Preview by Joshua Maloni
Dennis Brochey is a well-known mechanic, a Kiwanis Club member and a Village of Lewiston trustee.
He can also bench press more than most of our readers.
On Saturday, Feb. 16, Brochey will host the 10th annual USPA Red Brick Bench Press Championship. The event, the largest one-day bench press-only meet in the U.S., is a fundraiser for the Friends and Families of Western New York Military organization. It begins at 10 a.m. at the New York State Armory, 184 Connecticut St., Buffalo.
The Red Brick Bench Press Championship X is open to youth, men and women. It features more than 22 divisions. Competitors are separated into groups based on age and weight. Each lifter has three attempts to raise the bar one time. Sort of like a game of pool, each person calls their shot - the amount of weight to be lifted - and then has to follow through with that attempt. Each lift has to surpass the previous one in terms of weight on the bar.
Participants can compete in either USPA-sanctioned or non-sanctioned categories. The greatest lift (i.e. the most weight pressed) in each one wins, and the lifter takes home a trophy.
In the championship's first nine years, Brochey has raised more than $80,000. He said he hopes to get to the $100,000 mark this year. In the event's early years, funds went to bolster the weight room inside the Red Brick Municipal Building gym in Lewiston. With that project in hand, subsequent funds have gone to support local military families.
"It was during the summertime, I read an Ann Landers article about troops needing phone cards and stuff from home, and how the families have to pay for it," Brochey said. "I decided, 'Well, why don't we (see what) we can raise for the military.' "
When lifters got wind of Brochey's plan, they started to attend en masse.
"At our first competition, we had 23 members. As soon as people heard it was for the military, it went up to I think 43, and actually almost doubled the first year," Brochey said. "And then word got around, got around, and last year we had 148 competitors."
Brochey anticipates around 150 lifters will participate this year - including Jim Phraner, who is expected to try and bench 800 pounds.
If Brochey nets the same number of participants as in 2012, he may compete (benching around 300 pounds), because, "I always have to break last year's (mark)!"
For those tagging along with the weightlifters, and for those coming to watch, the Red Brick Bench Press Championship X offers a plentiful basket auction, T-shirts and refreshments for sale. There is a $4 general admission fee.
Almost two-dozen Gold Star parents will be recognized. They are individuals who have lost a child in service to the armed forces. Plaques will be presented in honor of the departed heroes.
"I just came up with the idea, a couple years ago, 'How can we make the Red Brick better?' " Brochey said. "One night I just said, 'We should honor the fallen troops from Western New York.' "
He explained, "I spend hours trying to locate the families; each one," to make them aware of the Red Brick Bench Press Championship, and to provide them the opportunity to pay tribute to their deceased loved ones.
Brochey recalled watching as Vietnam veterans were mistreated when they returned from war. He said he didn't think that was right, and believes we should "stand by the troops, whether (the war) is right or wrong. They should've stood behind the troops in Vietnam, because they did what was expected of them."
The deadline to enter the Red Brick Bench Press Championship is Feb. 9. An entry form can be found and downloaded on the Sentinel's website, www.wnypapers.com/sentinel. Brochey will accept donations for the basket raffle up until the event. For more information, call 716-200-3533.
Additionally, the person who raises the most funds for Friends and Families of Western New York Military will receive a weekend pass to Peek'n Peak Resort and Spa, courtesy of Don Davis Honda.
The Red Brick Bench Press Championship X is sponsored, in part, by the Lewiston Lions Club, the VFW and the Lewiston Kiwanis Club.
"I think what causes us to support this effort is it helps us to be more aware of the tremendous sacrifice that our soldiers and their families make in order that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do in our country," said Kiwanis Club President Jeff Sanderson. "Often times, the families are in need of various support in dealing with the grief that they experience in losing a son or daughter as a consequence of war. Of all the causes that we do support, this one is one that really evokes a lot of emotion, I think, for our club because of the gravity of what is at hand."
"It's a time in our country where we've just been through many, many years of war, and have seen many, many people from our communities go to Iraq and Afghanistan and other places in the world and, unfortunately, sometimes a person is killed in the line of duty," he added. "It's a small thing that we can do. And I think, mainly, because of ... Dennis and his efforts to identify the families of fallen soldiers and to seek them out, offer them support, honor their loved ones and bring them to the attention of their communities so that we can appreciate and respect what they've done, this is a very worthy cause. That's why we choose to support it."