ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Hancock County man is hoping to preserve the memory of a friend by raising money for the local YMCA.
Adam Carter, a employee at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor and a competitive bodybuilder, knew Russell Burnett from their occasional joint workouts at the Down East Family YMCA in Ellsworth. Carter, 31, of Hancock and Burnett, 21, of Franklin were hoping to compete together this summer at a National Physique Committee event in Boston.
But tragedy intervened. Burnett died on March 31 when a car he was driving in snowy weather slid out of control and collided with another car on Route 1 in Orland.
Carter says he’s raising funds for the Y by selling T-shirts specifically designed to honor Burnett. The shirts, in both tank top or sleeved style, have the words “TEAM RUSSELL” on the back and an angel on the front with the word “CONQUER” above it.
“When I posted the pictures on Facebook, the response was overwhelming,” Carter said in an email. “I had an initial order of 50 shirts, and they were sold out in a matter of days.”
He raised more than $1,100 in less than a week. He said he spoke to Russell’s relatives and to his fiancé, Tara Lindsey. Together they decided to donate the money to the YMCA. Carter said he intends to continue selling the T-shirts, as long as there is demand, and to keep donating all the proceeds to the Ellsworth Y.
“We will have enough money to buy a new piece of gym equipment, plus some miscellaneous gym items,” Carter said. “We will also be hanging a plaque in the gym to keep Russell’s spirit alive, and to remind everyone who knew him to stay true to the fitness and healthy lifestyle that he was so passionate about.”
Carter’s T-shirt endeavor is not the only fundraising event aimed at honoring Burnett. A two-day softball tournament that will raise money for children’s camp scholarships has been scheduled ay Demeyer Field in Ellsworth for the weekend of May 31 and June 1. Information about the tournament is available by calling 664-4619 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carter said the bodybuilding competition he and Burnett planned to attend together in Boston this summer would have been Burnett’s first.
“I was very excited to help him along the way, and take him under my wing if you will,” Carter said. “It takes a great deal of courage, sacrifice and self discipline to compete, and I was looking forward to sharing that with him.”
Carter said he was angry when he heard of Burnett’s death.
“He was so young. He had touched so many people,” Carter said Tuesday. “When you met him, you honestly felt like you had known him a long time.”
He said that Burnett’s death, though tragic, has led to the creation of an informal group of people who call themselves Team Russell, which he described as “a force driven by the community, giving back to the community, all with the united purpose of keeping this young man’s spirit alive.” It includes young children who have been inspired by Burnett to take up fitness challenges and to get their families to do the same.
“He was really passionate about it,” Carter said.