Tag Archives: Adam Vengrow

Catch A Lift, MyTeamTriumph Join Forces Tomorrow. Everyone Wins!

For 5 years, Westport has hosted Catch a Lift fundraisers.

Yet the attendees — wounded post-9/11 service members, who heal physically and mentally thanks to the gym memberships and home fitness equipment the organization provides — give at least as much to Westport, in terms of inspiration and motivation, as they get.

Now they’re going to give even more.

Tonight (Friday, November 8, 7 p.m., Birchwood Country Club) is the CAL gala. There’s great food, beverages, a DJ, video, and more than a dozen Catch a Lift guests of honor.

Catch a Lift veterans, at a Birchwood Country Club event.

Tomorrow (Saturday, November 9, 8:30 a.m.), those same men and women head to Compo Beach.

The combat veterans — all suffering from serious PTSD, some who are double amputees — along with their friends and family members, will push disabled athletes in myTeamTriumph. The event is a fun run, of about 2 miles.

MTT is a program for children, teens and adults with disabilities who otherwise could not participate in endurance events like triathlons and road races. Volunteers “ride along,” helping them compete in — and enjoy — those endeavors.

Over the years, Catch a Lift and myTeamTriumph have formed a special bond.

Adam Vengrow — a Westporter, and vice president of the CAL board of directors — has worked closely with mTT board member Andy Berman. Combining their efforts, Vengrow says, demonstrates the power of volunteerism and collaboration.

Andy Berman (left) and Austin enjoy a myTeamTriumph event.

Curt Lueker — another Westporter, who is founder and president of myTeamTriumph — calls the partnership “a unique match.”

Tomorrow’s event is open to anyone who wants to or walk. Click here to sign up.

We welcome our Catch a Lift guests to Westport. And we are awed by what they give us when they’re here.

PS: Last weekend, Berman finished the New York City marathon. For him, this run will be a walk in the park.

Sgt. Nikki Elder Catches A Lift

It’s easy to ignore Veterans Day.

Sure, banks and the post office are closed. But many offices — and the stock market — are open. School is on.

Westport is not exactly a military town. The veterans who live here served mostly in long-ago wars. We’re almost entirely untouched by the endless battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. That conflict — and the men and women who fight there — is out of sight, out of mind.

But it sure isn’t for those who were wounded there.

The Catch a Lift Fund is a lifeline for those “other people.” Created by a woman whose brother volunteered after 9/11 and was killed in Afghanistan, it provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal physically and mentally, through physical fitness.

Thanks to one Westporter, however — and his dedicated crew of friends and supporters — Catch a Lift has become a prized, and very special, “local” organization.

In just 5 years, Catch a Lift’s Veterans Day event has become one of the year’s most important fundraisers.

I went to my first one 2 years ago. It was among the most moving nights of my life.

Catch a Lift veterans, at last year’s Birchwood Country Club event.

Adam Vengrow is the inspiration behind this inspiring evening. The next one is Friday, November 8 (7 p.m.), at Birchwood Country Club.

There’s great food and beverages. There’s a DJ, and a video.

But all that pales in comparison to the guests of honor. More than a dozen veterans will be there, mixing and mingling. One will speak. The room will fall silent. It’s a life-changing experience.

The men and women include double and triple amputees. Some are in wheelchairs; others use canes. But this is no pity party. The spirit, energy, life and joy in the group is astonishing.

These veterans are not your typical Westporters. They enlisted just after — or during — high school. They’ve seen things you and I can’t imagine (and, because the war is so distant, never read about).

They have suffered unfathomably — for their country, and us. Thanks to Catch a Lift, they’ve rebuilt their lives. Next month, they’ll honor us with their presence.

Sgt. Nikki Elder (ret.) was at Birchwood last year. She did not speak. This year she will.

Sgt. Nikki Elder

The upstate New York native joined the Navy, and worked as a cryptologic technician with the National Security Agency.

She got out — and then, after 9/11, Elder joined the Army National Guard. In 2004 and ’05, she was deployed to Afghanistan.

She medically retired in 2013. Elder went to grad school, earning a master’s in nutrition. That’s her job now. So is being a single mother to 2 sons.

For years, she battled PTSD. She thought she could conquer it on her own. One day, at a retreat, a fellow veteran told Elder “you have to get your life together.” She mentioned Catch a Lift.

The organization connected Elder with a squad leader, who held her accountable. It took a while — “I fought it,” she admits — but CAL stayed with her.

“I got a lot more out of it than a gym membership,” Elder says. “They believed in me, when I didn’t even believe in myself.”

