The fourth annual Steve’s Club Summer Leadership Camp was held July 31 - August 5 at Fort Indiantown Gap, a National Guard training base, in Pennsylvania.
Leadership Camp is Steve’s Club National Program’s (SCNP) largest initiative of the year, and brings together teens from our Steve’s Club chapters nation-wide and amazing guest coaches from the CrossFit community.
The week-long sleep away Camp is an opportunity for Steve’s Club athletes to learn about leadership, teamwork, mental toughness, grit, perseverance, self-talk, etc. Campers are challenged physically and mentally throughout the week - they are required to step out of their comfort zone and into leadership roles. Through workouts, workshops, journaling, and group discussions, they're given the chance to reflect on and absorb these experiences on many levels.
Campers are chosen based on an application process that includes a coach recommendation and short answer questions about leadership. This year, 22 Steve’s Club athletes from across the country were selected to attend.
“We received applications from more of our Local Steve’s Clubs this year than ever before,” said Leora Hafri, Program Director of SCNP. “We had athletes from six states including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, and 10 different Steve’s Club chapters were represented. About 40% of the Campers this year were female which is almost double the percentage from last year’s Camp!”
SCNP was honored to be joined by an amazing group of 20 coaches and volunteers. “Camp wouldn’t be possible without the help of guest coaches,” said Lee Knight, Executive Director of SCNP. “They bring a variety of different skill sets and knowledge to the workshops and workouts they lead, and truly make Camp what it is.”
Our Camp guest coach and volunteer roster included:
• Christy Adkins, 7-time CrossFit Games individual athlete, led a workshop about mobility and self-Care, and a WOD + lesson about mental toughness and perseverance.
• Chad Vaughn, 2-time Olympian and national record holder in Olympic Weightlifting, led a weightlifting workshop and discussions about overcoming obstacles.
• Cherie Chan, CrossFit HQ and Seminar staff member and past CrossFit Games athlete, led a hike + WOD and lesson on leadership.
• Representatives from the Travis Manion Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering veterans and the families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations, ran the Obstacle Course and Leadership Reaction Course.
• Representatives from Snap Kitchen, a national healthy meal shop, led a workshop about nutrition.
• Chef Elise from Fueled by Elise, a meal prep and catering company, led a hands-on cooking demonstration.
• SCNP Board Members/Officers led a few workshops: Duncan led sessions about self-talk and gratitude, Roger led a session about finding comfort in discomfort, and Steve led a workshop about public speaking and a WOD + lesson on positive community.
• Other workshops and workouts by volunteers and Local Club leaders: gymnastics led by Coach Stephanie, first-aid led by Coach Sarah, yoga and goal setting led by Coach Carla, a group workout led Coaches Roger, Matt & Dom, and a team WOD created by the leaders from Denver, Team Fearless (in TX), Nashville, and Camden.
“There’s a very full schedule of activities planned for the kids at Camp,” said Steve Liberati, co-founder of SCNP. “This year’s Camp was the best we’ve had yet, which is due in large part to our dedicated staff and coaches, and the support we received from our generous sponsors.”
As a Varsity athlete at Steve's Club Camden, 21-year-old Ray has been training for the Open - and life- since he walked into Steve's Club in 2013.
Growing up on the harsh streets of Camden, NJ, Ray remembers being young and not being about to go outside of the house he shared with his parents and siblings. Ray is the youngest of 5.
“My oldest brother got caught up on the streets, hooked on drugs and was constantly in and out of jail,” said Ray. “We couldn’t play outside, there were drug dealers on every street, prostitutes everywhere. It was scary to open the front door.”
Ray found Steve's Club Camden three years ago just as he was beginning to follow in his brother's footsteps. "I was hanging around the wrong people, drinking, going to parties. Then my friend told me about Steve's Club."
The Club became his safe haven. He had always had a passion for sports, and that helped fuel his passion for fitness.
“I enjoyed my first day,” said Ray. “We did sit ups, dumbbell thrusters and box jumps. The next day I was so sore I couldn’t move, and I contemplated not coming back. But I didn’t have a good enough reason not to go, so I went. I’ve never regretted that decision.”
Steve's Club and CrossFit have helped Ray realize his potential and given him new possibilities for the future. He recently earned his Associates in Exercise Science from Camden County College and plans to continue on to Rowan University to finish his four-year degree. In addition to juggling school, Ray works part-time in the Steve's PaleoGoods warehouse.
His aspirations include coaching high school track and owning his own gym. Ray earned Level 1 CrossFit certification last year and is an intern at CrossFit 1Force. A proven leader at Steve’s Club Camden, Ray regularly helps Steve coach class and is a junior counselor at SCNP's Summer Leadership Camp.
“My favorite part of Steve’s Club is the people,” said Ray. “I enjoy lifting weights and getting stronger, but it’s more about the community. These people are my family. I can talk to them. They are always there for me. It’s really comforting to be around them everyday and it makes me feel at home.”
Ray is a role model for the other Camden athletes and truly exemplifies the 9 Steve's Club Values (integrity, respect, improvement, teamwork, positivity, support, discipline, character & community).
He shows up every day and puts in the work - and it shows. He can clean & jerk 255 lbs., back squat 335 lbs. and deadlift 450 lbs. He does 'Fran' in 2:42, 'Grace' in 2:40 and the 'Filthy Fifty' in 18:50.
The CrossFit Open challenges everyone that takes it on. It makes you stronger; physically and mentally because it's hard and takes you out of your comfort zone. But hard is something Ray is used to, and he's ready!
Follow us on social media during the Open for weekly interviews with Ray. Watch him do the WODs and help us cheer him on!
