After first realizing Gavin was bruising in his sleep, after doctors and nurse practitioners assured the Leiba family that the purple blood blister rash spreading across his body was likely the result of their 10 month old son coughing too hard, even after finally being admitted into the ICU from the Emergency Room, it looked as though the anxiety of not knowing what was wrong would at last come to an end.
And they were right, unfortunately.
The diagnosis of Leukemia didn’t come as a complete surprise, as the family had been made aware it was a possibility when examining the results from earlier blood work. Still, there has yet to be a case in human history when such a revelation can be described as anything softer than a punch in the gut, even when one knows it’s coming.
One of the Floridian medical professionals involved in this process, Registered Nurse Cara Santos, is the one who told the story to friends and current Orlando residents Justin and Courtney Prince over dinner.
Prince, a 2002 graduate of Edon High School, had quite a journey in his own right which led him to that moment. A competitive weight lifter in high school and into college, he had fallen out of shape after his career in scholastic athletics.
The former Bomber football player had put on some weight intentionally at Wittenberg University, where he obtained a degree in Biology, so that he could play competitive rugby, though his gains were largely from muscle then. As he got out of his routine, however, he slowly started to become less and less fit.
Prince’s low point came on March 21 of 2013.
“I remember it quite vividly.” He remarked.
At 5’10” and weighing in at around 230 pounds at the time, Prince had high blood pressure to the point of hypertension. Sitting at the table to eat supper, he had to loosen his belt and unbutton his size 38 pants just to make room to breathe.
“That’s when I knew I had to get healthy.”
Turning to his wife, the aforementioned Courtney, whom he met when attending Wittenberg, Prince told her he had two options to get back into shape; go back to playing rugby or take up competitive weight lifting again. She initially chose rugby, but the work and time away from family that choice would involve convinced her power lifting was the way to go.
So Prince began training again. As a Senior Environmental Scientist for the city of Orlando, his place of work has a gym on site, which he uses to train on his lunch hour three days a week. After work on those three days, as well as on Saturdays, he trains with his wife for at least two hours at a time.
“I consider us a team on everything.” Prince said of his Courtney.
All that teamwork paid off, as he has dropped from 235 pounds to the mid 170’s. The results at the lifting meets came a bit slower than the weight loss. He gradually improved, however, reaching new personal records in the bench, squat, and dead lift at his last meet.
The judges didn’t count any of them, though.
Having to settle for official lifts below his new bests, a frustrated Prince was more motivated than ever to lift competitively. His sites were set on the North American Championship Powerlifting Meet.
“I was gonna blow everyone out of the water.” Prince declared.
But then, he found inspiration from a higher power, experiencing a premonition from God whilst training.
“I got the calling to better myself, but not for myself.”
Prince felt the need to help others, but didn’t have the financial means to do so. That’s when he decided to use his power lifting in a fund raising capacity. He immediately went about seeking out non-profit organizations for which to lift, as he wasn’t sure how to pull off the charitable act logistically. Yet he could not find a good fit.
Which takes us back to Cara Santos.
The Princes explained there hopes to help to their friend Santos. So she asked the question.
“Would you ever do it for a kid?”
This was the question that set everything in motion. Justin and Courtney figured out the logistics issues with fund raising. Fears of rejection by the family and questions of whether or not he was good enough to be doing this evaporated when Prince met the family at a Barnes and Noble and saw their extremely positive reaction to the idea. Everything just seemed to fit into its proper place.
“I can tell you this,” Prince said, “Gavin is a lovable kid.”
That lovable kid has gone through things no one, child or adult, should every have to go through. The Leukemia has stunted his development. His weakened immune system from the lack of red blood cells makes him very susceptible to disease. He’s dealt with staff infection. Chemotherapy makes him lethargic a good portion of the time.
It’s all worth it, though, as he is going into remission.
Prince is compelled to help. He started Reps4Remission, designed to help the Leiba family, people can pledge money per pound he lifts at the North American Championships, starting at a penny per pound. They can also purchase Reps4Remission t-shirts. Both of these methods of contributing, as well as more information on the Leiba family and Prince, can be found at www.reps4remission.com.
By the way, the website, designed and maintained by Courtney, and the t-shirts, as well as the $100 worth of supplements Prince takes each week all come out of pocket, and will not be reimbursed by donations. Every cent donated to the cause will go directly to the Leiba family.
Not sure what a realistic monetary goal would be, Prince’s goal is to get one-hundred people to pledge. At the time of printing, he has twenty-eight with under a month to go.
Since taking this mission on, people have approached Prince about what he’s doing. They want to tell him what a good thing he’s trying to do, but he won’t have any of it.
“I never want anyone to tell me thanks.” Prince admitted. “We’ve been more blessed by doing this than we’ve blessed others.”
Well, that’s just too bad. Because I’m going to say thank you anyway.
Thank you, Justin. Thank you.