Val Huerta started powerlifting around 14 years ago.

Not until three years ago did the Woodbury firefighter/paramedic started dabbling in the competitive scene.

Huerta’s first meet was Relentless — a powerlifting event that doubles as a fundraiser for HopeKids. He’s been back every year and will be there again Friday and Saturday when powerlifters from around the country — some even from outside the United States — will converge on the Twin Cities for the event. The event is at Valley Christian Church in Rosemount. For more information, see

The sport includes squats, bench presses and dead lifts. For Huerta, the chance to help the charity has kept him coming back. For the second consecutive year, Huerta is sponsoring Carter Haas, a 6-year-old with a rare genetic disorder.

“He doesn’t really know what’s going on, but for us as his parents and for his brother and sister, it’s just cool to see these guys come together and raise the money for these children and give these kids hope,” said Amanda Haas, Carter’s mother.

This year Relentless creator Mike Hamilton said he hopes to raise $265,000, which would bring the amount raised for HopeKids from the event over the years to $1 million.

The charitable aspect makes the meet different, which is one of the reasons the event attracts so many competitors.

Relentless also varies from a typical powerlifting meet in that it’s less individual-oriented.

“It’s normally how much can I squat, how much can I bench, how much can I dead lift?” Hamilton said.

As a firefighter, Huerta needs to maintain a certain degree of physical fitness. Powerlifting helps him attain that.

“It keeps me healthy and keeps me strong. And I think it keeps you young,” Huerta said.

The process is goal-driven, with lift amounts increasing by small increments.

“What appeals to me is just the confidence that it gives you in every day life, the personal goals that you set,” he said. “Every time you compete or even if you don’t compete, you set goals for yourself.”

Though powerlifting is an individual sport, Huerta said there’s also a team aspect.

“There’s people there lifting 1,000 pounds, but if you lift just 100 pounds, the kids don’t know the difference,” Huerta said. “They just think you’re their superhero.”

betsy helfand