HARRISBURG – Though Brad Vinyard lost his lower right leg in 2012, he became determined to grow stronger – spiritually and physically.
Vinyard, an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Harrisburg, said he began using weightlifting as a way to focus his energies after his leg was replaced with a titanium one.
Though he had been an athlete and had worked out for many years, he decided to start competing. In 2014, he competed in the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters and set a world record for his age group and weight class. WABDL is an association of lifters who compete in single-lift bench press and deadlift events, according to their Web site.
"I got interested in WABDL because they had a disability category," he said. "That way, I wouldn't be competing against able-bodied athletes."
That first year, he set a bench-press record of 336 in his age bracket and weight class.
This November, he competed in the group's 242-pound weight class and broke a few more records.
He pressed 402 pounds, breaking a record he set in last year's competition, and did a 325 deadlift. That set an Illinois state record. The combined score, called a push-pull, was 727 – the total weight of the two lifts – and netted Vinyard another new world record.
But just getting physically stronger is not the main point for Vinyard.
He enjoys taking his message of overcoming adversity to area groups, including school children.
"What I tell them is, just because something bad happens in your life, it doesn't have to keep you down," he said.
Often, Brad is accompanied by his younger brother Ben Vinyard, who is an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Harrisburg Middle School. Ben wrote a book inspired by Brad's life called "Superheroes are Everywhere," which also deals with overcoming obstacles.
The two brothers' messages are ones teachers want their students to hear says Jason Roper, special programs teacher at East Side Intermediate School.
"I think the fact that Brad and Ben are both from Harrisburg, continue to live here, and serve in the community as a youth pastor and a teacher is inspiring in itself," Roper said.
Recently, the Vinyard brothers spoke at East Side to help inspire students there, Roper said.
"I think our students were able to learn several things from listening to Brad and Ben. It was a story about the importance of loving your sibling, overcoming adversity in your life while using it to inspire others, not allowing your negative circumstances to determine who you are, and that every person has an ongoing story to write."