When the Darien High School football players go into the weightlifting room Friday afternoon, they will be working to build more than just muscle. They will be lifting to help support a charity inspired by the sister of a former team captain, a cause that coach Rob Trifone said the players are driven to champion.
"Because it's personal and it's someone in town that they know, they've really taken it to heart," Trifone said Thursday at the first day of the Lifting Grace event. Thursday afternoon was devoted to freshmen and graduating seniors performing bench presses to raise money, and on Friday players will compete against students from Brien McMahon High School and Weston High School to raise money for the RE Children's Project.
The RE Children's Project was started by Seth Wohlberg, father of former Darien High School football captain Michael Wohlberg and his younger sister Grace . Four years ago, Grace was diagnosed with Rasmussen's encephalitis, a rare neurological condition that causes seizures, paralysis and cognitive decline. She underwent surgery to remove half of her brain as treatment.
Patrick McDonald, one of the captains for the upcoming season, said the team gets pumped to help raise money. "We're not just lifting weights, we're helping to build the community around us," he said. "It also really helps with camaraderie, it brings the entire team together."
Each player finds a sponsor for a certain amount for each pound that he lifts. McDonald said each player can usually lift about 600 pounds in a day. Last year, the team raised about $10,000. He's confident the team can muscle up enough money this year.
"We're looking pretty strong this year. We just had a practice meet against McMahon and we outlifted them by 2,000 pounds."
The players are not only motivated by the thrill of competition and doing a good deed but also by the specific charity. Trifone said, "I asked them if they wanted to do a different charity this year, and they all said, 'No, we have to do this for Grace.'"
The second day of Lifting Grace will be Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. at Darien High School. To make a contribution, contact Rob Trifone .
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