Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Pull Ups For Zoe started 3 years ago.  This is the exact chapter from my book, "Conversations With Gio, (on Amazon)" about how Zoe and I met, what she did that inspired me so much, and how the first-ever PFZ event unfolded.

Now we continue to grow and spread this wonderful DEDICATION across the nation.  Read the story. Find your inspiration. And get ready to join us this Saturday, April 18, 2015, for an incredible day of inspired action for something much greater than ourselves.  It's not about us, but it sure does start with us!


Fifty-two pills a day. Therapeutic vest treatments routinely. Nebulizer treatments regularly. Multiple hospital stays annually.

It’s not something anyone should have to endure, let alone a child.

Meet Zoe, sixteen years old. She Does. Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at only a few days old, she's lucky to be alive. At the time of her birth, only two states screened for cystic fibrosis at infancy. She happened to live in one of them.  The doctors were able to detect it. We’re thankful they did.

Cystic Fibrosis is a rare and chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children in the United States (CF Foundation).  The disease causes thick, sticky mucus to form in the lungs, digestive tract, and other areas of the body.  People with CF have to deal with life-threatening lung infections, pancreatic issues that affect the absorption of food, persistent coughing or wheezing or shortness of breath, and many other issues.  The CF Foundation reports that the median life expectancy for someone with CF is mid to late thirties. 
I can say this, CF may try to take years away from Zoe’s life, but she has way more life to her years than most people I know. She has a magical spirit to her. Within minutes of being in her presence you quickly sense something special.  Her attitude says everything.

She's a positive person.
She doesn't see herself as any less fortunate than anyone else. She doesn't want pity. She sees life as a beautiful opportunity that she plans to enjoy.

She's determined.
She's a competitive cheerleader, performing flips and twists and jumps and extreme balance holds. Her routines are demanding and after going max throttle for two minutes, she's literally pulled off stage to recoup for ten. With only 50% lung capacity she says this is good by the way, since she used to only have 38%), her oxygen is used up much more quickly than normal and takes much longer to replenish. Zoe knows the pain that follows her routines, but she goes hard anyway. She wants to give it her best effort no matter the consequences. 

She cares for others.
Two years ago she spent five months in the hospital. That's a long time to sit by yourself in your room because your body can't be exposed to germs from other patients. She looks around. The hospital floor she resides on (RBC 5) is not very comfortable or pleasant. She links the effects this has on one’s recovery. If the kids on her unit were in a colorful, up-to-date, cozy environment, they would be happier, healthier, and recover stronger.  She starts to dream big. She begins to ask questions. She takes action. Soon the “Make A Wish Foundation” walks through her doors. 

Sitting in front of them, Zoe could have asked for a trip to Disney World.  She could have requested tickets to the next rock concert.  She could have begged for the newest phone or computer.  But instead her wish was to renovate RBC 5, to make it a more pleasurable environment for all the children who regularly stay there.  Zoe put other people before herself.  She gets what this life is all about.

That’s when we stepped in.  After hearing her story, I was compelled to help. I had a vision of doing pull-ups for a fundraiser, and now here was my cause. It made perfect sense. So on Saturday, February 9, 2013, we held PULL-UPS FOR ZOE, a world record attempt for the most pull-ups in twenty-four hours to raise money and awareness for Zoe’s dream and for cystic fibrosis research.  It’s what we called an ActivPrayer. I gave myself, my thoughts, my energy, my prayers, all to Zoe while performing pull-ups all day.  We also held a team pull-up competition and a benefit party with food and raffles.  It was one of the most incredible nights we’ve ever experienced.

We raised $29,000 in just four weeks.  Even though I failed at my attempt and stopped at only 2,501 pull-ups—the record is 4,027—the day was a huge success.


Here’s a recap of that special day from an excerpt I wrote about my experience in the trenches:

