USAPL Justin Maile Powerlifting Classic to act as fundraiser for ill student

If last year’s inaugural Justin Maile USA Powerlifting Classic cultivated any lasting results, it is the community help the second annual event will be bringing.

Saturday’s second annual Justin Maile Classic at Soldotna High School is expected to bring more of the same muscle power that last year’s event saw, but the proceeds are going to a worthy cause. The event will act as a fundraiser for Harley Johnson, a Soldotna football team ball boy who is currently battling lymphoma, a cancer that effects the body’s immune system, particularly white blood cells.

USA Powerlifting meet director Billie Denison, a powerlifter from Nikiski, said Saturday’s meet, which is open to the public on a $3 entrance fee, is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Justin Maile Field, weather permitting, and will double as an end cap for the SoHi football program summer training. The competition is open to all ages and competitors, and is expected to feature over 30 lifters, nearly half of which are current SoHi football players.

Denison said Johnson competed at last year’s event and set a slew of USAPL age group records.

“He got up there and (impressed) me as a super brave but humble kid,” Denison said. “It was strange, because we had people from Anchorage telling us that there was something about him that resonated with us.”

It was only after his athletic achievements that Johnson has been diagnosed with lymphoma, which has forced his family to make multiple trips to Anchorage for chemotherapy treatments.

Denison said after the meet, which she competed in herself, she was asked to direct the next meet.

After she was made aware of Johnson’s diagnosis earlier this year, Denison said the plan soon came together to host the second annual Justin Maile Classic with proceeds going to help the Johnson family. Denison said the family announced Harley’s diagnosis the day the meet was officially sanctioned.

“I knew right away we had to use this meet to help him,” she said. “It kind of fluttered about social media, people that had been down here last year, they met Harley one time and asked me if there’s a way we can coordinate this.”

Denison said the meet will feature a donation table for those wanting to give addition support for the family, which is dealing with travel expenses for treatment. With the support of the community behind them, Denison said everyone is a winner.

“It’s been awesome,” she said. “It’s a way for him to feel like he’s part of strength sports and part of the lifting community.”

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