Lifting for heroes
by W. Brian Hale
Jul 04, 2013 | 1830 views | 0 0 comments | 97 97 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SUMITON — Todd Alexander has seen the first-hand effects that war can have on the men and women in the country’s armed forces.

Alexander, who owns Corner Stone Gym with his wife Melanie in Sumiton, grew up watching his grandfather deal with a war-time injury — the loss of his hearing — after he was blown out of a truck during an explosion.

The plight of his grandfather as well as America’s wounded heroes stayed close to Todd’s heart into his adulthood, as did a desire to help those who sacrificed their bodies in their nation’s service.

Then he learned of the Wounded Warrior Project — which was able to serve as his avenue to help disabled veterans.

The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to “honor and empower wounded warriors” of the United States Armed Forces with a vision to “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”

The project works to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.

“We held a jujitsu tournament last year to benefit a gentleman in the community, which turned out to be very successful — it brought to mind holding a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project to give back and honor the heroes who have given so much to protect and serve our country,” Todd said.

The idea of what type of benefit to hold remained a mystery, until the Alexanders were approached by gym member Heath Thomas. Thomas had organized a powerlifting team at the gym and suggested holding a meet to help prepare for state competition in February — to which Todd responded with the idea of combining the meet with the Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser.

Eight short weeks later, a group of participants converged at Corner Stone to not only test the limits of the physical strength, but to honor heroes.

“It was an incredible atmosphere during the benefit,” Todd said.

“Normally, when people are at the gym working out, they’re by themselves or just have a lone partner and it’s quiet on a vocal level. During the benefit, there was so much encouragement for not only the participants, but those who had come to watch. Everyone was not only putting their entire bodies, but also their hearts into it — you could see in the way they were working. There were a lot of personal-best weight limits that were broken during the benefit, which made it even more phenomenal.”

Even more overwhelming for the Alexanders was the response in donations. With a target of raising $1,000, the benefit exceeded all expectations by raising over $2,600, with more donations streaming in every week.

“We have been so blessed by the outpouring of support for the community. The love and respect that our area has for our veterans is extremely strong,” Todd said.

“It’s impressed us so much we’re planning on making this benefit an annual event.”

Two of the participants in the fundraiser, former Dora Bulldog defensive lineman Daniel Browning and Jesse Reed, owner and coach of the ASFL State Champion West Jefferson Devil Dogs, stated their pride in being part of the benefit as well.

“I was just happy to be a part of it and help Melanie and Todd anyway I could,” Reed said. “It’s great to be a member of a gym that actively does things to help the community as well as its members! It was a great cause and I was honored to participate with the other Corner Stone Gym members.”

“I felt really great in being a part of the benefit. I thought that if I could contribute in any way, I would be very overjoyed to do so,” Browning said.

“There’s no doubt that I will participate in any future benefits that the gym holds, as it's wonderful to be able to help raise money for a cause such as the WWP.”

For more information on how to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org. Donations can also dropped off at the Corner Stone Gym at 429 Main Street in Sumiton.