An American Fitness Experience and a Story of Triumph
If you're looking for a health and fitness challenge offered a short distance from the Lowcountry, take a look at this month's NEVER QUIT Fitness Event in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Taking place the weekend of May 17 - 19, it offers something for everyone, including a 5K run, a Trident Challenge (running, swimming, and surfboard paddling), and even a one-mile run for kids. Health screenings, beach yoga, and appearances by Bethany Hamilton at screenings of the movie Soul Surfer are also included. "We've tagged it the American Fitness Experience," explains Erik Petroni, creator of NEVER QUIT and the event's organizer.
NEVER QUIT is more than just a fitness event, however. It is, in essence, the story of one family's triumph over tragedy. It began with Erik's father, Captain Gerard Petroni, who spent his life serving his country until 2006, when a brain hemorrhage and stroke left him hospitalized; his prognosis grim. After five months without the ability to communicate, his family encouraged him to write his thoughts and he scratched out the words, "Never quit." Eventually Gerard left the hospital and began the arduous task of recuperation, emboldened by his strong Christian faith and the caring support of his family. Erik recalls their tireless efforts to help his father learn to walk again and how at one point his father tearfully told him, "Erik, thank you for pushing me 1000%," promising he would never quit for Erik. Despite the odds, Gerard lived for three more years, long enough to take part in NEVER QUIT'S inception.
Clearly the message is spreading: NEVER QUIT has grown from five hundred participants in 2009 to nine thousand or more projected participants in 2013, with thousands more expected in attendance. Furthermore, a unique aspect of NEVER QUIT is its high percentage of participants who are first-time participants in this type of event. Therefore, it's a great way for newcomers to delve into the world of fitness events.
Countless details have been included to make this event what Erik describes as "the best of the best." For example, NEVER QUIT offers an exclusive necklace to all participants, an idea born out of Gerard's practice of offering a custom-made necklace to his wife each time he returned from an extended sea voyage. This year's necklace is a beautiful sterling silver dog tag inspired by Gerard's own Korean War dog tags. Additionally, two hundred photographers will be on hand to document the event and provide free pictures to participants. Participants will also receive shirts, decals, and customized keepsake bibs with the name of the person for whom they will never quit.
Especially inspiring this year will be guests with their own triumph-over-tragedy stories, including Bethany Hamilton, the woman of Soul Surfer fame who lost her arm during a shark attack, and Lt. Brad Snyder, a man blinded while fighting in Afghanistan, who went on to win a gold medal and set a world swimming record in the 2012 Paralympics. Both will be participating in the weekend through various events, but the highlight will be when Brad competes in the Trident with Bethany as his "eyes." They're a fitting pair to represent the NEVER QUIT attitude: both competitive athletes were training again within a month of their accidents. And while the Trident will be a new experience for both, Brad's confident he's "up for any challenge," and Bethany notes that, "I've never been a part of anything like this, so I'm really excited!" Karina Petroni, a top female surfer, model, and spokesperson, as well as Gerard Petroni's daughter, will also be working with Bethany and lending her support to NEVER QUIT.
NEVER QUIT'S message is an inspirational one, one echoed by its supporters. Brad explains that both his personal story and his involvement in NEVER QUIT are "not for gold medals or laurels, but to inspire people to break through personal barriers and to do something they didn't think they could." Karina offers participants this thought: "There is no need to be intimidated by anything that you have set your mind to. We are all winners and are all there being a part of this great event for someone that we are going to never quit for." Bethany attests that she's "a huge advocate for living a healthy, active lifestyle," and says she's "looking forward to being a small part of this big event and encouraging all the participants and their families to 'Never Quit'!"
For more information or to register for the Jacksonville NEVER QUIT Fitness Event, visit neverquitnever.com for details. With everything from U.S. Military Para-Commandos jumping to red carpets for participants to appearances by renowned athletes, it has all the makings of a first class event. As Erik puts it, "I don't think there's anything left out." Even better, it's a chance to start your own NEVER QUIT story, and it's a chance to triumph.
JOIN THE FUN
Who: Bethany Hamilton, Lt. Brad Snyder, Karina Petroni, over 9,000 participants and thousands more in attendance
What: A 5K run, a Trident Challenge, a Military Warrior Challenge, a Junior Warrior Challenge, a Battle for the Beach, a 1 Mile Fun Run, sunrise yoga, and surfing lessons
Where: Jacksonville Beach, FL
When: Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 19
Why: NEVER QUIT encourages health awareness, a healthy lifestyle, and a NEVER QUIT attitude.