said. "If [young people] want to move up and go into a sanctioned competition, this is where to start.
"There are other competitions around that they could be going to but the response we got and the response we're getting this year keeps on going up and up. We do put on a very good meet, . . . but I really think it's more for the patriotism."
Tiffany Shepherd is one of those patriotic youngsters eager to participate in her first competition. The 15-year-old freshman at Niagara Falls High School has been lifting for just three months, getting into the sport after attending a recent competition in Buffalo, where she met the owner of Falls Fitness Factory, Jason Fiori.
Fiori will have a team of 30 males and females participating in the event.
Shepherd, who played volleyball last fall for the Wolverines' junior varsity team, is a 5-foot-9, 138-pounder who can already bench-press 135 pounds. While the competitor in her wants to win a title, she understands there's more than trophies at stake. "I'm in it for raising money for the troops and family, and it's really cool that we're doing it for them," she said.
Added 24-year-old Anthony Pera of Niagara Falls: "It'll be fun because it's my first meet, but it actually has a purpose."
Applications are available at the Lewiston Red Brick School or at Dennis Brochey's Automotive, 800 Center St., Lewiston. For more information, contact Lewiston Recreation Director Marianne Gittermann at 754-1990 or Brochey at 754-4009 (days), 200-3533 (evenings) or at email@example.com.
The entry fee is $30 ($15 with military ID), while competitors registering as a team must pay an additional fee of $30. Fan admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children younger than 12.