In four weeks, thousands of athletes from around the world will come to Chicago to compete in the Lifetime Chicago Triathlon. WGN’s Mike Lowe is participating again and raising money for a good cause.
Meet Charles Wilson. The 21-year-old Harold Washington College student is a summer intern at Jet Support Services, a leading aviation consultant which provides maintenance service programs for business jets.
His supervisor Julie Bourke knows his work ethic was built in the weight room.
“I don’t think I could ever do the workouts that he does,” she said. “It definitely translates to every day how he comes here – how he arrives at work every day.”
Wilson himself draws a direct line from the time he put in at the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club on Chicago’s West Side to the work he’s doing at the JSSI offices in this West Loop high rise.
In a sense, the gym expanded his view of what was possible.
“Coming to work every day and seeing this is just inspiring, it shows me there’s more to the city than the community I came from.”
It all started when Cam Paulson, a former strength coach for both the Ohio State University and University of Florida football teams, moved to Chicago to open his own gym Strive Village. He also started volunteering at the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club but noticed the weight room, needed some work.
“It was kind of in disrepair, and Cam being the guy that he was took a look in here and was like, ‘We got to get you new equipment,’” Boys and Girls Club Director Will Edmondson said.
Edmondson said the new weights brought new excitement and an instant change. Teens were suddenly excited to workout. They were staying off the streets and pushing themselves past their pervious limits.
“Those values are many of the values that we try to instill in all of our programs at the club, especially here in this fitness center,” Edmondson said. “The value of determination, hard work, all of those things are instilled in our young people, and they can use those values in life.”
Wilson is just one example of success in strength training.
“The gym kept me and a lot of people who use the gyms out of trouble from my neighborhood,” he said.
Over the last six years, Paulson, through his charity It Takes a Village Chicago has built 10 state-of-the art weight rooms each costing $100,000 dollars or more at community centers and Chicago schools that otherwise couldn’t afford them.
“This isn’t possible without the funds to build these high-end weight rooms,” Paulson said. “We’re not going into these places and building subpar weight rooms. I want to give these schools and organizations something really special.”
It Takes a Village Chicago is a small non-profit that’s making a big impact on lives of Chicago youth.
Its why this year, WGN is partnering with the charity to help build the next weight room.
“This is just a place where I can teach and show what hard work, and dedication and grit and showing up can do for somebody,” Paulson said.
Paulson and Wilson recently put Mike Lowe through a tough workout.
Every Tuesday in August, he will take you along for the journey as he gets ready for the triathlon and try to raise money for It Takes a Village Chicago.
“I’m pushing myself to limits I didn’t know I could go. I’m expanding and exposing myself to new things. This is a totally new scene,” Wilson said. “Just like I said before, in the weight room, there’s times I want to quit, there’s times I want to give up because it gets tough but the most distinguishing thing is just not quitting. … It’s all about building character physically and mentally, so it’s bigger than the gym, way bigger than the gym.”