Nikki Elder (5th from left), at a Catch a Lift event.

Last year she went to Birchwood Country Club, for the 4th annual Catch a Lift fundraiser.

That was the turning point.

“I hadn’t realized the support that was out there, until I saw it in Westport,” Elder recalls. “I had been fighting it. I was guilty, ashamed, depressed, angry. Catch a Lift, and the people in Westport, made me realize I wasn’t broken.”

The weekend “blew me away,” Elder says. “I didn’t know what to expect. But people came up and started talking. I had not been comfortable being complimented, or called a hero. But they genuinely appreciated what I did. It was amazing. I started being okay with thank-yous.”

Vengrow, his fellow organizer Andy Berman, and others were “so enthusiastic. They believed in us. They said ‘you can do this.’ There was no doubt in their minds. They sparked something in me that hasn’t stopped. They gave me confidence I hadn’t felt since I was in the service.”

Today, she has lost 140 pounds from her maximum of 264. She is off all her PTDS medications. “I’m myself again,” she marvels.

Nikki Elder (right) with a fellow Catch a Lift veteran.

She looks forward to returning to this year’s gala. “I want to support Westport, because Westport supported me,” Elder says.

For the past year, she has kept in touch with some of the people — veterans and civilians — she met here. They still encourage each other.

“It’s contagious. It’s infectious. I love it!” she says.

Westport loves Sgt. Nikki Elder, and all her Catch a Lift colleagues, too.

(In addition to Sgt. Nikki Elder, the November 8 event features 2-star General Charles W. Whittington and Catch a Lift founder Lynn Coffland, plus food, drinks and music. Click here for tickets. The next day, the veterans pay it forward by helping MyTeamTriumph, a program for people with disabilities who otherwise could not participate in endurance events like triathlons and road races.) 

Be Inspired: Catch A Lift!

It’s easy to ignore Veterans Day.

Sure, banks and the post office are closed. But many offices — and the stock market — are open. School is on.

Westport is not exactly a military town. The veterans who live here served mostly in long-ago wars. We’re almost entirely untouched by the endless battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. That conflict — and the men and women who fight there — is out of sight, out of mind.

But it certainly isn’t for those who were wounded there.

The Catch a Lift Fund is a lifeline for those “other people.” Created by a woman whose brother volunteered after 9/11 and was killed in Afghanistan, it provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal physically and mentally, through physical fitness.

Working hard, thanks to Catch a Lift.

Thanks to one Westporter, however — and his dedicated crew of friends and supporters — Catch a Lift has become a prized, and very special, “local” organization.

In just 4 years, Catch a Lift’s Veterans Day event has become one of the year’s most important fundraisers.

I went to my first one last year. It was among the most moving nights of my life.

Adam Vengrow is the inspiration behind this inspiring evening. The next one is Friday, November 9 (7 p.m.), at Birchwood Country Club.

There’s great food and beverages. There’s a DJ, and a video.

But all that pales in comparison to the guests of honor. Up to 20 veterans will be there, mixing and mingling. Two will speak. The room will fall silent. It’s a life-changing experience.

Marine veteran Sarah Rudder lost her foot in an accident. Her story of fortitude inspired last year’s packed crowd at Birchwood Country Club.

The men — and women — include double and triple amputees. Some are in wheelchairs; others use canes. But this is no pity party. The spirit, energy, life and joy in the group is astonishing.

These veterans are not your typical Westporters. They enlisted just after — or during — high school. They’ve seen things you and I can’t imagine (and, because the war is so distant, never read about).

They have suffered unfathomably — for their country, and us. Thanks to Catch a Lift, they’ve rebuilt their lives. Next month, they’ll tell us their stories.

Melissa Leuck was at Birchwood last year. She did not speak. This year she will.

In addition to massive injuries, she suffered sexual trauma.

Recently, Leuck competed in the Strong Woman competition. She is indeed stronger than ever.

Melissa Leuck

This year, Vengrow and his fellow organizers will spotlight Catch a Lift’s Women’s Fitness Initiative. The support system gives combat women their identity and “tribe” after they return home.

The Birchwood fundraiser is part of 4 days of Westport activities. Catch a Lift vets will do a series of workouts, sponsored by local gyms and clubs.

They’ll meet as many of us as they can. Those who have been here before will renew friendships.

Vengrow is central to the Veterans Day weekend. But he has plenty of help. He gratefully acknowledges the many Westporters who have joined the cause.

“It’s our job to protect the people who make duty, honor, courage, commitment, integrity, country and service their lives,” he says.