Saturday was an incredible night, possibly THE most incredible one I've ever experienced.  Numerous people have told me that their lives were changed forever, and that they'll never forget it: that they wish others were in that gym with them.
I want to be completely honest. I woke up on Sunday feeling like a failure for missing my mark.  I tell you this not to earn pity but to be real.  This is what the mind will do when you put yourself out there. But then you shut it down by thinking of this fundamental message, LIFE IS NOT ABOUT YOU. 
And you think about all the things it is about . . .
15 ½ hours of game-changing moments in the pit.
2,501 Pull-ups.
$25,000 raised.
20+ sponsors.
50+ volunteers.
400+ donors.
Three months ago feeling Zoe's spirit through another person's words.
Nine words from CJ Tinline, "You should hear what this one girl wished for."  He said more, but no more were needed.  I knew this was the child we needed to do this for. 
One call came.
Four calls to her parents, 1 meeting.
Thirty-six days later and here we are.
6:45am I walk through those gym doors.
Zero expectations.  I walk calmly and peacefully in God's security, not mine.  I'm not sure how we got here or what's going to happen.  I just know I was called and I followed.  The rest is HIStory.
When called, FOLLOW. That's not easy to do. 
Six years ago I wouldn't have.  But today I lead with a different mindset: God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called. He doesn't choose the equipped, He equips the chosen. 
Seven hundred reps result in blisters.  We quickly figure out a solution. Lesson: God will guide you.
One thousand reps cruised through in 3 hours and 9 minutes.
Thirteen hundred reps put me in a vulnerable position. Somewhere along the way I neglected proper hydration and nutrition. My body wore down.  Severe tightness in my shoulders and arms, energy plummeted, and so did my mind.
It was time to FIGHT, and enjoy it.  
James 1:2-5 Says, "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."   This is a fierce battle, what could possibly be enjoyed?
Fourteen plus members from the Pit Crew.  The Pit Crew was my team of brothers and sisters who stayed by my side all day.  It was insanely humbling.  My big brother Ryan and David Jack didn't leave me for 15 ½ hours.  Neither did Dan Bednar, Tim Sweany, Chris Brown, Dave Anthony, Brian Reid, Brian Stout, and so many others. They called in Matt and Eric and Kathy to massage and tape up my back and arms.  When I needed prayers, they huddled around me.  Water and food, they fed me.  Motivation, they pulled up with me. 
Pit crews, everybody needs them.  I didn't think I did. But without them I would have crashed and burned completely.  They got me back on track so I didn't quit.
Not dead, can't quit.  Multiple times I wanted to.
Seventeen hundred reps and I knew the record wouldn't be broken. A call to an ambulance seemed comforting, but I rested on this, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).  Keep pulling up.
Six pm, barely two reps at a time. What's the point? I'm letting people down, what a chump.
2013 motto: LIFE IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Do you believe it, Theo?  There's a girl here who you're sacrificing your time for, you think you have it bad: You wake up and think about what you're going to eat for breakfast.  Zoe wakes up and puts on her vest for treatment.  You think about the workout you'll do at the gym later.  She wonders if she'll get an infection that will put her in the hospital again for the next 3 weeks.  You take your breathing for granted.  The phlegm in her respiratory system causes her to feel every breath.  Zoe faces challenges every day.  You're not doing anything compared to what she goes through. Get your butt back up and start pulling.
Twenty-three hundred reps I FIND THE WHY.  I preach WHY WE TRAIN: for a better reason, for something more than our own life, for a greater cause.  This was my ActivPrayer for Zoe.  I was here to serve and dedicate to her my time, prayers, and energy to the entire day, and even weeks leading up to it. She was on the forefront of my mind all day.
But another WHY was happening.  Here I am completely finished, literally on my hands and knees praying for guidance and clarity on what to do next.  A song came on. The verses on the wall appeared again.   
God wants me in this place. He doesn't want a record to be broken; he wants me to be broken.
With no energy, no reserves, no mobility, and no strength to pull anymore, I completely and utterly rely on Him.
The scene from Passion of Christ pops into my head when Jesus literally crawls to put himself on the cross.  After 6 hours of whippings, lashings, and torture, he hung for me.  He didn't have to, but he did.  The least I could do is follow his example and get back up to hang for Zoe.
Twenty-four hundred reps I face the crowd.
Six resurrection reps out of nowhere.
Two hours left of meaningful ActivPrayer.
One embracing hug from Zoe that will last forever.
Twenty of my kids surrounding the caution tape cheering.
Four final reps on the bar with Zoe. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Because He spread his love to us; we can spread ours to Zoe; and now she can continue spreading it to so many. That's what Pull Ups for Zoe was all about.
Countless lives were changed and will continue to be changed from this event.  For years to come children and families will feel something special on floor RBC 5 because of Zoe’s renovation. 
Life is not about you. You can use fitness to serve a greater cause with Intentionality, Meaning, and Purpose. Just wait for the call and follow.  It doesn’t matter how hard you get knocked down, what matters is how fast you keep pulling yourself back up, and everyone out there with you.

I love you, son. I believe in you.  Now get out there and pull up others today. It’s an absolute game-changer.

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