Geoff Cowles/News Ian Lashley, left, of the Lashley Training Center looks on as Blake Berger deadlifts last week to prepare for the Special Olympics.

Geoff Cowles/News

Ian Lashley, left, of the Lashley Training Center looks on as Blake Berger deadlifts last week to prepare for the Special Olympics.

MOUNT VERNON — There is nothing that a person, with the right amount of determination and a strong work ethic, cannot achieve. It also helps to be surrounded with the right people that believe as much as you do.

Local personal trainer Ian Lashley proves it everyday with his students at the Lashley Training Center in Mount Vernon. Lashley, however, wanted to give back to the community in a different way. It was a dream that waited for an opportunity. That day finally came, when he met a young area resident, named Blake Berger, who also had a dream. Berger, a powerlifter, wanted help to train for the Special Olympics.

“I’ve been working with kids and athletes personal training,” Lashley said. “Blake was the first (Special Olympics athlete) I’ve worked with and why I got the program started. His mom came into the gym one day and told me that he was training for the Special Olympics and the only place they knew of to train, was in Delaware.”

Immediately, the light went off for Lashley, who started doing more research into Special Olympics.

“Then, I actually reached out to the Special Olympics in Knox County,” Lashley said. “I just wanted to offer something completely different that wasn’t originally offered around here.”

It turned out to be one of the best ideas he ever had.

“I started working with Blake and I really enjoy it,” Lashley said. “He has one of the best personalities that I’ve worked with and we’re friends now. Since then, we have had two or three others that are working toward the Special Olympics, as well. Now, we’re trying to help them to see results, meet their goals and go compete, doing something that has never been offered before in Knox County. I just hope that this influences other people in the community to reach out and help people in other sports.”

The training has given Berger more than just the physical benefits of weightlifting.

“I can tell, just watching Blake over in the gym, if he’s having a bad day or whatever,” Lashley said. “Working out and lifting weights can help you deal with things that happen in everyday life. It’s really cool to see how he benefits.”

It’s easy to see Berger’s confidence as he works out.

“I like it a lot,” Berger said. “I work hard every day. I lift over 300 pounds. It takes a while to do that and a lot of practice. It really keeps me in shape.”

Now, Lashley’s idea has started to grow.

“We’ve got four guys training for Special Olympics, now,” Lashley said. “They have all beaten their PRs by 50 or 60 pounds, from when they first started, until now. Blake is a good example, He started off deadlifting about 250 pounds. Now he tops over 300, I think it was 350, the other day. I’m really excited to see that. That’s a lot of weight. Most people can’t lift that. He’s a part of our 300-pound club.”

Now, Lashley is starting to attract other believers. Recently, area lasik and cataracts surgery specialists, ReVision, donated $300 for protective goggles for Lashley’s athletes.

“We are always looking for opportunities to give back to the communities where our patients are from,” said Paige York, Director of Business Development at ReVision. “That way, we can serve them, not just getting vision, but we can help them access other resources that are available in their area. We try to give back what we can to the community.”

Berger has been to the Special Olympics in Columbus before as a track athlete. He is used to the big crowd and he can’t wait to get back.
“I love the Special Olympics a lot,” Berger said. “There’s a lot of people there.”

Lashley has a GoFundMe on his Facebook page to help cover the expenses to equip, transport and register his special needs athletes. He personally donates his time as a trainer for his students, who are training for the Special Olympics. He also donates the use of the gym and equipment.

“Hopefully in the future we can work with other individuals who are in a sport where fitness training might be able to help them,” Lashley said.

For more information about the program, please call Ian Lashley at (740) 398-7410.

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Geoff Cowles: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @



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