A Team Effort: Bradley Opell’s Journey to Health
“I weighed over 420 lbs., and I was one plate of hot wings away from a life-threatening health concern. If I was going to see my daughters grow up, begin careers, and have families, something had to change.”
Change is never easy, but when it came to his weight, Gray Senior Site Manager Bradley Opell knew that change was absolutely necessary. In March of 2016, faced with what looked like insurmountable odds, Bradley decided to start moving, literally. He began slowly, by walking on a treadmill, and quickly shed the pounds.
“When I reached 350, I had become a lot more educated about what I was doing. I decided that I needed to set goals that would be incrementally obtained and long-term milestones.”
Running the Race
“One of my initial goals was to complete a half marathon,” he recalls.
What began as baby steps didn’t stay that way long. Bradley transitioned his training from walking on a treadmill to preparing himself for running the 13.1 miles needed for the race. Just a little more than one year after his initial journey began, Bradley was able to complete the half marathon, with some support.
Gray goes beyond medical, dental, vision, and retirement to provide a toolset for building team members’ best lives. This commitment to total wellness influenced Bradley’s decision to put his health first, and then Gray Family supported him all along his journey.
“Alongside me was Brian Jones, president and CEO of Gray Construction; Jim Grant, vice president, Safety & Field Operations; David Florence, vice president, Pre-Construction Systems & Services; and John Slone, project executive. They completed every step of the race by my side, right beside me encouraging me all the way.”
Following the half marathon, Bradley continued to train and live out his new healthy lifestyle. Despite working on multiple projects across the country, ranging from Tacoma, WA, to West Palm Beach, FL, and everywhere in between, he still made time to hit the gym and train. Bradley was fueled by his competitive nature. This passion led him down a path that included a new challenge.
Becoming an Ironman
More than three and a half years after his journey began, in October 2019, Bradley accepted the grueling challenge of an Ironman race. The Ironman is a high-endurance race made up of three parts: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. Due to the cool weather in 2019, the swimming portion was canceled.
“Mental hurdles were by far the toughest. When the sun goes down, the faster racers are walking to get their bikes and you are just starting the last eight-mile loop of the run, it’s tough. Most of the spectators have moved to the finish line, and aid stations are minimal with supplies. Mentally, you just want to stop, but stopping is your biggest enemy.” In an incredible 14 hours and 22 minutes, Bradley was able to accomplish this massive goal. He says that, just like in the half marathon race, it was the support of his Gray Family that helped pull him through and gave him the encouragement to keep fighting to finish the Ironman.
“Grant sent me a text that morning, ‘just keep moving,’ and he was right. The only thing you can control is your effort and your attitude. From all the messages I received leading up to that day, to Slone being on the course with me, the support was uncanny,” he says.
Quality of Life
At Gray, people are at the core of what we do. In fact, our No. 1 core value is “We put safety and quality of life first,” and we mean that.
“This journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been achievable, because Gray wants to invest in their team members. Programs like ‘Grow with Gray’ are a big factor of that investment.”
Through the “Grow with Gray” program, Gray strives to create a healthy workplace that provides an opportunity for each team member to build their best life with an integrated approach to total wellness.
Our people are our family, and we take pride in taking care of our family.
“The support is uncanny. You don’t find that just anywhere. It’s something special, Gray is something special.”