Arm wars

PUSH Dayton’s Ladies Arm Wrestling Event

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: Melissa “Slay West” Fowler and Aja Delaney; photo: Cecilia Fox

You can hear it from halfway down Fifth Street. The shouts of the crowd muted by the walls of the Trolley Stop, only to be let loose in a roaring deluge as the doors swing open – the resulting undertow drawing you in to the brouhaha. As you wind your way through the room, pulled closer to the focal point amid the channels of cheering spectators, you’re drawn up in the raw energy, and then you see it. Two women locked in battle. There’s a certain animalism about it. This is their chance to shed the niceties that shroud their day-to-day life and destroy the opponent in front of them.

What could motivate this kind of raucous behavior in civilized society?

This mass of humans has gathered because they support each other, they support their city and they support the availability of reproductive health care. Arm Wars is PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) Dayton’s ladies’ arm wrestling event, and if the last two they have put on can be any indication, there are a fair number of people in this fine city who are willing to rally by their side.

In this third installment, the ladies will be competing under a Star Wars-themed banner, conveniently – or ingeniously – planned for May 4 (“May the fourth be with you,” nerd level: 2). Costumed competitors will rock it out for the chance to win the bejeweled champion belt, taken home at the last two events by Mysterio, who is up for a three-peat on Sunday.

Libby Ballengee, who previously battled under the name “Blue Eyed Beyotch” but will enter her bouts in Arm Wars as “Princess Slay-Ya,” has learned from past events and has been training for this round.

“I have a private yoga instructor, Melissa Ledinsky, and she teaches me a lot of yoga moves that really strengthen my arms,” Ballengee said. “You wouldn’t think yoga and arm wrestling, but it works for me! Also, I do a lot of Tracy Anderson arm workouts. Those are killer!”

In addition to the main stage, the event will feature several additional fundraising attractions for supporters. A raffle will include prizes such as a locally-crafted belt buckle, gift cards and a custom-made dress by a local designer. A 50/50 bracket will pay out to the most savvy/lucky. Princess Leia and Chewbacca will be on hand to help you commemorate the event with a photo booth on the second floor. And if lady arm wrestlers, cash prizes and intergalactic heroes aren’t enough to keep you busy, get a game day t-shirt screen printed on Trolley Stop’s renowned multi-level patio.

The past two arm wrestling events helped PUSH surpass their 2012/2013 fundraising goal of $5,000, which resulted in the renovation of one exam room at the Planned Parenthood Kettering Philips Center in Downtown Dayton.

“Organizations like PUSH are important because it makes our city a community,” Ballengee said. “Often, people complain about the state of affairs locally and globally, but don’t take active measures to be part of the solution. PUSH and other organizations like it give people an opportunity to participate in the improvement of Dayton and enrich the lives of the people who live here. Even if you aren’t actively involved, supporting these groups is just as important.”

“The goal of PUSH is to engage younger people, to realize what Planned Parenthood is and why it shouldn’t be looked on as a negative thing,” PUSH Dayton event chair Katy Kelly said. “We can talk about Planned Parenthood in a way that doesn’t make people angry and we try to do that in fun, welcoming ways.”

Kelly makes the point Planned Parenthood benefits not only individual health, but also our community at large.

“It’s important to me because I consider women’s reproductive rights a social justice issue, but also an economic issue,” Kelly said. “I think it’s important to Dayton because their motto is ‘Care. No matter what.’ It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not. I think it just levels the inequality some women face that can’t get good health care. … What we’re trying to get across with Planned Parenthood is their services are only 3 percent abortion services; 97 percent are preventative care.”

In 2013, the downtown Dayton Kettering Philips Health Center served 3,870 patients with more than 7,000 family planning visits. According to their 2012-2013 annual report, doctors at Planned Parenthood health centers nationally performed 1,040,000 breast exams and pap tests, conducted 4,470,000 tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and gave 2,130,000 women birth control information and services, which, according to a formula developed by Guttmacher Institute, prevented 515,000 unintended pregnancies.

There are those who experience frustration and confusion when trying to understand why an organization like Planned Parenthood is being targeted by politicians and activists, having their funding cut and services restricted. And some of these people will no longer sit idly by.

“Part of the energy behind this event is a feeling, like ‘Come on, are you serious?!,’” Kelly said. “So, we put that kind of hoorah spirit into putting on this arm wrestling event, and I think that really comes across to the audience and the arm wrestlers. I think it creates a really empowering environment for all.”

Arm Wars, Ladies Arm Wrestling Event presented by PUSH Dayton will take place Sunday, May 4 at the Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $10 general admission to $40 V.I.P., with proceeds going to support women’s reproductive health. To learn more about PUSH Dayton and to pre-purchase tickets online, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at

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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at or through her website at

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