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Mentor teaches strength, character through fitness – WEAR

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by Sue Straughn
Ira Wenze spent a good deal of his military career helping to shape the lives of young men and women. That was not part of his plan in retirement. But, one day he got a call and simply did what Angels do.
"Served 23 years in our country, U S Navy; retired in 2009 as Master Chief Petty Officer and started Unlimited Fitness Results."
Ira Wenze's fitness business was designed for adults until a woman called and pleaded with him to help her teenage brother who was into sports. The rest, Ira said, is history.
"As I started meeting more and more, because he brought more and more young men to me, a lot of them were from single-parent homes and they had no male role models in their lives. They started calling and asking me questions, personal questions. The more I helped, the more came."
Whether they're into baseball, basketball, football, track. Ira helps them build their bodies for the challenge and their minds and souls for so much more.
Frank Herbert is on his way to Harding University to play football, "Mr. Ira, he's just a great man. He's taken all of us in. He treats all of us like his own kids. He just, he's really a good inspiration, the most inspirational person I know here."
The Clark brothers are into baseball and their dad wanted them to get strength training from Ira. Anthony said, "He's been helping us, you know, teaching us to be better people, more determined, stronger, physically and mentally. He's just a mentor to everyone here."
From a group he never planned to work with, Ira is now training and mentoring more than 100 young men a week. He said every one of them has a story that drives him to want to make an impact in their lives.
Nathan Clark is a 7th grader who's impressed that this man takes a personal interest in them individually. "His goal is to try to remember at least one thing about each person he meets and he always does, for somehow, he always does."
Nancy Clark is their grandmother. She has seen the difference Ira makes. One day she brought her 10 and 12-year-old granddaughters with her to pick up her grandsons. She was impressed by him, too.
"And he had the young men who were sitting in the lobby, he said, 'Stand up, gentlemen. Two young ladies have arrived.' And they gave their seats to my two little granddaughters. He teaches these kids all the qualities that are necessary to be successful in life."
Ira is trusting the the character messages are getting through. "These young men are gonna think twice. They're going to think before they make decisions that are negative. They're going to think before they do things that are going to impact them and things that are going to impact their schools. And I feel in our hearts that we have just made a huge difference when it comes to those type things."
He's not concerned that they make it to a college sports team or to the pros. That would be a bonus. What he does care about is that they get an education and, above all, that they're good people who help somebody else.
"For them to come back in return, when I'm older and I'm no longer doing. When I can't do it, for them to do it, to be me."
Angels In Our Midst is brought to you by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.

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