WINTER GARDEN, FLA – Everything Lee Lovette does, he does with family in mind.
A former Key West S.W.A.T officer opened CrossFit Winter Garden alongside his wife, Alexis a few years back shortly after the birth of their son. A gym tucked into the corner of a shopping center is where his family grows.
“The alpha leads the pack,” Lovette said. “. The leader leads from the front and also leads from the back. We’re a family. That’s the big thing about the wolfpack is nobody gets left behind.”
Nicknamed the “Wolf Den”, the pack runs through a CrossFit workout nearly 24/7. For one hour on Thursday nights, the mood tend to get a little more powerful.
“They look forward to it from Thursday to Thursday,” Alexis said. “They are waiting for it. It’s probably the most special hour of our week.”
They would be Orange County’s first Special Olympics powerlifting team.
“When I was back home in Key West they had a great special Olympics program but one of the things they didn’t have was powerlifting. It sort of surprised me, we have everything here,” Lee said.
An innocent conversation with gym member Banks Adebanjo set everything in motion. Unbeknownst to Lee at the time, Adebanjo is the Central Florida director for Special Olympics.
“Are you messing with me,” Lee asked Banks? “He said no would you be interested in it. I said I’d be honored.”
From there Lee and Alexis opened their doors to willing special Olympians. A month into training, the five newest pack members competed in the area special Olympics championships. All five members swept gold medals.
“I still have goosebumps just talking about it,” Alexis said. “They all hit a PR and they all did it flawlessly. Lee and I were in awe the whole weekend.”
“It was amazing,” said athlete Michelle Stevenson. “I was really excited and it was such an amazing experience.”
The area games typically delivers a bid to the state championships at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Due to their new status, the Wolf Den didn’t receive an automatic bid for all five competitors.
“I fought,” Lee said. “I want all of my athletes to go. They’re like it’s not really something that’s normal. None of what I do is normal. Tell me what I can’t do and I’ll show you what I can do.”
The fight worked. All five members of the pack earned a bid to states. Lee and Alexis surprised them with custom ‘wolf den’ lifting shoes upon unveiling the news.
“They were screaming and jumping up and down,” Alexis said. “It was the highlight of our year.”
Alexis spoke too soon. At their first state championship meet, just three months after learning how to powerlift, Wolf Den howled their way to four gold medals and one silver.
“Pure luck, god’s blessing, whatever you call it,” Lee said. “For us to go to states and compete against all counties across the state and win five medals is insane.”
Since the shine of the state championships, more special olympians have joined the pack. The mentality hasn’t changed.
“It’s a big shocker but it’s giving me a challenge for now that I can get higher and higher with the weights,” said Jourdan McLaurin-Smith. “We are trying our very best and we’re getting to be the strongest, savage group of wolves.”
CrossFit Winter Garden continues to grow. That’s no surprise to Lee and Alexis.
“They’re apart of our family now so to see how far they’ve come and how much they love it is amazing,” Alexis said.
The strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack.
The gym is always welcoming to new members. For more information, visit crossfitwintergarden.com or their social media accounts. Twitter: @CrossfitWG Instagram: crossfitwg