“We live in the best country in the world, and one of the best parts of this country as well. We all have many wonderful things to be thankful for.”

Catch a Lift is thankful for its rock-solid Westport connection. If you’ve been to the Veterans Day event, you’ll know how important that connection is.

If you haven’t, here’s the link for tickets. But there’s an October 31 deadline. No tickets will be sold at the door!

Unsung Hero #23

We don’t often think of Westport as a vocal, support-our-troops town.

Westporters are as patriotic as any Americans. We’ve got our share of veterans. But very few served after 9/11. The difficult, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from most of our minds.

Yet with tremendous energy, incredible organizing skills, plenty of passion — and the leadership qualities of the best generals in history — Adam Vengrow has put Westport on the military map.

He’s the driving force behind our great relationship with Catch a Lift. The national organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel, aiding in their physical and mental recovery.

It’s an amazing group, accomplishing tremendous things. But Westport holds a special place in Catch a Lift’s heart.

Once a year, veterans come to town for a “fitness and knowledge boot camp”: strength and conditioning, yoga, spinning and more. Businesses like JoyrideCrossfit and Achieve that usually compete for customers join hands to help.

Also once a year — on Veterans Day — Adam organizes a fundraiser for Catch a Lift.

Last Saturday’s event was phenomenal. Birchwood Country Club was packed. A great cross-section of Westporters — veterans and those who never served; old and young; Republicans, Democrats and everyone else — joined together to help Catch a Lift.

Adam Vengrow (right) and Jeremiah Montell — a Marine and Navy veteran of Iran and Afghanistan — at Saturday’s Catch a Lift fundraiser.

The food and conversation were great. The silent auction was high-end. The video brought tears to all.

But the highlight of the evening was the veterans themselves. These young men and women talked about losing limbs, coming home to homelessness, battling obstacles from PTSD to losing custody of their child.

Yet they spoke too of triumphs: losing 100 pounds; entering and graduating from college; healing themselves, helping others — and regaining custody of that child.

Marine veteran Sarah Rudder lost her foot in an accident. Her story of fortitude inspired the packed crowd at Birchwood Country Club.

The fundraiser is just a part of their weekend in Westport. Earlier in the day, the Police Department hosted them for an intense workout. The day before, they’d talked to Staples athletes.

When they spoke so eloquently and passionately at Birchwood, the veterans made clear how much Westport meant to them. It was equally clear how much they meant to those of us in the audience.

Adam does not do this alone. He’s got a high-powered day job, and gets plenty of help from Andy Berman and batallions of other volunteers. (One woman called herself “part of Adam’s Army.”) He thanked them all on Saturday.

But the Westport/Catch a Lift connection would not be possible without Adam Vengrow. He shares something special with the brave men and women he brought to Birchwood on Saturday: He too is an Unsung Hero.

(If you know an Unsung Hero who should be recognized, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Jeremiah Montell Catches A Westport Lift

Three years ago, Jeremiah Montell weighed 320 pounds. He took 15 different medications. He made 3 suicide attempts.

Montell had recently retired as a Navy petty officer 2nd class, due to injuries sustained in combat. He’d deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq — after serving in both places earlier, as a Marine.

Fortunately, he learned about Catch a Lift. The organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support to post 9/11 combat-wounded military personnel, aiding in their physical and mental recovery.

Montell joined a gym in Austin, Texas. He recovered so well that he got himself certified as a personal trainer — so he could help others.

When Catch a Lift officials asked him to share his story, he became a public speaker. Now he too is a board member.

Jeremiah Montell working out in one activity …

That’s just the bare outline of Montell’s amazing story. On Saturday, November 11 (7 to 11 p.m., Birchwood Country Club) he’ll share it with Westport.

The 3rd annual event promises to be the best one yet. It’s a chance to meet inspiring veterans, eat, drink and dance.

This will be Montell’s 3rd visit here. Westport has a special place in his heart. It was one of the first places he spoke. And his reception here has been uplifting.

“I’ve gotten so much from so many people there — professionals in the fitness industry, and private citizens,” he says.

“They turn out. They want to hear our stories. And they want to  help.”

Montell calls Westport “a beautiful town. But it’s a town of real people. I know they’re busy. But they take time to come, and ask thoughtful questions. They really understand we’re going through physical and mental things. They want to be a part of my life. I’m really fortunate to have that little town on my side.”

… and another.

2016 was a milestone year for Catch a Lift. The organization raised $1 million — of which 91% goes to help veterans.

“These great men and women need our support,” says Westporter Adam Vengrow, a national board member who is instrumental in every local event.

