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(10-18-19) The group standing around the lifting bench leaned forward and cheered as each teammate took a turn lifting an amount that astounded. Iron Will, Cheryl Ann’s power-lifting team, was out to accomplish the impossible.

The team has been practicing since early September at CrossFit Crave in Celina and Innergy Fitness in Coldwater. Organized by Samantha Fledderjohann, Cheryl Ann’s Peer Support/Recreation Specialist, the team will compete at a meet in Tipp City later this month then go on to a Special Olympics power-lifting meet in Troy in January.

Coach Debbie Wagner enthusiastically greets all of the 13 members as they arrive for practice. Wagner, one of the co-owners of CrossFit Crave, said yes immediately when she was asked if she’d like the support Iron Will by coaching and providing a place for practice.

Coach Debbie Wagner who formerly taught special education for 15 years –

Coach Debbie Wagner

“This is my favorite part of the week, I hope the team members are loving it as much as we are.”

The first job for the new team was to expect the unexpected. They had to get used to the noise and clamor of a working gym, to deal with the distractions. Then they had to learn that they really could do things that they didn’t think they could do.

“At first we’d ask them to pick up a barbell, and they’d say, ‘There’s no way I can do that. It’s great to get them to believe in themselves.”

She hopes to encourage an overall healthy lifestyle for the team, along with lifting and strengthening, she added.

Coach Mike Wolfe, a local powerlifter who has competed on a national and world level, said that he was eager to help out with Iron Will.

“When Sam called me, I said yes right away.”

He stopped a moment to turn his attention to an Iron Will team member who was about to lift.

“Give it everything you’ve got.”

Wolfe said the first step was to get team members acclimated to the gym and accustomed to the equipment. Coaches taught them safety techniques. Now, coaches are tracking how much team members can lift, and their improvement from week to week.

Wolfe said with a smile-

“I’m so excited to be doing this – sometimes I have to reel it in a little. I would do anything to help these kids.”

Also helping out as coaches are Jason Wells and Matt Shindeldecker.

Sam said she’s seen a difference in the team members already. They might walk into practice with their shoulders slumping, their eyes uncertain.

“But when they walk out of practice, they’ve got their shoulders back and their heads high. They’re proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

(To learn more about Iron Will and Cheryl Ann’s other efforts to organize sports and leisure activities for children and adults with developmental disabilities, contact Samantha Fledderjohann at 419-586-2369 or sfledderjohann@mercerdd.org.)