Organizers of the National LawFit Challenge underway in Olive Branch this weekend say they don't plan to move the event from DeSoto County any time soon.
Watching the bench press competition Thursday afternoon at the high school gymnasium, LawFit founder Dr. David Bever expressed gratitude, to the state and Olive Branch in particular, to have embraced the fitness event for police officers, state troopers and wildlife law enforcement officers.
"We had our competition up in the Washington, D.C. area for ten years and we just did not have the amount of success we have had down here," Bever said. "It was very disheartening in Washington after ten years. In the years that we've been coming to Mississippi, we've been totally convinced that this is always where we are going to have the national competition, in the state of Mississippi."
The National LawFit Challenge tests the fitness, strength and endurance of those officers.
"The competition highlights how hard these men and women have to work to do what their job is," Bever said. "This is our way of giving back to law enforcement that gives so much to the community."
LawFit is in its 14th year after Bever's program of fitness for firefighters transitioned into a similar program for law officers. The national event's arrival in the Magnolia State is due to the insistence of Mississippi Highway Patrol Major Thomas Tuggle to Bever that the state should host a competition.
Tuggle serves as the National LawFit Coordinator.
"He (Bever) gave us an opportunity to put on a regional and he was so impressed with the hospitality and the support from the community that he said, 'I don't get this kind of support in Virginia, that's it, I'm done," Tuggle said. "We've been in Mississippi since 2012 and I don't think it's leaving any time soon."
It didn't hurt that Tuggle's team from the Mississippi Highway Patrol had set a precedent of dominating success in the event.
"We want to show the country that we are the most fit state in the Union and all the bad perception that other states have given Mississippi about being the most obese and unhealthy," Tuggle said. "This is sending a message that they've got that wrong."
Beyond the health and fitness benefits, programs like LawFit have helped reduce insurance rates for communities due to lower medical claims from illness and injury.
Both Bever and Tuggle stress Olive Branch support from the city through the police department and down to the city itself has very quite gratifying.
"I take my hat off to Mayor (Scott) Phillips, Chief (Don) Gammage and the Sheriff (Bill Rasco) the same way," Bever said. "With the support of the city and the county, we're very happy here and this is where we plan to be."
Tuggle added he was impressed the city was able to get the support for the event that it has, all within the city.
"There are other resources they could have reached out in other parts of the county, but they just tapped their own market to put thing on," Tuggle said. "To have this kind of turnout and the kind of support, I don't think you can get this anywhere else in the country."
The National LawFit Challenge continues today at the high school gymnasium and Pool Field.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.