Alex Samples, 13, tries to tear a phone book in half as Jeff Neal, left, of Team Impact and classmate Camden Corron, 14, center, look on at McCord Junior High School in Sylvania. Mr. Neal went on to tear the book in half.
On Friday — pajama day, at the end of spirit week — at McCord Junior High in Sylvania, all students were in the gym for a 10:45 a.m. assembly. It would be hard to sleep through the show put on by Jeff Neal and Brian Vickers of Team Impact.
Sponsored by the Church on Strayer, Team Impact of Coppell, Texas, presented assemblies in about 30 northwest Ohio public schools Wednesday through Friday, demonstrating physical strength and delivering messages about making good decisions. Team Impact members encourage students to set high goals, dreams, and standards; to be good students; to be aware of peer influences and not to drink; and not to bully by strength or words.
Team Impact also gives presentations in churches. Today at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., some team members will give their Christian testimony while staging a larger strength show at the Church on Strayer, 3000 Strayer Rd., Maumee.
Mr. Neal, a former football player and the coauthor, with Shonn Keels, of Hold the Rope: Having a Heart for the Lost (Morgan James Publishing), said that Team Impact is very attentive to the secular/sacred divide between school and evangelical assemblies. In schools, he said, the attention is on encouragement and choices.
Bryan Vickers of Team Impact of Dallas lifts Laura Williams, 12, left, and classmate Alexa Troendle, 12, as they hold onto a steel rod at McCord Junior High School in Sylvania. Team Impact features strongmen who bend and break things while delivering a motivational and anti-bullying talk.
At McCord, after grabbing students’ attention by Mr. Neal blowing up a hot-water bottle like a balloon until it burst and then tearing a phone book in half; Mr. Vickers, who competes in strongman competitions and has a forthcoming A&E Network reality TV show, Texas Strongman, pressed a baseball bat over his leg until it broke.
Mr. Vickers then lifted a steel bar with a female student holding each end — and circling with them in the air— while Mr. Neal bent that straight bar into a double loop, and Mr. Vickers crushed an unopened can of soda with his bare hands. It was then that Mr. Neal got to his positive message for the assembly.
After telling stories about himself and others, including the tragedy of a drunk young man whose friends abandoned him, Mr. Neal said, “If no one’s ever told you, you’re no mistake. You’re no accident. You were created with a purpose. You were formed and made with a destiny. Please make choices that allow you to become the champion you were created to be.”
McCord doesn’t have many assemblies, principal Keith Limes said. The national Red Ribbon Week for drug use prevention sponsored by the National Family Partnership continues through Thursday, so Team Impact's theme fit.
“I just felt like we needed something positive, something fun,” he said, “and we're dealing with a lot of these issues: with making good decisions and leadership and bullying.”