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10 Highlights from my Trip “HOME”

For the first 18 years of my life, Brick NJ was “home.” It is where I grew up. It is my “Roots.”

I have fond memories from my childhood growing up in this blue-collar, predominately middle-class community. Between school, sports, and tons of great people, it truly is one of the more unique and special places to grow up in America. Well, at least that’s my opinion.

This past weekend, I went back to my “hometown” for many reasons. One reason was the STRONG Pop-up event we had in conjunction with the Relay for Life/American Cancer Society. 16 of the 20 trainers & trainees from NBC STRONG were present for the event at Keller Memorial Field at the Warren H. Wolf Complex. It was a great event.

That event was just part of what made this weekend special. It’s really what happened throughout the whole trip that made it magical. Let me share my highlights now (in no particular order):

10 Highlights of my Brick, NJ Trip:

1. Opening Address at the Relay for Life

It was an honor to even be asked to do this. My niece, Brooke Scheller, sang the national anthem and did an amazing job. I then spoke about the “4 Ways to Stay STRONG in the fight.

1. Live a Life Worth Telling a Story About.
2. Get Your Mind Right.
3. You are WAY Stronger Than You Think
4. “Four!!!”

This is the mindset when you see an athlete hold up 4 fingers in the air at the beginning of the 4th quarter to signify that he/she will dominate and win the LAST quarter. I learned the “4” concept at Brick and spoke of the tenacity and ferocity it takes to battle in life. Whether it be cancer, mental disease, major injury or setback, or any other hurdle in life. It takes an attitude of fight and perseverance to win in life.

You can see my entire “Opening Address” talk below if you would like.


2. Mayor Ducey of Brick naming May 21, 2016 “Todd Durkin Day” in Brick and handing me a “Key to the City.” Wow. I never dreamed that would happen. It felt so special to be recognized by the mayor and his council and I am truly grateful for this honor and recognition. I will never forget this day!

Key to NJ


3. The STRONG event itself

We had 16 of the 20 trainers and trainees from NBC STRONG to my hometown. And it was great to have them all there. It was even more special to look out from stage and see so many people of all ages laughing, smiling, clapping, “hee-hawing” (inside joke), high-fiving, chanting, sweating, and celebrating LIFE.

To do this all on the same football field where I spent many a days playing Pop Warner & high school football, it truly made for an epic evening.

And the final “huddle” where I got all the participants into one big huddle and had a massive breakdown, that just was just icing on the crumb cake.


4. The food

Speaking of icing on the crumb cake, I completely indulged in food that I have not had in a long time. Pizza. Subs. Crumb cake (frosted and powdered ☺). Heck, I even had a “Taylor Ham & Egg Sandwich at the Rainbow Diner in Brick. Let’s just say I need a GREAT week of working out this week to get back on track. But man, that sure was fun!!!

IMG_4701 IMG_4702









5. The “MEET & GREET” after the STRONG workout
As much as I loved the “work-out” portion of the STRONG event, the “Meet & Greet” was even better. I loved seeing so many happy faces. Kids. Parents. Old People. Young people. Former Classmates. Old friends. Personal Trainer & fitness professional colleagues and friends. Pictures. Autographs. Hugs. Laughing. Even some crying.

It went on for over an hour. #Special


6. Meeting Matthew Dougard

The picture below says it all as time stood still for the 5-minutes I spent talking with Matthew. It made my ENTIRE trip worthwhile. I am now on “TEAM MATTHEW” and will be praying for this young boy to keep fighting and win this battle. Please join me in praying for Matthew’s health & recovery, along with all the other brave souls who are fighting cancer today.

IMG_4704 teamMatthew











7. Coach Wolf
85 years old. A legend. My high school football coach. He is one of my main mentors in life and helped form the man I am today. We are kindred spirits and he always exemplified how to be a great man… a family man. A man of faith. And a man of community. And yes, even a man of football.
Coach was going to be a “game-time” decision whether he could even make the event or not because of his health.

But not only did Coach Wolf make it, he sat next to that stage the entire night listening and smiling to the STRONG workout. And his head was just nodding like a proud father. You could just see how happy he was. He had a Brick Varsity Letterman’s jacket on with his vintage white hair and his energy was just great. When I brought up Coach Wolf on stage and put on the Dragon football helmet one more time, I thought the place was going to come down. It truly was a memory I will NEVER forget. And seeing coach and hugging him again was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my trip.









8. The Luminaria Ceremony

This was one of my favorite parts of the entire weekend. It IS the reason we were back there!