“We’re fighting suicide, PTSD, alcohol and drug abuse, severe weight gain, physical injuries including multiple limb losses and severe burns, plus much more. Together, we make a difference right here.”

Local businesses, gyms, the Westport Police Department, first responders, VFW and many others continue to help. But over 500 veterans are on Catch a Lift’s wait list.

In addition to ticket sales for the Veterans Day event, Vengrow seeks auction donations and program ads. Click here for more information.

“Twice a year, we bring veterans from all over the country to Westport,” he notes.

“We open our doors, we thank them for their service, we offer a hug. They leave with a lasting thought that Westport is unlike any other place in the country.

In the middle of town, he adds, “our bridge is filled with American flags. There are peaceful protesters from left and right at various times there. But everyone comes together in patriotism, and support for the men and women who protect us, in the hope of an even brighter future for our country and the generations behind us. I love Westport!”

In fact, Adam Vengrow loves Westport almost as much as Jeremiah Montell.

“Catch A Lift” Catches Westport’s Spirit

“06880” is a little late to this story.

But it’s never too late to celebrate our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Or the people who help them.

Catch a Lift is a national non-profit dedicated to the physical and mental recovery of post-9/11 combat-wounded military personnel. The organization provides gym memberships and home equipment, fitness programs and motivational peer support.

Last weekend — thanks to the tireless efforts of Mental Grit Fitness owner/trainer Andy Berman; Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and his entire department; Westporter and CAL board member Adam Vengrow, and the support of Joyride, Crossfit Revel and Achieve Fitness — 16 veterans came to town.

And then they went to town, with workouts, training and plenty of camaraderie.

A special shoutout goes to Daniel Slow. The Weston High School basketball player raised over $5,000 for Catch a Lift, thanks to pledges for every point he scored.

Photographer Matthew Paskert captured much of the action from last weekend’s “Westport for Warriors” weekend. If his images inspire you to learn more about Catch a Lift, click here.

(Photos/Matthew Paskert)

Westporters Ring The Bell For Wounded Vets

Ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange is a great tradition. Many times, the honor goes to business executives, politicians, sports idols or movie stars.

Today the bell was rung by real heroes.

Catch a Lift Fund — the organization that provides wounded veterans with gym equipment and memberships — did the honors. And when they were done, the entire floor gave the vets a rousing ovation.

Catch a Lift has a strong Westport presence. So it was quite appropriate that — flanking 2 veterans this morning — were Westporters Adam Vengrow and Andrew Berman. Both have done yeoman’s work here — and nationally — for the cause.

After the event, 6 Westport volunteers posed for a group hug.

At the New York Stock Exchange this morning (from left): Lance Lonegran, Adam Vengrow, Johanna Rossi, Andrew Berman, David Frost and Tom Dippel

At the New York Stock Exchange this morning (from left): Lance Lonegran, Johanna Rossi, Andrew Berman, Adam Vengrow, Tom Dippel and David Frost.

Gyms Join To Give Veterans A Lift

Last fall, “06880” gave a shout-out to Catch a Lift. The organization — which provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal mentally and physically, through physical fitness — was planning a Veterans Day fundraiser.

Westporters responded generously. Just before Christmas, I posted some feel-good thanks from a Marine who benefited big-time.

Catch a Lift continues to do great things.

Andy Berman is a personal trainer. He’s worked in area gyms (and owned one). He’s been to private homes (including Catch a Lift supporter Adam Vengrow’s). He’s trained Westport police.

Berman donated his services for the Veterans Day fundraiser. That’s where he learned about Sergeant Ricky Davis, a highly decorated Marine who deployed 5 times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s been through tough times, but has found fitness to be a life-saver.

Sgt. Ricky Davis (ret.).

Sgt. Ricky Davis (ret.).

Catch a Lift is flying Davis up from Florida. Could Andy help?

He sure could.

Berman wanted to put Davis through a “fitness and knowledge boot camp.” He’d show him strength and conditioning, yoga, spinning — everything.

Berman pitched his idea to Joyride Westport, Crossfit of Westport and Achieve Fitness. They compete every day for members, but all were delighted to cooperate.

Shadd Hoffman

Shadd Hoffman

Davis is coming the last weekend in February. He’ll be joined by another Catch a Lift veteran. Shadd Hoffman was deployed twice by the Army. He now works for the Department of Homeland Security.

Both men want to open their own gyms. Berman and the other owners will show them how.

Berman calls the weekend “Westport for Warriors: A Fitness Workshop.”

I call it awesome.