Times article about June 13th

Times article about June 13th

Pawtucket Times article about June 13, 1998

This article appeared in thePawtucket Times (June 13, 1998)

Pro wrestlers stage benefit for young boy


Most people thing pro wrestling is about a bunch of steroid-pumped he-men with fancy nicknames breaking chairs over each other’s heads.

But an event being held tonight in Manville will reveal another side of the sport- one of compassion, volunteerism and sacrifice.

At 7 p.m. at the Saint James Parish Center on Division Street, Power League Wrestling will be hold a fund-raising wrestling exhibition. Such gargantuan grapplers as “Defenseman” Derek Molhan, Universal Soldier and Maniacal Mark will do battle, all in the name of charity.

The cause? To raise money for Zachary Smith, an 8-year-old Attleboro boy with epilepsy. All proceeds raised at the event will go towards purchasing medical equipment for Zachary.

All of the wrestlers competing in tonight’s exhitibition will be doing so on their own time. Nobody is getting paid to be there.

“I`m just so grateful to Power League Wrestling and everybody who is volunteering their time,” Leanne Brigido-Smith, Zachary`s mother, said on a recent afternoon.

Brigido-Smith, a former Lincoln resident who graduated from Lincoln High in 1977, has never asked for anything when it comes to Zachary. Not that she doesn’t need help. Balancing a part-time job with raising Zachary, who needs constant care, along with two other children (4-year-old Connor and 1+4-year-old Devon), isn`t easy.

So when local wrestler Carlos Arenas read about Zachary in a story about a fundraiser for the Epilepsy Foundation a few months ago, he knew he had to do something.

“I`m always on the lookout for fundraisers,” said Arenas, a former Central Falls resident who goes by the name of “The American Eagle” Shane Simons while in the ring. “I called (Brigido-Smith) and asked if she`d be interested in us wrestling to raise money for her son.”

“He’s the first person that’s ever wanted to do something like that,“ Brigido-Smith said. “I hadn’t ever really thought about it before. But Jen (her sister-in-law who often cares for Zachary) said, `You’re going to need things.’ I’m just not used to thinking that way.”

With Zachary getting older and a bit heavier, it’s becoming more of a chore to lift him in and out of the bathtub. So the money raised at tonight’s event will go towards a new handicapped-accessible shower stall at the Smith’s home.

Tickets are $5, $3 for children under 12. Brigido-Smith figures the event could raise anywhere between $500-$1,000.

“That’s a start,” she said gratefully.

Charity is nothing new for Power League Wrestling. The non-profit organization holds fundraisers at least once a month for YMCAs, community centers, boys and girls clubs and other local groups.

“We’re always looking to help kids,” said Arenas.

Wrestlers come from as far away as New York, New Jersey, even Onatario, Canada to perform in the events. Along with donating their time to a good cause, the wrestlers get some valuable “ring time,” and a chance to get their characters in gear.

“The kids love it,” said Arenas. “They go crazy. They cheer the good guys, boo the bad guys. We sign autographs. It’s a really good time.”

And it’s certainly for a good cause. Zachary Smith started having seizures when he was 5+4 weeks old, and was soon diagnosed with epilepsy. While about 80 percent of people with epilepsy are able to combat their seizures with medication and lead normal lives, Zachary’s seizures have never been totally under control.

His parents have taken him to Los Angeles, New York, even Montreal, looking for ways to control the type of seizure disorder that he has. He’s had many side effects to various medications, but he’s currenty on medication that reduces his seizures to about once every couple of weeks, and his physical and mental capabilities have increased.

Still, according to his mother, Zachary has the cognitive abilities of a 1-year-old. He needs a wheelchair to get around and requires total care- to be fed, bathed, clothed. Zachary has difficulty communicating, although his family knows when he’s happy or upset or hungry. And because the condition struck him at such a young age, he will probably always need similar care.

“He’ll always be with me,” said Brigido-Smith. “I’m hoping he’ll be able to walk some day.”

She added that Zachary has never been to a wrestling match before, but he will definitely be at tonight’s event.

“He loves people,” his mother said. “He loves to be around people. He’s quite a cuddler.”

You can bet that wrestling will gain at least two new fans tonight, and perhaps change a few people’s minds about the image of the sport.

(c) 1998, The Pawtucket Times

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.