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Aurora -- A year ago, Aurora's Brian Lewis, a 21-year-old with high functioning Asperger's syndrome, never imagined he'd be taking part in the Ohio Special Olympics this year. But that was before he became interested in power lifting.
Lewis, whose job is to assemble items at Portage Industries in Ravenna, learned about the sport last September while at work.
"We told him, 'Give it a shot,'" said his foster mother, Kelly Glaze. "At first, we weren't sure how he'd do. But he excelled. He loves it so much. He never thought he'd be going to state competition the first year he's done it."
The Ohio Special Olympics are scheduled for June 27-29 at Ohio State University in Columbus. It is his first time taking part in the competition.
"We are so proud of Brian," said his foster father, Jeff Glaze. "What he's been able to accomplish is very impressive."
Lewis, who graduated from Kent Roosevelt High School, is part of a team of young people who work at Portage Industries that practices two days a week at Community & Family Services in Ravenna and practices a third day a week at Portage Industries.
Lewis qualified for the state event April 26 at the Bob Baker meet in Lisbon when he finished second in his category in both the dead lift and bench press.
On May 3 at the Area 10 Spring Special Olympic Games at Medina High School, which included athletes from Portage, Medina, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lucas, Stark and Wayne counties, he took first place in the dead lift in Division II with lifts of 160, 170 and 185 pounds, and third place in the bench press with 80- and 90-pound lifts.
KELLY SAID her foster son weighed 118 pounds when he began power-lifting, but is up to about 127 pounds "although he doesn't look it because he's tall and skinny."
Lewis' nickname, given to him by his power-lifting coach and teammates, is "Grasshopper."
"That's because he likes to wear his green Nike shoes to practice, and he has long legs," Jeff said.
He added the success in power-lifting helps his foster son with self discipline.
"Brian is becoming a lot more self reliant," he said. "His self image is soaring. It helps him work harder in everything. There is a mental and emotional aspect, too. He's happier with himself.
"It's a joy for us to see him enjoying himself. The best part of it for me is knowing he's proud of what he's able to do."
Kelly agreed, saying, "We are so proud of Brian. He definitely has more confidence in himself, and he's more social. It's really helped him being part of a team."
In his spare time, Lewis likes hanging out with his family and playing basketball with his brother, Donovan, 10, who is also a special needs youngster.
Lewis enjoys World War II and Civil War history, and visited a Civil War re-enactment last summer in Bath. A sports fan, he likes Lake Erie Monsters hockey and Cleveland Browns football, and attended the Browns-Baltimore Ravens game last season.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187
Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC