It had been a rough week for Gavin Leiba.
The seventeen month old had been lethargic. His doctors were debating whether or not to give the Orlando youth a blood transfusion. Such are the struggles that come with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia treatment, particularly in someone so young.
Then came Saturday.
Suddenly, Gavin seemed a bit more awake, more aware. He appeared to be excited. It’s almost as though he knew.
That particular Saturday just so happened to be the day of the North American Powerlifting Championships, held in Melbourne, Florida. Gavin would be attending the event, with his parents and brother of course. The Leiba Family had one competitor in particular for whom they were cheering.
Justin Prince, a complete stranger to the Leibas just a few months ago, was now their favorite athlete in the world. An avid weight lifter during his days growing up in Edon, the Orlando man had picked the sport back up after feeling he had gotten out of shape, and, after dropping his weight, he was looking to get into competitive lifting as well.
That wasn’t enough for Prince, though. Something was missing. He decided that he wanted to use his lifting to help someone, looking to associate with various charities. Eventually, he decided to start his own, and soon afterward was told of Gavin’s story by a friend. From there, Reps 4 Remission was born.
And, after three months of intense, brutal training, Prince stood ready to lift at the North American Championships.
“For three months that’s all there was in my life.” Recalled Prince. “I couldn’t have done it without my wife.”
Prince’s wife, Courtney, helped him train when she could. She also helped to set up the Reps 4 Remission website, as well as countless other methods of support.
The goal of Reps 4 Remission was to collect one-hundred pledges, with those wishing to do so able to contribute a set financial amount per pound, starting with a penny. Those who wished to simply donate were encouraged to do so as well, and the website offered shirts for sale with all proceeds going to the Leibas.
Pledges were slow to come in at first, as Prince struggled to bring his cause to the attention of the Orlando area. Local media didn’t seem as though they wanted to cover the story. Prince tried everything to generate interest in the Leiba’s plight. He even sent some Reps 4 Remission wristbands to a couple of celebrities.
That’s when things picked up a bit.
As his daughter Brooklynn us a fan of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Prince sent a few bracelets to the team’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick. They received a picture of Kaepernick and a few of his teammates wearing the bands, which the quarterback also posted on his Twitter account.
There was another big name who took the cause to heart.
“Things started happening when Larry the Cable Guy came on board.” Prince claimed.
The comedian also posted a picture of himself wearing the wristband on Twitter as well, with said picture garnering more than 30,000 likes. Aside from bring Reps 4 Remission that level of attention. Larry also donated $1,500 to Prince’s charity.
By the time people stopped pledging, Prince had collected well over his goal of one-hundred contributors. Seventy-eight individuals pledged, while other pledg coming from organizations and their members were almost too numerous to count.
So when Prince stepped up to the squat bar to begin his run at the Championships, he knew there was a lot riding on how he performed. Would his training pay off?
In a word, yes.
Prince met his goal weight by lifting 1250 pounds total at the meet. That number was divinely inspired, according to Prince.
“For some reason, God told me to pick 1250.”
That would become more and more apparent as the meet went on.
Prince pushed up 450 pounds in his best squat. He followed that up with a personal record of 300 pounds on the bench. Then, after never deadlifting more than 480 pounds in his life, Prince brought up 500 pounds to reach his goal, screaming triumphantly while doing so. Everyone in the building erupted with applause.
Prince’s feats earned him second place in his weight division, and the fifth highest total overall.
When it was all said and done, the Prince family had raised over $6,000 for the Leibas. Not only that, but the attention they brought to the Leibas has encouraged other acts of charity. The First Oviedo Methodist Church Ladies Group in Orlando is planning to put on a Christmas for the Leibas this year. Also, the Denise Flaherty Foundation, a major east coast cancer charity, will be hosting a golf tournament, dinner, and auction on December 8 for the family.
Reps 4 Remission will stay active, with people still being able to donate to the Leibas if they wish at www.reps4remission.com. Prince also plans to collect pledges when he competes at the North American Championships next year.
Hopefully Gavin will have a better week going into the meet.