After our STRONG event was over, the 500+ people present for the Relay for Life, participate in the luminaria ceremony. This is where they have candles lining the entire track, they turn off all the lights in the stadium, and everyone slowly walks the track holding a candle in honor of someone who has passed of cancer.

As I was in procession, I could hear young kids crying who had just lost their Mom’s or Dad’s to cancer this year.

I could hear people sobbing because of the pain that cancer has caused them.

And I just got so emotional. And felt such sorrow for those in pain.

As I walked around that track with my STRONG partners Brittany (who recently lost her granddad to cancer) and Devon (whose Aunt is currently battling Stage-IV breast cancer), I couldn’t help but think of my family in San Diego and realize how blessed and fortunate we are to have our health.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium during this ceremony and it was by far the most powerful event of the weekend for me.

relay for life


9. Speaking at Brick HS to 1,500 students

I did 2 assemblies on Monday morning to the entire school of about 1,500 kids. I wanted to light a fire under these kids’ butts. I wanted to remind them that if I could sit in those same seats 30 years ago and do it, they could also.

They didn’t know I grew up with divorced parents. Or had lunch tickets. Or that I lost my father when I was just 20 years old. Or that I had a devastating back injury that derailed my dreams. Or that have had multiple other setbacks I had to overcome.They just “knew” the guy they see on social media. Or watch on STRONG. And there is always a “story” behind everyone.

It was so GREAT to speak to these kids from the heart and tell them what it takes to WIN IN LIFE and how to create a life worth telling a story about.

What made it all worthwhile was the countless kids (yes, high school kids!) that came up to me afterwards and thanked me and said they NEEDED that talk. That they’ve been struggling. That they’ve been down in the dumps. That their mind is NOT right.

Let me tell you, Brick Township, NJ, has some new young men and women walking around after they got introduced to a little “IMPACT” on Monday.


10. The PEOPLE

You may ask why Brick, NJ is such a special place. And without hesitation, it’s all about the people.

Just 3 weeks ago, this EVENT and weekend was a vision. Yes, 3 weeks ago. And it took A LOT of help from a lot of people to make this event happen. And I know I can’t name all the people who helped and volunteered. But I’m going to name a few. After all, it’s because of all these people working together, we were able to pull this off and create a great experience and event. And create much IMPACT.

Special thanks go to:
Bill Kleissler. Dennis Filippone. Tom Gilanella. Leon Mowadia Jr. Leon Mowadia Sr. Roger Faulkenbury. Mary Beth Durkin. Shawn Scott.

They just made all the logistics happen!!!

Our sponsors:

Coach Warren Wolf

Journey Fitness (Elmira, NY) –

Perform Better –

Lavallette Personal Training & Fitness –

Outfit NJ LLC –

Clean Cut Fitness & Nutrition –

Kevin Zolkiewicz

Colonial Ranch –

Standing Ovation School of Dance &It’s Families –

Ahern Blue –

J’s Garden Spot –

Extreme Marine Construction –

Pier 281 Marina –

Facility Solutions Group (FSG) –

Mark Hibbard | NEXT Level Fit & Young Athletic Development

Antonia Baxter, Brick, NJ

Elizabeth and Marilyn Fontinelli, Bay Head, NJ


Event Donors:

Bubba Koos Burritos –

Shoretees Brick NJ –

Windswept Hotel, Pt Pleasant –


All of those who donated incredible prizes for raffles:
Under Armour –


Pure Inventions –

Frankie Edgar –

Gold Tinker Jewelry –

Therapeutic Touch –

Fitness Quest 10 –

And a special thanks to all those who volunteered their time to help at the event, help with transportation of trainers/trainees to/from airport, etc:

Laura Messemer
Warren Wolf Jr.
Sara Scheller
Deena Marzarella
Mary Beth Durkin
Mary Curcio Halloran
Karen Durkin McFadden
Ian Kirwan
Pat Doyle (thanks to all the media coverage [News 12 NJ] and for always bleeding green & white!)
Chris Christopher (Brick Patch)
Kevin Williams (WOBM)
Frankie Edgar for helping to kick off the event
Coach Len Zdanowicz and the Brick Football Dragons
Vienno Wurret and the AMC Brick Relay for Life Staff

That’s a wrap. I wanted to make sure I shared my “10” highlights from this very special experience in Brick that epitomize the people from this Jersey Shore town. Tough. Fun. Caring. Compassionate. And most important…LOVING!!!


Thank you ALL for a great weekend.

Much love…and much #JerseySTRONG




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