Inaugural Squats for Tots fundraiser in Greensburg lifts Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
Ryan Relosky broke into a smile and giggled after easily hoisting a 50-pound barbell above his head Sunday to the cheers and applause of more than 100 family members, friends and complete strangers at the Virtus Institute athletic club in Greensburg.
Relosky, 26, of Irwin is a participant in the St. Vincent College Bearcat BEST program that benefits young adults with learning and developmental disabilities. BEST stands for “Building Excellence through Skills Training.” Relosky was among about 30 athletes who took part in the inaugural Squats for Tots lift-a-thon benefiting Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
“I was a little nervous, but it was fun,” Relosky said.
Lifting in front of a throng of people improved his confidence for his next attempts.
As Relosky told a reporter that he would later try a personal-best 200-pound squat lift at the fundraiser, he also issued a warning to his weightlifting mentor, Nicholas Racculia of the Iron City Athletic Club, that he'd better not be standing nearby.
“You better not be beside me. ... I could break your toes,” Relosky laughed.
Racculia, an associate professor of finance at St. Vincent College, near Latrobe, organized the first-time event in which participants generate monetary pledges.
Donors offer an amount per pound lifted that will go toward the charity.
The lifters included boys, girls, men and women, ages 8 to 67 years old.
They were members of the Bearcat BEST program; seven were residents of the nonprofit Acme Providers Inc., a Greensburg-area nonprofit that supports adults with special needs; and some were from area athletic clubs.
Each participant raises money performing dead lifts, presses, and squat lifts, all under the watchful eyes of experienced loaders and spotters.
“Our goal was to make a lot of these participants feel empowered,” Racculia said.
“Some have benefited from the assistance of others, and they themselves are now giving to others ... and displaying their strength after months of training.
“They are actually paying it forward.”
Silver-haired Mike “The Beast” Anthony, 56, a resident in the Acme Providers program, was showing off his “guns” after his 36-pound press.
“I love this,” he said. “I've been training for a long time.”
Joelle Abramowicz, 50, also of Greensburg, was a crowd favorite, drawing raves from the audience with her pre- and post-lift ritual of bowing to the audience.
“It made me nervous ... but (the cheers) helped me do it,” she said. “I really like this.”
With some lifters, like Nick Sciullo, 22, also with the Bearcat BEST program, said the noisy crowd made him nervous at first but also helped him as he finished a 225-pound squat.
“Yes, you've got to be careful with the amount you donate,” Racculia said. “It could end up costing you a lot.”
Racculia said he was “very happy” with the number of participants and volunteers, and the crowd that more than filled the North Main Street gym's parking lot, but he wasn't surprised.
“These people are passionate about lifting and they get to show off their development,” he said. “And, really, it's for a wonderful cause,” he said.
The event raised more than $3,200.