Powerlifters from across the region will converge on Hamilton next month to raise the bar for mitochondrial disease research.

They will join forces with members of the local police force and fire services, to compete for the WBOP power lifting trophy, and raise funds for the Million Dollars for Mito foundation, which was started by John and Becky Parker to raise awareness and find a cure for Mitochondrial Disease in infants.

John, a Hamilton fireman, and Rebecca Parker began a mission to unlock secrets of the mysterious disease attacking their son while watching their baby boy fight for his life in 2015.

In November 2015, a month short of Maddox's second birthday, he died one morning from the disease, surrounded by his family.


"There was so little information for us publicly available about mitochondrial disease, there were no pamphlets or anything.

"We had to go home and do our own research," Mr Parker said.

The campaign, which they started through the Starship Foundation, is funding the first national study of how many New Zealanders have mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondria are the power houses of the body's cells, creating the energy needed for the cell to function so we can breathe, talk, walk and move.

The diseases are inherited and any organ system at any age can be affected depending on the type of genetic cause.

The campaign has raised over $216,000 so far, with the funds being used for funeral services, information brochures and medical research.

"With the money we have raised, we have paid for specialists to go to Europe to find out more information on the disease, and we also have a fund available to those who may need money towards a funeral after someone has died from the disease."

Through powerlifting, John met WBOP powerlifting president Rajah Singh, the driving force for raising funds for the campaign, but also wanting to get people out moving and exercising.


"It is kind of ironic as mitochondrial is the powerhouse of your body that is what allows us to function.

"This is not only getting people to lift and try something new, but also to try and raise awareness of a disease that still to this day is a disease that is taking children."

It's the fourth year that the competition has been running, and it has raised over $2000 in three years. "It's a real unique atmosphere at the event, people are going in and they are trying something new."

Mr Singh said anyone is welcome to enter the event with the organisation more than happy to raise awareness for the disease.

"Powerlifting is a sport that also goes under the radar, so it is fitting that we are doing a heavy lifting sport to raise awareness for a disease that prevents you from doing those things," Mr Singh said.

He said they are expecting over 30 lifters to take part in the event, but hopes more will enter leading up to the event.

"We're on track to raise more than $1000, but I want to smash that and raise the bar higher for this worthy cause."

On the day, the event will have two teams — emergency services versus the powerlifters — compete for the WBOP power lifting trophy.

The event will take place on July 20 at the Waikato Uni Rec Gym, with a $30 entry fee.
Those interested can email Wboppowerlifting@outlook.co.nz