With elbows firmly set, hands locked and thumbs showing, the contestants waited for two simple words to be uttered: Ready, go.

With the referee’s signal, two contestants began exerting every bit of strength they had while the crowd grew louder with excitement as Lexi Fry, of Albany, slowly pushed her opponent’s hand down.

Fry was joined by her father Bryan and brother, Cannon, for her first arm wrestling competition, where she took home first place for the 6-8-year-old age group.

Her win marked the beginning of the 11th annual Joe Woody Armwrestling Invitational: Pulling For Suicide Prevention event held at the Myrtle Creek Summer Festival.

After losing his father to suicide, John Woody, the event organizer, realized that his dad didn’t have a lot of access to information about suicide and prevention.

“I was trying to think, ‘What would my dad have watched or how would that information have reached him?’” Woody said.

This led to the idea of adding statistics about suicide and prevention in videos of arm wrestling — that typically gain many views — to help spread awareness.

A portion of proceeds from the event will go to Adapt’s suicide prevention programs.

Woody also enjoys how welcoming the sport is for people.

“Arm wrestling is an inclusive sport,” Woody said. “Kids, women, people with disabilities can join and there really isn’t an age barrier.”

And anyone, regardless of skill level or experience, was able to participate in the competition.

Alexander Shupe-Shellooe, of Winston, was out for his first official competition. He first got into the sport after watching a series of YouTube videos.

“I’m here to have fun and support a good cause,” he said.

Other events at the Myrtle Creek Summer Festival included vendors, food trucks and a series of competitive games such as volleyball.

The night concluded with a pyro-musical and fireworks show.

Anyone experiencing any thoughts of suicide should call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Madison Temmel is the Charles Snowden intern at The News-Review. She can be reached at mtemmel@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217.

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Madison Temmel is the education reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at mtemmel@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217.

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