BRUNSWICK — After winning four world championship titles for powerlifting, Ryan Martin decided to use his passion to give back to his community.
Martin is the organizer of the second annual Squats for Tots powerlifting competition, which will take place Saturday at Black Bridge Crossfit in Brunswick from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
The meet benefits the Toys for Tots Foundation, an organization run by the U.S. Marine Corps that collects new, unwrapped toys each year between October and December. The toys are distributed as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.
Martin said after receiving approval to hold a small meet at the facility around this time last year, he realized it would be a great opportunity to tie in philanthropy. He said he doesn’t work for Black Bridge Crossfit, but is allowed to use the space for the event.
“It’s nice for us strength athletes to donate to charities (that) help those who can’t help themselves,” he said. “I basically only donate to children’s charities.”
After he came up with the idea, Martin said he put together the first Squats for Tots event last year in approximately two weeks, asking lifters he knew if they wanted to participate. He ultimately had 21 lifters sign up, and said he collected between 60 and 70 toys for Toys for Tots.
Martin said following last year’s success, he has made an effort to get the word out further in advance this year, by promoting the event on social media and in other ways for the past two months. He does not have a definite number of lifters that will compete this year, but said 40 is a safe estimate, nearly doubling last year’s participation.
Lifter sign-ups will be the day of the meet, and tickets to Squats for Tots can be purchased through a link on the event’s Facebook page. The entry fee for athletes is $10, plus an unwrapped toy, which the event’s Facebook page asks be in the $20 range. The spectator fee is also $10, and Martin asks those who come to bring an unwrapped toy as well. All levels are welcome, and singlets are not required, but holiday attire is encouraged.
Along with having an opportunity to donate to charity, Martin said he thinks the meet gives novice lifters who might not try competing otherwise a chance to get a taste of what it’s like.
“A lot of lifters won’t try something like this because a lot of meets cost over $100 to join,” he said. “So for (about) $20 they get to try it out.”
Martin also said his event will have more collaboration from Toys for Tots this year, whereas last year he organized the event on his own and dropped the toys off at Brunswick Landing afterward. The organization is sending two Marines to attend the event, and a Marine will be competing as well.
The top three lifters in each category for both the women’s and men’s division will be given a prize, which Martin said are all holiday themed, such as nutcrackers and Christmas ornaments. He said costumes are a way to break up the monotony of the competition for both spectators and competitors.
“I kind of like making things a little more light and a little more fun for stuff like this,” he said. “These things tend to run long and drawn out, and if I can bring some levity to a long, boring day (it’s a good thing).”
He also said the level of talent that will be competing is impressive.
“It is a charity event, it is for fun, but the caliber of lifters we have coming is astronomical,” he said. “We have anyone from people that have never lifted, to multi-world champions. There will be people benching 100 pounds and some benching 700.”
Making the competition a charity event has also led some lifters to tell Martin their personal stories. The organizer said one elite lifter pulled him aside during last year’s competition, and told Martin the first Christmas gift he’d ever received as a child came from Toys for Tots.
For another lifter, a woman from Martin’s training group, Squats for Tots will be her first powerlifting meet ever. She promised herself she would get into strength sports after beating cancer five years ago.
“It’s pretty cool having those kinds of stories,” Martin said.
A lifter dressed as Santa Claus executes a squat lift at last year’s Squat for Tots, a powerlifting competition benefiting the Toys for Tots Foundation at Black Bridge Crossfit in Brunswick.
Lifters and organizers of Squats for Tots pose for a group photo at last year’s event.