BY BILL WOLCOTT
Niagara Gazette — A team of 11 corrections officers and deputies of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office will participate in the annual Red Brick Benchpress Championship to be held at the Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo on Feb. 16.
The Niagara County team honors Corrections Officer Andrew F. Hoelzl, 46, who died on in 2007, as a result of heart-related complications. Hoelzl was a member of the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), serving as a squad leader. He was also a member of the Honor Guard.
This year’s team has set a goal of raising $5,000 in Hoelzl's name to support local soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and their families.
"We are not power lifters," said Sgt. Chris Wilson, the captain of the team, who worked with Hoelzl on the Emergency Response Team. "These are regular guys who work out to keep in shape. They want to do something good for military families."
There are two women on the team, Erin Hotaling and Christie Callaghan.
This is the 10th consecutive year that the NCSO has entered a team in the Law Enforcement Division where they have been highly successful. The Niagara County team has placed first in four of the last five years and has been in the top three every year.
Last year the Niagara County team raised $2,600 in Hoelzl's name. Over five years, they have raised $14,000. This year’s team has set a goal of raising $5,000.
All of the money raised goes directly to Friends and Families of Western New York Military veterans, Wilson said. The Red Brick competition has honored Hoelzl by naming the first place trophy in the Law Enforcement Division after him. There is also an Open Division in the New York State Powerlifting event.
Hoelzl was a Master Sergeant in the Air Force and his 23 years of military service earned him numerous decorations and commendations.
Jason Springer began working with Hoelzl in 1997. "He wasone of the best tactical officers we had," Springer said. "He had an extensive military background and a lot of us younger guys looked up to him."
In 2007, former Sheriff Thomas Beilein said, Hoelzl brought this same sense of professionalism and achievement to the Sheriff's Office and excelled in discharging his responsibilities.
The bench press team, which started at the Red Brick School in Lewiston, trains at the jail field house before and after shifts. The New York State Power Lifting event moved to the armory three years ago and draws teams from Western New York and Pennsylvania.
Local businesses sponsor the team and some money is raised through the sale of T-shirts and hoodies.
Those who would like to support the cause they may contact Chris Wilson at (716) 807- 4659 or make donations payable to Friends and Families of WNY Military. Mail donations to the NCSO Bench Press Team, PO Box 496, Lockport, NY 14095.