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The CrossFit Foundation and Saved by the Barbell

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ByCrossFit August 30, 2019

The CrossFit Foundation serves as the charitable arm of CrossFit, Inc., supporting the work of CrossFit affiliates and charitable organizations that use CrossFit to serve the needs of their diverse communities.

The CrossFit Foundation’s work includes support for veterans, cancer survivors, communities in recovery from substance abuse and addiction, and many others. And since the early days of the Foundation’s operation, it has focused many of its charitable efforts on supporting opportunities for kids around the world. Over the years, the CrossFit Foundation has funded the construction of schools in Kenya, CrossFit opportunities for homeless and at-risk children, and, in the past two years, support for a growing network of K-12 school affiliates around the world.

The CrossFit Foundation does not operate programs of its own. It exists to support the work of the CrossFit community, funding and supporting initiatives that originate in CrossFit affiliates. The Foundation operates in partnership with and as an extension of the generosity of the CrossFit community, channeling resources from that community in concert with CrossFit, Inc.’s own contributions.

As the CrossFit Foundation is entrusted with funds raised by the broader CrossFit community, it is appropriate to reflect and report on the past few years of the CrossFit Foundation’s operations in this central activity.

The CrossFit Foundation works with public school districts, individual schools, and teachers all over the world, providing scholarships for CrossFit Kids, CrossFit Educators, and CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Courses, equipment grants to set up gyms, and ongoing support for teachers and administrations leading the way in bringing CrossFit to their students. Over the past two years, the CrossFit Foundation has spent over $300,000 in these efforts, funding more than two dozen CrossFit school programs around the world and another 50 individual teacher scholarships. Of that $300,000, nearly $100,000 came from individual contributions from members of the global CrossFit community in 2018 alone, primarily through participation in Saved by the Barbell, the annual Labor Day fundraiser workout.

Thanks to these contributions, new CrossFit programs have been developed in schools in Sweden, Malaysia, Ireland, Australia, the U.K., and 15 U.S. states. These programs serve children in rural and urban areas, across kindergarten, elementary, and high school, in each instance providing opportunities to a school with leadership willing and eager to start a CrossFit program but limited resources to do so. Any school anywhere in the world may apply to the CrossFit Foundation for support in bringing CrossFit to their students. Every dollar raised through Saved by the Barbell or any other external contribution goes directly toward these programs for kids. CrossFit, Inc. and the CrossFit Foundation cover all administrative and overhead costs.

Photo: John Davenport, For Eyes Photography.

What does it mean to start a CrossFit program in a school? It is a small financial investment to cover teacher education and the cost of startup equipment for a school gym. With that investment, each school, like every other CrossFit affiliate, has the opportunity to make its program meaningful to those it serves. Each new school program or K-12 affiliate is given the opportunity to build on the initial investment and serve a growing number of students over the years, becoming a permanent institution in the community and steadily changing the school culture to one that supports health. Many of the school affiliates funded two years ago now serve hundreds of students; others have grown and branched out to support CrossFit programs at neighboring schools.

Perhaps more fundamentally: What does CrossFit participation do for kids? There is much to say regarding the quantifiable physical benefits accrued through a child’s participation in CrossFit. Those benefits include increases in bone density, improved neurological development, and exposure to healthy eating patterns, among many others. But the intangible benefits extend far beyond these. Each child who participates in CrossFit has the opportunity to develop a lifelong love of fitness, to view a healthy lifestyle not as a chore but as a joy. And through CrossFit participation, children gain the chance to develop confidence in their abilities at a time in their lives when they are deciding how they think about themselves; to be comfortable in their bodies at a time when they may feel the most awkward and vulnerable; to join a community that supports them and encourages them to support one another; in short, to enjoy the holistic benefits of the CrossFit community at the age when it may mean the most.

It is often said at CrossFit, Inc. that there will be no mass conversion event. The state of global health is dire, at best. It is difficult, if not impossible, to put faith in some significant change in public policy, some expert intervention, some newly comprehensive awareness of nutrition or sudden wave of fitness participation. The same can be said of education for the most part: P.E. budgets continue to be cut, the food provided in the average school cafeteria is nutritionally inadequate and even detrimental to the demands of the growing human body, and politicians give frequent lip service to children’s health without taking meaningful action.

But in our business, change happens at the local, individual level. It is our mission not to look to someone else to change the world but to open the affiliate door — to operate the lifeboats, as we call them, and pull in as many people as we can. This, too, is the work of the CrossFit Foundation in support of school affiliates around the world. In partnership with the CrossFit community, we can support another lifeboat, and another, and another. We can reach out and open the door, one district, school, and child at a time.

There are two distinct opportunities to participate in this effort. Teachers, school administrators, or parents dedicated to leading the charge at their children’s schools have the opportunity to receive support from the CrossFit Foundation to start a CrossFit program or K-12 affiliate. Resources are available to fund scholarships, education, and equipment.

And for every member of the CrossFit community, there is an opportunity to support this work via the Saved by the Barbell fundraiser. Any CrossFit affiliate can host a fundraiser event on Labor Day weekend each year by emailing savedbythebarbell@crossfit.com; any individual can register for the workout and donate at www.crossfit.com/foundation/saved-by-the-barbell.

The work of the CrossFit Foundation is the work of the CrossFit community. Efforts like Saved by the Barbell and the work it supports are made possible by individual generosity in service of a universal mission: to share the benefits of our community with as many children as possible by empowering the affiliates, schools, teachers, and parents who are willing to open the door. We hope you will join us on Aug. 31, 2019, and in the years to come.

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