Every Wrestling 4 A Cause event starts with a word of prayer and a question: Has anybody been impacted by Erlanger?
"There's not a single show we've ever done that there isn't three or four kids or parents that raise their hand," said William Venable, founder and CEO of the local Wrestling 4 A Cause nonprofit.
He raises his hand, too.
Three years ago, when Venable's daughter Grace was 11, she began regularly visiting Children's Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga for respiratory issues.
"She's so much better now. She's going to be 14 in just a few days," he said. "So many people have been impacted by Erlanger."
Wrestling 4 A Cause is hosting its latest fundraiser for Erlanger next month. Venable began organizing events for various health outreaches in 2014.
The upcoming event, Spring Fling 2020, will bring three World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famers to Ringgold on March 5 at The Colonnade Center. Among the lineup are legends Rhyno, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Buff the Stuff Bagwell and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling star Johnny Swinger.
In addition to seven matches, there will be a 20 Man Battle Royal.
"We don't do anything outlandish, we're not going for super-hardcore violence," Venable said. "We just want to bring people out, have fun for the charity. We're just a clean, family-friendly show."
He and the nonprofit's Vice President Allen Rittenhouse grew up watching wrestling in the '80s.
"Growing up we thought, we want to get involved and do fun stuff like that," Venable said. "So it just came out of a personal enjoyment. Why not turn it into something fun that also can raise money for a cause?"
Their first show was in October 2014, raising money for breast cancer research with the American Cancer Society. They then did three shows for ACS' Relay for Life. More recently, the group transitioned to raising money for Children's Hospital at Erlanger, for which they have held six shows.
At first, they were drawing crowds of 75-100 people, then 150-200 attendees, and now, they're hoping to sell all 500 seats.
Venable, who is the store manager of a Walmart in Dalton, made the leap to turn the events into a full-blown nonprofit in the fall of 2019. By doing this, he's been able to secure sponsors and bigger names.
"The sets that we will have, the displays that we have, it'll just be so much bigger and larger," he said. "Talent is the biggest thing. Bringing in three Hall of Famers is something we've never gotten to do before."
But none of this, said Venable, could be possible without his dedicated board.
"We're excited about where the charity can go," he said. "We do this on lunch breaks and in our free time outside of our normal job to do something that can impact the hospital that impacts our area."
Tickets for the event are available on The Colonnade's website or at the door beginning at 6 p.m. The matches start at 7:30 p.m.
Email Sabrina Bodon at firstname.lastname@example.org.