Little did Jon Marshall know, but when he agreed to take on an intern from the Chapel Haven West program he was going to get a lot more. Marshall not only got a hard worker, but he got someone to mentor.
Marshall is a 24-time national champion power lifter who runs a Snap Fitness Club on the Northwest side. Always looking to help a good cause, Marshall allowed Brandon Kane to intern at the gym. Kane has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. He was part of the program at Chapel Haven West, a residential transition program that teaches life skills and helps support adults with mild developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum learn the skills to live on their own.
Part of the program requires an internship and when Kane expressed an interest in fitness they approached Marshall.
Marshall calls Kane one of the hardest workers he has ever had. The work ethic also found its way into his workouts. After completing a hard day of work around the club, Kane was given the opportunity to work out and he always took it. Marshall noticed how strong Kane was and asked him if he might be interested in competing in a power lifting competition. Kane jumped at the chance.
“He has a lot of potential,” Marshall said. “I’d watch him and he had natural strength.”
Kane had been a devotee of working out since he was 13, but had never had a routine.
“He just lifted heavy weights,” said Kane’s father Kevin. “He never learned a routine, he just lifted the heaviest weights he could and that was it. Jon taught him how to do a routine.”
Marshall is part of Team Unbreakable, a power lifting team sponsored by Marshall’s Unbreakable Gear clothing line and Kane became part of the team and has competed in two events so far this year. Although he had potential, no one could have predicted how well Kane would do. He set Arizona state record for his age and weight groups at each meet.
“I actually expected myself to do good,” Kane said, giving credit to Marshall’s guidance and a positive mindset. “The mindset is the most important thing. You just have to stay positive. That helps a lot.”
The experiences competing have really helped Kane. He was very closed off in social settings, something quite common in those with Asperger’s, but that is changing.
“He was very hesitant to talk to people when he first started working here,” Marshall explained. “So we got him to open up.”
“Brandon has gotten a lot more confident,” Kevin added. “Working at Snap also got him to socialize more. He has learned to get along with people better.”
Marshall has been power lifting since high school and loves to introduce people to the sport. Kane is not the first newcomer Marshall has gotten hooked. Marshall trains a wide variety of clients, from college bound athletes, to older people who have never worked out, to people just looking to lose weight and look better. In all cases power lifting exercises are part of the routine.
“It is kind of funny because I make them do the same kind of workout, I just adjust it,” Marshall said. “I make them do some real athletic training.”
It’s been a crazy couple of years for Marshall. He has made a comeback after suffering a serious injury, helped move the club to a new location and started a new business. His average day starts first thing in the morning and ends with his own training session well after 10 p.m. He even acted as an extra in an independent horror film his girlfriend was making. Despite all these commitments Marshall found time to mentor Kane. For those who know him it is not a surprise.
“He can press iron with the best of them and yet make the new, inexperienced and out of shape lifter feel like an emerging fitness star,” explained Marshall’s girlfriend, power lifting teammate and business partner Tamara Mack. “Jon is also that guy who will be the first one to reach into his pocket and use his last bills to buy a hungry man on the street a meal.”
Kane was also positive about his relationship with Marshall, as well as the internship as a whole.
“I would say it has been a great experience,” Kane said. “I get to train a lot with him. After working I got to work out. Jon has been a great mentor and leader to me.”
Kane’s internship is over, but he is still working out and getting ready for another competition. His two years in the Chapel Haven West program are almost over. He has spent the past two years living in a dormitory, but soon he and a roommate will move into an apartment and further transition out on their own.
“I’ve loved the experience,” Kane said of Chapel Haven West. “The program was good and I have learned a lot from it. It helped me learn independent life skills that I needed. Basically it helped me a huge amount. I’ve grown a lot in independence. My life, it feels like it has turned out for the better these past two years.”
In the short time Brandon Kane has been powerlifting, he has already won a state title for his age and weight group.