ALS donations roll in for Evanston trainer’s burpee feat

You won’t find many frills at the Evanston Ultimate Fitness club where TVs aren’t part of the setup so as not to disturb from members’ focus.

Yet, even the hardiest workout warriors had to be in awe of the challenge that Mario Gonzales, one of the trainers at the club, took on meeting the ALS ice bucket challenge on Aug. 20.

Gonzales, 29, an Evanston native, had joined some other fellow members in taking the ice bucket challenge, agreeing to have a bucket of ice dumped over his head to raise awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But Gonzales said the ice bucket challenge had become something almost unto itself, where “people would do it and that would be the whole point of it.”

Gonzales, a tattoo artist and graphic designer, took to his Facebook page on Tuesday, put his own mark on the challenge, declaring he wanted to take it a step farther.

“I’m a starving artist in every sense of the word,” he wrote in a post. “I don’t have much money, but would like to donate to this ALS awareness cause. Over the next 20 hours I will be selling BURPEES! $1 per burpee!! 100 percent raised will go to the ALS Association.”

Burpees, named after an American physiologist, Royal H. Burpee, were initially devised as a way to assess fitness. They are a full body exercise which starts in a standing position. The person then drops into a squat position with hands on the floor, kicks his feet back into a plank position, and then immediately returns to a standing position.

Gonzales’s burpees were picture perfect, even in the later stages.

“It takes a lot of mental toughness,” marveled Garnica, who served as the official counter.

Gonzales set his fundraising goal at $500. He brought a donation jar with him to the club, which members, friends of members and others stuffed with dollars.

By Wednesday afternoon, the donations reached $500.

At $1 per burpee that translated into 500 burpees that Gonzales would have to do to live up to his pledge.

He also faced a time limit, aiming to finish within 24-hours of his initial declaration, giving him all but an hour to finish the 500 burpees.

About 250 picture-perfect burpees into the effort, “I was thinking, what had I gotten myself into?” he said.

Garnica summoned members from other parts of the club to rally behind Gonzales as he entered his final 50 burpees.

Dawn Okamoto, who runs a business in Evanston, was one of the observers of the amazing fitness feat.

One of her customers, hearing what Gonzales planned to do, had sent along a donation, she said.

“He did a great job,’’ said Okamoto.

Gonzales said 100 percent of the funds would be donated to the ALS Association of Greater Chicago (webchicago.alsa.org)

On Thursday, the popular trainer admitted, “I feel like I was hit by a truck.”

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