builders for blaine
The 2019 National Fitness Hall of Fame celebration
And Veteran, Blaine Robinson
By Anibal Lopez
Former Pro- Mr. America
The National Fitness Hall of Fame celebration is always a wonderful, satisfying and joyful experience. The 2019 event proved to be worthy of such accolades, but this year, for me, it provided so much more.
I had an encounter that was not directly connected to the Hall of Fame celebration. It was an encounter that will resonate in my soul for the rest of my life. What I experienced was both touching and humbling. Until now, the only people that knew of this wonderful experience are my friend Lance Dreher, my Son Danny and his wife Carolina.
On Saturday, April 27, prior to joining the main area of the event, I was perusing the lobby area with my son and daughter-in-law. As I did so, I noticed a young man nearby in a wheelchair. My attention was not drawn to him because of the wheelchair, but rather because of how smart and obviously proud he was attired. This young man, under cover of his beret, was beautifully dressed in an army uniform. His mother, father, and sister were with him, with mom happily moving his chair along. I am a veteran, having also served proudly in the US Army. I am always eager to make the acquaintance of other veterans, but I am especially motivated to say hello when I see a fellow soldier that has been physically challenged during his, or her service. It becomes my imperative to simply say, thank you, so I made my way over to this young man.
As I began talking to him, it became apparent that, although he could see me, there was no response from him. At that point, his mother informed me that he could see me, and could hear what I was saying, but he was unable to speak. She encouraged me to continue talking to him.
I began to explain my time and experience in the Army. As I did so, he began to make a gesture in my direction with his arm. His arm was restricted in movement and was unable to fully extend. My mind raced to try to interpret what was happening at that moment. I did not understand what that meant. His mother looked at me, smiled, and simply said, “He wants you to hug him”. I did just that “in a New York second!”
I felt a very powerful connection to this 27-year-old young man. I felt a desire to know more about him, and to discover what occurred in his life that resulted in this challenge that he now deals with on a daily basis. I asked his parents for permission to learn what had happened to this young man named Blaine Robinson. I listened carefully, as his mom and dad began to give me a brief explanation of what had happened. While serving on active duty with an infantry division, Blain was involved in a head-on vehicle collision that resulted in complete physical paralysis. The only things unaffected are his sight and hearing. It is very difficult for me to explain how humbling the encounter with Blaine was, and how deeply it affected me. As I excused myself and walked away, I was unable to contain myself. My emotions were totally overwhelmed. I had to take this walk to compose myself. My mind was reeling.
As fate would have it, we met again the following day, Sunday, as I was having breakfast with Lance Dreher, former Mr. Universe. I saw the family and went to their table to say hello. I received a nice, warm reception and I felt very welcome in their presence. At this point, I shared with them why I was at the event. I shared with them a brief history of my experiences as a competitive bodybuilder, personal trainer and that I was previously inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. The family listened keenly to what I had to say. The enthusiasm that they were building was palpable. At that point, the family began to share with me some details of Blaine’s life prior to his enlistment in the Army. Amazingly, Blaine had been involved in his own aggressive physical training! I realized that I had to include Lance in this conversation. I motioned to him to join us. I had a deep awareness that God was certainly involved in this entire experience. I introduced Lance to the family and explained that this day was very special, as Lance was to be also inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. I shared a few photos of Lance and me posing and the family glowed with excitement. When Blaine saw the photos, his enjoyment was clear as he began to laugh and make gestures of excitement and signaling Lance to hug him. I am including with this content a variety of photos, some of which chronicles the time Lance and I were able to spend with this remarkable family and some that depict how athletic Blaine’s past had been and the bodybuilder’s physique that he enjoyed.
Blaine’s family is devoted to rehabilitating him to whatever extent that he is capable of achieving. They take him to a commercial facility that he absolutely loves going to, but is not near his home. In addition, this facility is not equipped with the specialized equipment that meets the needs of this courageous young man.
I know God has touched my heart to find a way to assist Blaine. Lance and I have agreed together to find a way to set up a gym in this family’s home with exercise equipment that best meets the requirements to properly assist this young man. Furthermore, having such equipment will dramatically aid this family. A family that is dedicating their lives to caring for their loving son. A son that once enjoyed a healthy, vibrant life.
In order for Lance and me to accomplish this objective, we need everyone’s help. The effort may need to include making adjustments in his home to accommodate the proper exercise equipment.
Lance and I are appealing to find a company, or anyone, that is willing to donate the proper exercise equipment that can help us make this dream come true for this veteran and hopefully help him once again enjoy life through better health.
The following is a copy of the letter sent to me by Cindy Robinson, Blaine’s mother.
A note from Blaine’s parents.
Mr. Lopez, I just want to say again that it was a great pleasure meeting both yourself and Mr. Dreher. Blaine is unable to speak, but I can tell you without a doubt that meeting you both meant the world to him and brought him much joy. Thank you for reaching out. I truly believe people are meant to cross paths for a reason and we are so glad our paths crossed with yours. Bill, Cindy, Blaine, and Amanda. We would love to keep in touch. Hope tonight goes well and please tell Mr. Dreher congratulations for us again. Take care, safe travels, and thanks again for making Blaine’s weekend... And ours.