On Saturday, October 7, The Mill on Etowah is going to the dogs with Pitness at The Mill, a fitness festival and functional fitness competition organized by Barbells for Bullies, a nonprofit whose goal is to “raise money and awareness for all rescues with a specific emphasis on bully breeds.”

According to A-Z-animals.com, the most common bully breeds include “the bulldog, boxer, pug, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and Boston terrier.” Lally Peebles, cofounder of Wags & Wiggles Dog Rescue, describes them as “the ultimate underdogs.”

Barbells for Bullies

Founded in 2016, Barbells for Bullies is a passion project created by husband-and-wife team, Alexander and Lindsay Castiglione. The organization is primarily run by the Castigliones along with board members Susie Williams and Dylan Tellam. Since the organization’s founding in 2016, they have developed and hosted over fifty different fitness events around the country with the goal of raising money and awareness for rescues, with a special interest in bully breeds. They have since donated an estimated quarter-million dollars to rescues in addition to sponsoring dogs directly.

When discussing why he and his wife created Barbells for Bullies, Alexander has a personal motivation for why he chose to focus on helping bully breeds. He shares that he was impacted when he noticed that smaller breeds seem to be getting adopted more than bully breeds after visiting an animal shelter. He says, “I was like, ‘I gotta do something. I gotta do something about this.’ And then it hit me once: we spend $100 to $200 bucks to do these CrossFit competitions locally. But where’s that money going?”

With this inspiration, the Castigliones first organized a one-time event in Atlanta, and in the following year, the couple began being contacted on social media to see if they would like to organize events contributing to animal rescues in other areas.

Fitness for a Cause

As of August 4, 2023, nearly 8,000 people have participated in the organization’s fitness events, raising $229,265 to benefit rescues. Barbells for Bullies is entirely volunteer run, meaning that the organization donates as much money as it can. Some of the organizations Barbells for Bullies has donated to include Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, New York Bully Crew, Georgia English Bulldog Rescue, and more. Barbells for Bullies is meticulous in choosing the rescues and organizations to which it donates, including a robust intake process.

Jason Flatt, founder of Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, shares “This is the worst of times for animals. The amount of animals in need of rescue, coupled with increasing costs across the board, declining donations, and adoptions, have made rescue extremely difficult. We are grateful for Barbells for Bullies and all they are doing to help us and others. We need all the help we can get.”

In addition to Pitness at The Mill, Barbells for Bullies organizes and hosts other fitness competitions in Georgia, including “CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman competitions, in addition to charity workouts and other outside-the-box fitness events.” Barbells for Bullies also develops educational resources, including workshops, and contributes to rescues and advocacy organizations by providing supplies.

Wags & Wiggles Dog Rescue’s Lally adds, “We became partners with Barbells for Bullies just this year. We had both been watching each other’s work and successes on social media and connected. We were blessed with a grant that paid for the medical care of three bullies: Flossie, Camilla, and Charlie. Two have been adopted, and Charlie will be at Saturday’s event looking for his ‘pawfect’ family. [The Castigliones] personally invited us to be one of the beneficiaries of Pitness at The Mill before learning that the event coordinator at The Mill actually adopted their pup, Xena, from us a year prior. It truly can be a small world.”

Photo Courtesy of Wags & Wiggles Dog Rescue

Six-year-old Charlie is a chocolate lab bully mix. He is dog-friendly and kid-friendly (but not a fan of cats). He is a medium- to low-energy fellow that wants to be wherever his people are, and with all the cuddles! (Photo Courtesy of Wags & Wiggles Dog Rescue)

There’s No Place Like The Mill

The Castigliones decided to host the event at The Mill on Etowah because they wanted to create a fitness festival in their hometown of Canton.

When asked why the couple decided to host their event at The Mill, Lindsay responds, “It’s a beautiful space. When I first went there, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is a beautiful place.’ We had gone to an event Strongside fitness was hosting for the kids. I was thinking to myself, ‘This would be perfect.’”

The Mill on Etowah is an adaptive re-use development in downtown Canton. (Source: PennHodge.com)

After getting in touch with Haley Clark, the event coordinator for The Mill on Etowah, and Mitchel Black, the CEO and founder of local gym Strongside, the group was able to put together the event pretty easily and has been planning Pitness at The Mill for the past year.

Lindsay says, “It was kind of just like one fortuitous event after the next. There was absolutely no roadblock that would have dissuaded me from wanting to do it.” She continues, “We have people coming [from] as far as Lake Lanier, Cartersville, Dallas, [Georgia, and] Alabama.”

Strongside Canton Club Manager and CFL1 Coach Zach Barnes has high expectations for Pitness at The Mill, and shares, “If we’re able to raise money for a good cause through fitness, we’re all about it.” According to Zach, there will be two-person teams and three different workout divisions that are designed to be inclusive for different levels of athletes, including beginner to more advanced.

On the Barbells for Bullies website, the organization shares, “For the first time, we’re thrilled to include an Adaptive Division furthering our dedication to inclusivity and leveraging fitness as a force for good.”

The family-friendly event will be held from 8:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m, featuring twenty-seven vendors, dogs available for adoption, and dog trainers providing demos. Special activities for kids will also be available, including a kids’ obstacle course provided by Mighty Kidz PE. Admission for spectators is free.

All of the proceeds from Pitness at The Mill will be donated to Wags & Wiggles Dog Rescue and Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, two nonprofit dog rescues dedicated to rescuing dogs in Georgia and improving their quality of life.

For more information on Barbells for Bullies or Pitness at The Mill, please visit BarbellsForBullies.org/PitnessAtTheMill.




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