There is a bit of process that goes into writing these member profiles. An obvious step in the process is finding a place to meet! The Helmich’s suggested their home in Wayzata, so we could throw axes in the backyard! I always enjoy trying new things, so we set a date and time.
I always feel a sense of nervousness leading up to meeting people, and I assume it’s on both sides! Prior to this, I have really only met Andie and Andy (The Helmichs) a handful of times. Meeting at the gym is one thing, but meeting at someone’s house is a lot more personal. My first question is always, “tell me about your background, how did you get here”.
Andie (female), started off telling me she grew up in Plymouth (about 5 miles from where they live now) and went to the University of Minnesota to earn a degree in Marketing. After college she worked at General Mills, she met Andy (male), they got married and have 3 kids, Elizabeth, 19, twin boys, Jack and Luke, both seniors in HS at
Wayzata. …and they love SISU!
Andie grew up with an older brother. She described her childhood as “good” but, after reflecting back years later, she realized that it certainly had its challenges. Like many of us, we don’t understand our parents’ decisions at times. Like all of us, we are products of our environment; we can’t help but pick up mannerisms, habits, lessons, and values from our families.
Andie opened up about one particular value that she struggled with growing up but that she has learned to embrace as she matures in her parenting. She said her parents rarely bought them things. If they wanted something, they had to work to make money to buy it. Andie found this particularly unfair because she knew her parents had money, her father managed an HVAC contracting company and had his own airplane! As a kid, she found it frustrating and didn’t understand the disconnect – her parents had the money for activities, they were just not going to hand it out.
Andie did work, she did pay her way growing up, and she chose karate as her sport. It was cheap, and she was tall with long arms and legs, so she was a natural! Karate became her obsession and kept her focused, and she had to pay for it herself. Starting karate at the age of 12, she is quite accomplished, earning her black belt at 15 years old, and later advancing through the ranks to eventually earn her third-degree blackbelt!
Andy (male) grew up in South Minneapolis. His mother had one job her whole career, working in the government legal system. His dad was a dean of a consortium of local Twin Cities colleges, his dream job, overseeing all the academics.
When Andy was a child, he vividly recalls his father being laid off from his job for reasons out of his control. He remembers the impact it had on the family emotionally and financially. As Andy described it, “He lost his identity as the breadwinner in our house and had to reinvent himself as a stay-at-home-dad, a concept that was quite novel and foreign at the time. His analytic brain constantly grappled with his new role and how society viewed him.” Andy was 8 years old, and he remembers the impact on the family dynamic.
After high school, Andy completed his undergraduate degree at St. Olaf College and decided to go to dental school at the University of Minnesota. It was during this time period that he tried karate for the first time! It was love at first sight! Andy (male) laying on his back looking up at Andie (female) after she took him to the ground in some warm-up drills! After a sparring match (she won!), he asked her out to dinner, and they’ve been together ever since!!!
Andy came from very humble beginnings. His father never went back to work in academia, and Andy knew if he wanted higher education, he would need to figure out how to pay for it. Andy applied for and received a scholarship from the Navy to pay for dental school, which meant he owed the Navy three years of active duty after he graduated.
As the story goes, Andie was working at General Mills at this time, and Andy had three years of dental school left, then had an obligation to fulfill with the Navy as a dentist. Andy popped the question, and the two got married just before he graduated from dental school. Soon after, they set off for Virginia where Andy was assigned his first duty
station. After a year in Virginia and two more in San Diego, the Helmichs returned home to Minnesota to raise a family. Andy then used the GI Bill to get his advanced degree and complete a residency in Orthodontics.
What I love about their story is they each pursued their passion, karate, for all the right reasons, and they found each other. Is that not the way it’s supposed to be? When I asked, how did you find your way to SISU? They shared this story: their oldest daughter Elizabeth came to SISU when she was a Freshman at Wayzata on the recommendation from her volleyball coach, Rachel Jacobson, who was a SISU member. Elizabeth never took group classes but did personal training with SISU coach Billy Rodgers over a 3 year period of time. Elizabeth went on to earn an athletic scholarship to James Madison University.
Fast forward, Elizabeth invited Billy to her high school graduation party, it was at the party that Andie met Billy’s wife Emily! We had just opened the SISU Medina location, and Emily talked Andie into giving the SISU-X class a try…and who can say no to Emily? The rest is history, and the whole family is now part of SISU.
Andy and Andie put their family above everything, and their faith in God is woven tightly into their family DNA. Although they don’t lead with this, I would say it’s more action than talk. When I asked them, “How has SISU impacted your life? Andie answered, “you saved both of our sons’ lives ”. I was a little taken back, but I asked how so?
Nearly a year ago, a Wayzata boy, Jack & Luke’s best friend, took his own life when he decided to step in front of a train. The incident was basically next to the Medina gym. This was a horrific situation and obviously emotional for both boys, given it was their best friend. The next morning, Andie was surprised to see Jack up and ready for CrossFit. She tried to get him to head back to bed and rest, as it had been a long and emotional night. Jack was adamant that he needed to go work out; he needed CrossFit. When they arrived at the gym that morning,
Jack overheard a couple of our members talking about the tragedy, unbeknownst to them of the connection between the boys. Right there, in the early morning after the workout, Jack broke down sobbing in the middle of the gym. The other men in class immediately reached out to support Jack. It was at this moment, Andie felt a sense of comfort as she witnessed other SISU members exuding our #1 core value, a “passion for people and community”.
SISU quickly became a refuge for the whole family, where they poured their energy into workouts and relied on their
new friends for support during this incredibly difficult time. Had it not been for the SISU family, the Helmichs fear their grief would have been impossibly overwhelming.
At this point of my time with the Helmichs, tears began to flow as we sat at their kitchen table. Andy continued to tell me another story. They lived in Minnetonka years ago, and they were very active members at their previous church in Edina. They had grown up there and had their kids there, prior to them moving to Wayzata. They searched for community in Wayzata, and while they made friends and loved their new hometown, nothing compared to what they had in Edina until they found CrossFit and SISU. Now, almost a year later. The Helmichs have found their people; they have found their community at SISU.
The Helmichs are incredibly active. They have traveled to more adventure races and hikes than I can wrap my head around. Tough Mudders, Spartan Races, mountain summits, and now CrossFit competitions! They both competed in their first-ever CrossFit comp last winter doing the SISU SANTA BASH! Just a few months ago, they competed as a team in the SISU SUMMER THROWDOWN! Andy PR’d his clean during the competition, and Andie PR’d her snatch! It was awesome seeing them both going for it, but that’s just the way these guys roll! The important thing is that they do CrossFit together, and it gives their family a lot to talk about.
As for the axe throwing…Andy was a great teacher. I got a few lucky bullseyes, and I threw a few over the target. Basically, I am pretty average! Andie and Andy, on the other hand, were ripping targets from 20 ft away.
Big thanks to Andy and Andie for opening up their home and sharing their story! They are amazing people, and they
manage their lives with strong faith. Oh…it was not until a few years ago that Andie realized her parents had it right -raising responsible productive children is a big job, and her parents set her up for success, in spite of how she felt at the time!
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”