What if I told you that the average homeless person in the U.S. is not a middle-aged adult, but a 9-year-old child? If I said that you could help that child by doing what you do best- working out- would you do it? That’s what kettlebells4kids is hoping.
The organization, which is supported by Reebok and other fitness related brands, was started by Amie Turrill Owens in 2014. Owens, then Head of Brand Strategy at Reebok, noticed the growing problem of homelessness among children in the U.S. and knew the CrossFit community, which is already known for it’s focus on charity work, would want to get behind such an important cause.
In 2010, 1.6 million children were without homes. Just six years later, that number is a staggering 2.5 million which means that 1 in every 30 children in America is homeless.
In response, Owens established kettlebells4kids (K4K) which is a nationwide, non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness as well as funds to support in-shelter active play and fitness opportunities for homeless children. The organization relies upon fundraising teams from CrossFit gyms and other fitness facilities around the country to raise money through both donations and by hosting the annual k4k fundraising event.
One of the top fundraising teams is Team Dream Big which was formed this year and is comprised of 14 kids from across the country. Shiloh Ellis, the team leader and a 10-year-old CrossFitter and Olympic lifter discovered the organization while watching The CrossFit East Regionals last year. Appalled by the thought of so many of his peers living without homes, Shiloh formed Team Dream Big and invited other youth from across the country to join him in raising the awareness and money needed to effect change.
One of the members of Team Dream Big is 8-year-old Avery Marklin. HIs mother, Angela, explains that one of her favorite things about the organization is that, “Wherever you live, the money you raise helps homeless kids in your state. Working with Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, kettlebells4kids allocates funds to support active play and fitness into homeless shelters.” K4K believes that fitness has a lot to do with helping kids be successful in life.
Each member of Team Dream Big is hosting WODs in their home gyms to help raise money and awareness for K4K. The WOD uses the number 9 to inform and remind athletes that most homeless people in our country are children. It was co-created with Ben Bergeron, owner of CrossFit New England, and is a 9-minute AMRAP that consists of 9 kettlebell swings, 9 burpees, 9 more kettlebell swings, and 9 box jumps.
When Avery’s gym, CrossFit Iron Mary, hosted the K4K WOD, they were able to get thousands of dollars worth of prizes donated by local businesses in order to encourage more CrossFitters to register for the WOD. At that fundraiser alone, they raised almost four thousand dollars for the cause. And like Angela explained, all of the money went to helping homeless kids in South Carolina where the WOD was held.
In order to encourage other CrossFitters to create fundraising teams, kettlebells4kids worked with national sponsors to create amazing prize packages for the team that raises the most. A team consists of at least 8 members and the top prize is valued at $3,000. It includes two tickets to “Ben Bergeron’s Business of Excellence,” a $1,000 Reebok gift card, 25% off Paleo Naturals for 6 months, a case of FitVine Wine, 1 Panther kettlebell by Zoobells, 12 rolls of Goat Tape, 16 Training ropes by JumpRope, 5 kettlebells4kids Blender Bottles, and 1 pair of kettlebells4kids The Hook Grip. The top fundraising individual will also receive some incredible prizes, one of which includes a 1-hour workout and dinner with Katrin Davidsdottir.
kettlebells4kids is asking CrossFit boxes to hold the fundraising WOD between September 9th and September 19th. The organization is a 501(c)(3) so all donations are tax deductible. Donations can also be made directly via the website.
But prizes and tax deductions aside, the greatest takeaway is knowing your workout has enabled you to become a part of something bigger than yourself. According to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, “Three of the most rigorous long-term studies found a range of returns between $4 and $9 for every dollar invested into early learning programs for low-income children…. The public saw returns in the form of reduced special education, welfare and crime costs and increased tax revenues from program participants later in life.”
Founder Amie Owens explains, “As a CrossFitter, I believe the power of fitness can positively impact your life, every day. Support, motivation and encouragement – those are the things athletes share in their local CrossFit box. The thing is, homeless children and their families need the same things that we as CrossFitters know to be so powerful- someone who says ‘I believe in you. I know you can do this!”
That’s exactly why kettlebells4kids strives to support homeless children in America, as they “believe building strong children today will create successful communities tomorrow.”
To learn more about K4K, visit kettlebells4kids.org.