When my husband TJ and I became CrossFit affiliate owners in 2008, we were immediately struck by the culture of philanthropy that permeated the CrossFit community.
Of all of the cool TV shows we had in the ’70s, one of my most vivid childhood memories was the commercial for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
. I was always riveted by the stories of children just like me who were in a fight for their lives, being cared for by what seemed like angels. The children’s heads were bald and their voices soft, but their message came through to me loud and clear: they needed my help. Tears in my eyes, I would call out to my parents and plead with them to donate to St. Jude, so we could help those kids get better. Every year, my parents would include St. Jude in their charitable giving, and somehow knowing this made me feel better. Still, I wanted to do more.
The practice of giving to charity or donating money in support of inspiring places like St. Jude is one that can be passed down in families; children pick up from parents the importance of giving and specific ways of doing so. In some families, hands-on community service is a priority, while in other families, writing checks to support causes is the way to go. I was fortunate to have grown up in a family that prioritized charitable giving. I had parents whose hard work allowed them to donate regularly and generously. It was not necessarily about the amount but rather the ethics and value of giving.
CrossFit’s Culture of Philanthropy
When my husband TJ and I became CrossFit affiliate owners in 2008, we were immediately struck by the culture of philanthropy that permeated the CrossFit community. We embraced this aspect of community and have tried over the years to do our part in providing opportunities for our members to come together in support of a good cause. From the Disposable Heroes Project helping wounded veterans, to a local boy fighting cancer, to an organization helping children with autism, to a breast cancer treatment center, the generous and committed people in the TJ’s Gym community have raised thousands of dollars over the years — nearing $80,000 at last count. TJ’s Gym is not alone. CrossFit gyms around the world endeavor to raise funds for meaningful causes; it’s part of the culture that trickles down from those at the helm of the CrossFit organization.
Through such programs as workouts to raise money for those in need, CrossFit gyms have capitalized on a number of psychological phenomena that tend to increase charitable giving. Donating activates the pleasure centers in our brains and makes us feel good.[i]
More importantly, studies have shown that when people interact and form social connections while donating for a cause, they are more motivated than if they had done so alone.[ii]
This is why movements like the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training
have been so profoundly effective. When facing personal physical challenges in helping others, we are often inspired by thoughts of those in need. Hobbling through the final miles of a marathon, for example, pales in comparison to the daily struggles of a wounded warrior.
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