By Cassidy Scherzer, Current Staff
There was a personal reason why Jackie Vazquez wanted to set a new world record in weightlifting.
When Vazquez, a trainer at The Gym on Main Street in West Bend, broke the Guinness World Record Jan. 22 for most weight lifted in an hour using an exercise called a Turkish Get Up, she did it to raise nearly $6,000 for the Youth Impact Club, a suicide-prevention group at the West Bend High Schools.
Vazquez lost her brother to suicide last June, which inspired her to create some kind of mental health awareness fundraiser and she heard about YIC through a member at the gym. Considering the goals of the YIC and her personal ties, the group was the perfect beneficiary for Vazquez’s fundraiser.
“I started asking around and somebody had mentioned The Youth Impact Club at the high school,” Vazquez said. “I just thought that was perfect because I have three boys and the oldest one is a freshman in high school. It just hit me a little closer having kids coming up to the high school age now, knowing that it’s an influential time and a good age to get that education about suicide.”
The record Vazquez broke involved a full body exercise called a Turkish Get Up. One must start on the ground and extend their arm into the air holding a weighted kettlebell. The exercise then involves getting up from the ground in a specific fashion and then going back down to starting position all while holding the weight extended.
“The Get Up is very symbolic of struggling with mental illness and having to try and keep getting up even when the weight of the world is heavy on you,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez’s actions were seen by many in the community, including Youth Impact Club members. East junior Norah Johnstone expressed her opinions on Vazquez’s accomplishments.
“We are so lucky to have Jackie in our community, and I can’t believe how much she did to help (Youth Impact Club) out,” Johnstone said.
The previous record was 3,008 kg (6631.5 lbs) lifted in one hour. Vazquez then broke this record by lifting 3,960 kg (8,730.3 lbs) in one hour.
In order to raise money for this fundraiser, Vazquez opened a GoFundMe to allow people to donate. With the help of gym and community members, and the StrongFirst community (a kettlebell organization that The Gym is certified under) nearly 100 donations were collected.
The WBHS Youth Impact Club is advised by West social studies teacher Jacqueline Schmoldt. After the loss of her son to suicide in 2019, Schmoldt worked with Life of Hope, a local suicide-prevention organization, to propose a plan for YIC to exist at the high school.
“I fought for it because I wanted to leave a legacy for my son and find something positive that came out of a very bad situation,” Schmoldt said.
The YIC has many possible uses for the money raised as a result of Vazquez’s fundraiser. Schmoldt discussed the idea of some of the money being contributed to a cause that wasn’t exclusively at the high school.
“In the back of my mind I’m thinking that we could target the group that Jackie’s brother represents,” Schmoldt said. “ We could take that money and try to do something as a club to represent teenagers caring about struggling community members. I think it would be important to find a way to make that connection.”
Schmoldt said the money may be combined with the club’s other funds to pursue bigger, more long-term goals, including paying for speakers, panel discussions and other educational things.
“We are also thinking of potentially buying books that are helpful for students,” Schmoldt said. “For example, (a motivational speaker) has written a book that I have read and a number of students have read that we found beneficial. So using some of our funds to create a library of books that promote mental wellness and sucide prevention.”
Combined, Vazquez’s efforts will work to spread suicide awareness and prevention, deeply benefit the Youth Impact Club and potentially influence those who are struggling.
“It’s so inspiring to see someone reach out like that, and to help draw attention to such a large issue,” Johnstone said.