At Steve’s Club National Program, miracles happen every day all around the country. Each and every Local Club is working towards changing lives through fitness, nutrition, and mentorship in the CrossFit classes they offer for free to at-risk youth in their communities.
Just this year, Lisa Agnew, a member of CrossFit King of Prussia, home to Steve’s Club KOP, in Bridgeport, PA (just 20 miles from Steve’s Club HQ), along with her husband Chris, officially became “mom” and “dad” to three young children who faced seemingly insurmountable odds and a long future in the foster system.
Steve’s Club KOP, founded in 2011, was the third local club added to our national program that now consists of 30 clubs across the country. Every year KOP gives scholarships to several at-risk kids to attend their CrossFit Kids and Teens classes.
In April of 2013, two twin boys, Jayden and Davin, were left alone in their mother’s apartment when it caught fire. According to the firefighters on the scene, had they arrived just ten minutes later, the boys would not have made it out alive. Both suffered from severe smoke inhalation and were hospitalized.
At the time, the Agnews were still in the process of getting their foster parenting license when they heard the story on the news.
“I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if we could foster them. It happened right around the corner from our house. Fast forward three months later and we get a call asking if we could take two boys and they were the very same ones from the fire,” said Agnew. “I don’t want to call it divine intervention, but it was meant to be.”
Just two and a half years old at the time, Jayden and Davin fit in to their home from the start. Lisa, an active member of CrossFit King of Prussia since 2009, began taking the boys to CrossFit Kids and Steve’s Club classes as a way to get them to interact with children their own age, burn off energy, and give them focus.
“The support from Aimee [Lyons], the head coach and owner of CrossFit KOP, and the rest of the community has been overwhelming. They’re going to grow up in that place and have an entire gym full of mentors to look up to and learn from,” she said.
In fact, if it weren’t for Aimee and the other CrossFit Kids moms, Lisa and Chris would have been utterly overwhelmed when four months after they took in Jayden and Davin, they found out that the boys’ mother was pregnant with a baby girl. Once again, they received a call from Child’s Protective Services who were asking if they would consider fostering a third child.
“We couldn’t not take her. But her arrival was in two weeks and we barely had anything set up. Then the moms showed up with car loads full of baby items and suddenly, we were all set and ready to bring a newborn into our lives again,” said Agnew.
With two kids of their own already in high school, Chris and Lisa never thought they would be raising young children again. But as of July 7th, 2015, they are officially the adoptive parents of Jayden, Davin, and baby Naomi. It has been a long three years for their family - full of court dates and stressful supervised parental visits – but they are now the parents of three children with a new lease on life and a huge extended CrossFit family who loves them.
“The judge said she had never seen so many people show up for an adoption. We must have had 60 people in the courthouse that day excited to celebrate with us,” Agnew said.
Now, with the boy’s soccer season wrapping up, they are excited to get back to CrossFit. Jayden loves box jumps, and is quick and agile. Davin, the bigger of the twins, is the powerhouse and Lisa is excited to see him grow into a strong young man. Over the past two years at CrossFit King of Prussia, the boys have gone from shy, reserved members of the group to active, enthusiastic participants thanks to the Steve’s Club Coaches at KOP. They even show kids at their school how to do burpees and air squats.
Right now, Naomi just loves watching her brothers play and workout during the Kids classes but her mom looks forward to her participating in the future.
“She’s going to be an athlete. She loves to run, jump, and is already fast. I can’t wait to see where she and her brothers are going to be several years from now. All three have a shine to them – they’re going to do something with their lives and they are going to excel no matter what,” said Agnew.
It’s a fitting name for an inspirational girl. “Genesis” means a new beginning, and that’s exactly what she received when she walked into Steve’s Club 4 years ago.
“I used to be a hard core anorexic,” said Genesis. “Steve’s Club helped me see I was better than that. CrossFit became my escape and gave me an amazing view of my future. I refuse to be a statistic.”
Every day after school, about 40 young athletes from the hard streets of Camden City, NJ pour into Steve’s Club Camden. They lift weights, jump on boxes, climb ropes and do pull ups–as a way to pull out of the perils of street life. Some of the older teens even work next door in the warehouse where Steve’s PaleoGoods are made, packed and shipped.
A positive force within the group, Genesis is an excellent role model for the female athletes. Always the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, Genesis loves warming up the group, helping new kids acclimate to the program and putting in extra work on her Oly lifts and higher-skill gymnastic movements. She is 19 years old.
“I’ve come so far, and I am responsible for my own success,” said Genesis, who studies Physical and Health Science at Camden County College. “It’s my goal to get my Masters in Physical Therapy and get certified to coach CrossFit.”
Genesis was born and raised in Camden, often touted as one of the most dangerous cities in the country. The harsh reality of her everyday life is something most only see on television. But thanks to the strength she gave herself within the walls of Steve’s Club, she wants to help others find a better way.
“I want to give back to my city,” said Genesis. “I’ve always loved Camden. Even though I’ve grown up seeing things I shouldn’t have seen so young. After seeing everything good and bad, it’s molded me into the person I am today.”
Although Steve’s PaleoGoods has grown, one thing will never change. Helping at-risk youth like Genesis realize their potential through fitness, nutrition and leadership skills is the driving force.
“People think Camden is so bad, yet there’s still people like Steve who see the good in us,” said Genesis. “I wanna let more people see the good and see there’s more to Camden then just drugs and violence. We are so much more.”
*Learn more about how Steve's Club has helped Genesis become a better person in this video:
Steve's Club is dedicated to strengthening a nation, one kid at a time. To learn more about how you can help, click here.
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Did you know that the profits from PaleoKits and PaleoKrunch go to support the Steve's Club National Program? The first PaleoKit was made to help the young boys and girls of Steve's Club in Camden, NJ, eat better during the school day...(read more).