When I was a young boy, I had the opportunity to learn how to lift weights from a former Mr. California and Natural Mr. Universe. I grew up in a town of 5,000 people in North West Iowa. Not exactly the bodybuilding capitol of the world, to say the least. Some way, some how, this Mr. Universe ended up moving to my hometown around the same time that my family did. Ralph Kroger, the man in whom I have been speaking of, ended up opening a pretty good sized gym in our town. Being the only gym in town, and with Ralph’s training pedigree, Victory gym became the place to be for those interested in health and fitness. My parents were business owners not too far from where Victory gym was located, and with the summer months off from school, my Mom decided it would be a good idea for my brother and I to fight off our boredom by learning to lift weights. And this, this moment in my life altered my journey forever. In a short amount of time, I fell in love with weight training. My brother didn’t take to the training as I did, and stopped going to the gym with me at some point, but for me, I couldn’t get enough of the gym life. Over my younger years, I literally spent hundreds and hundreds of hours at Victory Gym. Ralph took a liking to me and really poured his time and knowledge into me. Victory Gym and weight training literally became my life. When I wasn’t at school, I was at Victory Gym. After school, I would go straight to the gym and spend anywhere from 2.5-3 hours lifting. When I got older and had sports practices, I would go to the gym after the practices. At one point, when I was older, I would train two times a day during my summer off from school. I loved lifting weights. I loved being the “young kid” at the gym out working all of the adults. And I really loved and appreciated the time and attention Ralph gave me. Ralph gave me a gift. The gift of weight training. The gift of bodybuilding. The gift of the knowledge that hard work, always pays off. As I have grown older, I have gained a greater understanding, a greater appreciation for the gifts Ralph gave me. Ralph, for all he knew, was simply living his life at Victory Gym, doing what he loved, sharing his experience and knowledge of weight training, trying to encourage people, and of course, make a living. But for me, Ralph was a mentor. Ralph was a coach. Ralph was a friend. Ralph was a man I admired, and looked up to. Ralph passed his love of iron on to me. Recently, as I have gone through different fitness phases in my life, I have come to the realization and conclusion that Ralph Kroger did indeed give me a gift. This gift, needs to be passed on. The iron gift that he passed on to me, that altered my life journey, needs to be passed on to the next generation of young people. I need to take the gift given to me and use it. I need to embrace the bodybuilding training, I need to be an example through this training as Ralph was to me and for me. I need to share the iron gift with others. I have been given a gift to be given, that others might be impacted as I was. I am forever in debt to Ralph Kroger. I will forever be grateful and thankful for Ralph’s time and attention toward me. I will do my best to pass on the gift Ralph gave me for the rest of my years. Thank you Ralph.