ELLIS -- Through positive verbal messages and unbelievable physical strength, a group of world-class athletes are traveling throughout northwest Kansas this week to spread motivation, guidance and encouragement.
Todd Keene and the Power Team are educating members of local communities with their top-rated program that catches attention, personally connects to real-life circumstances and creates empowerment.
"It's all to get people to understand there is hope and there is always someone out there who cares," said Mark Sizemore, pastor at First Christian Church, La Crosse.
Two members of the Power Team, Andy Gavin, Milwaukee, and Clarence Lee, Phoenix, performed for the seventh- through 12th-graders at Ellis High School on Wednesday.
The duo proved their incredible strength and determination by blowing up a hot water bottle by mouth until it exploded and snapping baseball bats in two.
They also bent large pieces of steel, ripping thick phone books in half and crushing full cans of soda.
The students clapped and cheered on the world-class athletes as they took on the grueling challenges.
Between displays of awe-inspiring might, Lee shared his story that exerted anti-bullying, anti-drug and anti-alcohol messages. His words focused on how youth can find other ways to cope with today's pressures and how strength can be found within oneself.
"I think it's going to inspire us and make us want to do more," said seventh-grader Grace Beisner. "A lot of us really don't know our direction or what we want to do in our lives, and this kind of thing helps us be more motivated."
Beisner said she hopes the anti-bullying message will change the hearts of students at her school.
"I really hope things will be different after this," she said. "We see quite a bit of bullying at our school."
Ellis High School Principal Corey Burton said he appreciated the message the Power Team delivered.
"Seeing what they are able to do and hearing their stories are positive things for the kids," he said.
The principal said every year the school tries to find educational programs to help inspire moral value within the students.
"It's not all about math, science and English. There are bigger pieces to life, and if we can steer kids in the right direction, I think that's a great thing."
Lee said the Power Team continuously strives to practice what they preach.
"It's a lot of hard work, but at the same time, when you're tired from all the traveling, you try to remember you are serving people and meeting their needs," he said. "It's humbling."
The athlete expressed the importance of influencing and guiding today's youth.
"We desperately need the next generation to be strong," he said. "We need them to be better than us and be encouraged."
Gavin, the other member of the team, said hearing positive stories about individuals the team has influenced helps keep him going.
"There was a guy that was on the verge of suicide in 2009," he said. "Because of our program, he was encouraged and changed the course of his life."
During the school visit, the team focused strictly on anti-drug, anti-alcohol and anti-bullying messages. Open-to-the-public shows will focus more on spirituality.
Demonstrations at area schools will continue throughout this week. Open-to-the-public shows are at Otis-Bison High School, 301 W. Eagle Ave., at 7 p.m. tonight and La Crosse High School, 400 Washington, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday.