Sean Kennedy Banner
Sean Kennedy Banner

Strongman With A Heart Of Gold

After raising thousands of pounds for ellenor, Strongman Sean Kennedy has proved he has a heart as big as his muscle-bound chest.

He vowed to give something back after his grandad died in the charity’s Northfleet hospice when Sean was just 17. Now in his mid-thirties, with a partner and three children and a busy gym to run, he still manages to find time to fundraise.

He said: “The people at ellenor were brilliant with my grandad; they really looked after him and I always said I’d like to do something to repay their kindness.”

As a youngster, Sean enjoyed basketball, then football, then progressed to bodybuilding and eventually to Strongman contests. He has won the UK Strongest Man title (under 105kg) three times, most recently in 2015.

He said: “When I was bodybuilding, I was asked to pick up a 100 kilo Atlas stone and I managed it. Afterwards they said the stone was actually 130 kilos and it seemed I did have a gift for it, so I started training. When I took part in the first UK Strongest Man contest in 2012, I got everyone to sponsor me in aid of ellenor, and it continued from there.”

He has kept the good work of ellenor in his mind throughout this journey and since opening his Gravesend gym, Reps and Sets, often organises fundraising events including an annual Deadlift Contest.

He said: “We have been running it since 2015 and usually get about 20 people coming along. Each athlete pays to compete with the fee going to ellenor, and we also pass round a fundraising bucket to spectators.”

Sean fundraises alongside his friend Lisa James, the manager of our Northfleet shop, to create events with a difference. They recently organised a car pull involving Lisa’s little grandchildren, which was a social media hit and caught the imaginations of people throughout the Gravesham borough.

Sean has known Lisa since he was a teenager when the mother-of-12 took him under her wing.

He said: “Lisa is like family to me. She’s an angel – she looked after me when I was young and tried to keep me on the straight and narrow. Everyone round here knows Lisa and she likes to look out for them all and help keep them out of trouble. Most of her sons have come to the gym on and off over the years and her husband trains here every day. Whenever I put on an event, she promotes it and shares it.”

Sean knows how hard it has been for charities to fundraise during the restrictions brought about by the Covid pandemic. He was inspired to put on his thinking cap to organise two online events in 2020 and 2021.

He said: “We set up garage music events with big artists performing on a live feed, where people could donate to ellenor. We also recorded it and sold CDs afterwards. We had people like MC Vapour and MC Creed, the biggest names in the garage scene and we raised quite a bit of money.

“I was able to set it all up because I ran a security company for years and got to know the big rave venues and made friends with the artists. I thought I would put on my own event and when I explained to them how difficult it was for the charity to make money with its shops closed, the artists were all happy to give their time for nothing.

“I believe in ellenor 100 per cent, and I think it’s terrible that hospices don’t get more government funding, especially knowing how brilliant ellenor was with my grandad. I know it’s hard for charities now. It was hard enough to raise money without the pandemic but now it is even more difficult.”

Sean’s own business has also struggled through the restrictions brought about by Covid, with the gym having to close three times.

He said: “It’s sad because a lot of people have lost their motivation now and have got used to sitting indoors. The pandemic has affected people’s mental health. For some of them, once the gym was taken away, they were left really struggling, especially the athletes.”

Thankfully Sean’s gym is open again now and he is hoping customers old and new will once again find their mojo. He believes that fundraising for a cause close to your heart can also be a great motivator.

He said: “If you have a way of supporting something you want to keep alive then use what you have available to you. Anyone can do it; you just need to use your attributes. It can be an egg and spoon race that raises £100 – every little bit helps. If everyone did a little bit like that the world would be a better place.”

Sean still enjoys training in the gym and helping his customers achieve their goals but admits his Strongman days might be in the past now.

He said: “I competed for 14 years, but I have torn off my pec, my biceps and my Achilles. Picking up half a tonne in weight isn’t really good for you, but it was fun doing things like picking up cars. I still train but when you compete you live and breathe it – it can be quite a selfish sport and I don’t want to be in a situation now where I can’t pick the kids up from school because my back is busted.

“My life used to revolve around it, but the kids are growing up now and I want to do things with them. I’m fed up with feeling beat up!”