Tag Archives: Andy Berman

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)

“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)

Raise Funds — And Upper-Body Strength — For Kids

Westporters know that every day is different at the Levitt Pavilion.

One night there’s a rock group. The next night, a military band. Then comes a comedian, followed by Klezmer musicians. It’s Ed Sullivan on steroids.

But on Sunday morning, June 4 (10:30 to 11:30), the Levitt stage will be taken over by regular people of all ages.

Doing push-ups.

It’s the 8th annual Push Against Cancer for Kids. Individually and in teams, everyone is invited to bang out as many push-ups as possible.

Last year’s Push Against Cancer drew a wide variety of ages and sizes …

The only catch: You have to be sponsored. Friends, family members, colleagues — all pledge money, based on how many push-ups you can do.

All proceeds go to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the program for children facing severe medical challenges.

An anonymous donor will match all funds raised by everyone under 23 years old (up to $25,000).

… and both genders.

Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang camp nearly 30 years ago. This year, Westport-based Newman’s Own Foundation is helping out.

The Westport and Danbury Police Departments are all in too.

Opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. A Hole in the Wall Gang camper, now in remission from cancer, will deliver an inspiring speech.

DJ Sean McKee — aka Big Daddy — will motivate the push-up participants. He has a great reason to help: He’s a 2-time cancer survivor.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas (5th from left) and his entire force are strong supporters of the Push Against Cancer.

Last year’s event drew over 400 people. They raised $79,000 for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Organizer Andy Berman’s goal this year is $100,000. The cost of a week at the camp is $2,500 — though all services are free to campers and their families. So Berman hopes to raise enough money for 40 kids.

How many push-ups will you contribute to the cause?

To register, or for more information, click here. Questions? Email andy@mentalgritfitness.com 

Town Leaders Drop And Give (Much More Than) 50

On a normal Saturday, Westport’s many gyms, fitness centers and cycling studios compete for customers.

On a normal Saturday, First Selectman Jim Marpe cuts ribbons, meets citizens, maybe even takes his stuff to the dump. Police Chief Foti Koskinas oversees his cops, locks up bad guys and keeps Westport safe for all.

Last Saturday was not normal.

A number of gyms, fitness centers and cycling studios sent their clients and trainers to the Levitt Pavilion.

There, Mental Grit Fitness owner Andy Berman welcomed 300 fitness enthusiasts. Among them: Marpe and Koskinas.

Together, over the course of an hour, they banged out over 200,000 push-ups.

Andy Berman, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and First Selectman Jim Marpe assume the position.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas, Andy Berman and First Selectman Jim Marpe assume the position…

Thanks to pledges they secured in the weeks before, they raised over $75,000 for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. That organization — founded, of course, by the late Westport icon Paul Newman — offers special experiences to youngsters battling serious illnesses.

This is the 7th year Berman ran his unique fundraiser. It was the most successful — and (thanks to Westport’s CEO and top cop) high-powered — yet.

...and pause for the camersafterward.

…and pause for the camera afterward.

Andy gives huge props to Crossfit Westport’s Amy Mandelbaum; Crossfit Revel’s Jay Ross and Julie Migliaccio; JoyRide’s Rhodie Lorenz, and Achieve Fitness’ Andrew Kindt for their leadership. A number of other local gyms and fitness centers also participated.

Berman was thrilled. Everyone who did push-ups at the Levitt felt proud.

There’s no report, though, on how the first selectman and chief of police spent the rest of their day.

(To contribute to Berman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp fund, email andy@mentalgritfitness.com, or call 203-733-1194.)

Andy erman and Foti Koskinas get a bit of advanced work in.

Andy Berman and Foti Koskinas get in a bit of advanced work.

And How Did You Spend YOUR Memorial Day Weekend?

The unofficial kickoff to summer was sunny, hot, beautiful — in other words, summery. (Today — not so much.)

You and I and nearly everyone else in Westport went to the beach, opened the pool, grilled burgers and/or drank beer/wine/margaritas.

Dozens of other much more motivated and noble folks raised money for a great cause.

A great Memorial Day-related cause, in fact.

CrossFit Westport hosted a “Hero” Workshop. Honoring Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy — immortalized in the movie “Lone Survivor,” about a Navy SEALs mission to take out a Taliban leader — it involves a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another 1-mile run.

There were 4 heats yesterday morning — and all were packed. Veterans, community members and local fitness businesses participated.

All funds raised go to the Catch a Lift Fund. The organization provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal mentally and physically, through physical fitness.

Westport photographer Irene Penny captured all the action.

If her photos make you feel like a slacker — don’t worry. You can join the “Hero” Workshop next year.

Or make a contribution to the Catch a Lift Fund here.

Local trainer Andrew Berman of Mental Grit Fitness gives it his all.

Local trainer Andrew Berman of Mental Grit Fitness gives it his all. (Photo/Irene Penny)

This team rocked the "Hero" Workout.

This team rocked the “Hero” Workshop. Top (from left): Jeff Queiroga, Timmy Palko, Kali Stamos. Wearing the bandanna: Chris Bronski. (Photo/Irene Penny)

Rhodie Lorenz -- owner of JoyRide Cycling -- was one of my local fitness business owners at CrossFit yesterday.

Rhodie Lorenz — owner of JoyRide Cycling — was one of many local fitness business owners at CrossFit yesterday.

 

 

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.