It's hard enough to convince most people to walk at a fast pace, let alone run a race. So what made Philadelphia resident and coach at Fearless Athletics, Dominick Bulone, decide to not just run the Broad Street Run, but to do it with a 20 pound weight vest on?
The kids of Steve's Club.
In 2010, while struggling to really find a rhythm working out, Bulone, was introduced to CrossFit by a friend and decided to partake in the 6-day On-Ramp program. At that time, he had little idea what CrossFit was aside from a couple of YouTube videos but was extremely sure he wouldn't be able to do many of the movements he was seeing in the videos.
Six years later, Bulone is a coach at Fearless Athletics in Philadelphia and doing things he never thought possible for himself, physically, mentally, and emotionally. "It's amazing how I never get tired of it. It continues to amaze me how much I can always push myself. CrossFit teaches you a lot about being disciplined, focused, and goal-oriented, and I think this is something that has helped me in all facets of my life," shared Bulone.
A pharmacist and self-proclaimed foodie, he credits CrossFit with changing his life entirely, from the way he eats and takes care of his body, to the way he approaches problems away from CrossFit. "A great example is doing a strict muscle up. At first, I couldn't do one. So that became the goal. I worked and worked until I could do one. Ok great, now two becomes the goal, and so on. And that is similar to life. You have to work hard to get the work done, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is success on the other side."
But to get to what everyone has been wondering about, why run a 10 mile race in a 20 pound weight vest when running is hard enough?
Dominick knew that he needed a little extra motivation to make sure that he gave the Broad Street Run his all. In his search for the right cause to raise money for, he struck up a conversation at his CrossFit gym with fellow member, and Steve Club's Program Director, Leora Hafri, who told him what Steve's Club was all about.
After getting caught up to speed, Dominick was excited. He believed in what Steve's Club was doing, how they were doing it, and the change CrossFit could have in one's life. After finding out that it cost about $500 to send one kid to the organization’s life-changing Summer Leadership Camp, Bulone decided that he wanted to try and send two kids to camp by raising $1,000. He raised $1,600, enough for three kids to attend.
Before the actual run, Bulone visited Steve's Club HQ for a day to workout with the kids of Steve’s Club Camden, and he was hooked. "Those kids are so awesome, so impressive. So is the crew that helps them all out. Steve, Lee, and Leora do an incredible job, as do the rest of the Steve's Club leaders across the country. When I visited HQ for a day to work out, I saw a kid standing by himself. He very clearly didn't feel that he fit in with everyone else. Steve went out of his way to patiently work with that kid all class, after class, and so on to the point that there could be no doubt in the kid's mind that this is where he belonged, a feeling he probably had never felt before."
Bulone created such strong ties with the Steve's Club athletes that he was asked to come out to Leadership Camp this past summer to coach a class. He of course said yes instantly. "Hearing some of those stories from the kids at Camp was tough. Some of them were dealt really, really terrible hands. It was just such a wonderful experience for me to be able to do whatever I could to make sure that they had a fantastic experience," Bulone said. "Next year I'm hoping to stay the whole week."
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Many kids involved with Steve’s Clubs across the nation are not always sure where their next meal is coming from.
Some of them are not expecting to get three meals a day.
The last thing on their mind is what’s a fruit, what’s a vegetable, what’s protein, what’s fat.
They care about eating.
How Does One Eat Healthy If They Have No Idea What ‘Eating Healthy’ Means?
Due to this, many at-risk youth do not have the slightest idea how to eat healthy. They really don’t even know what that would look like.
Unfortunately, this can have a compounding effect leading to worse health, lower self-esteem, and less chance of success.
At Steve’s Club Leadership Camp, these teens learn not just the leadership, teamwork, and communication skills to be successful, but the healthy eating habits that amplify all of their hard work in the gym.
Knowledge Is The First Step On The Road To A Healthy Diet
Along with donating meals for camp, the generous team from Snap Kitchen hosted a nutrition workshop for the teens.
Snap Kitchen, the healthy meal shop whose headquarters is in Austin, TX, places an emphasis on chef-made, nutrient-dense meals, and snacks as close to real food as possible.
During the workshop, Beth and Lana (representatives from Snap Kitchen) highlighted all types of information to increase the teens’ chances of success through healthy eating habits.
• The importance of food as fuel for performance in our daily lives
• The composition of a ‘healthy’ plate and what that looks like for each meal of the day
• “Survival options” if you have to get food on the go (like grabbing hard-boiled eggs over chips at the convenience store)
“It’s important to eat healthy as well as exercise. We want the campers to realize that they can achieve anything, and a healthy diet will only increase those chances,” said Beth.
In addition to their interactive workshop, Snap Kitchen provided 50 prepared meals for the campers, staff, and volunteers to eat on the first evening of Camp, as well as giveaway bags.
It is donations like these that help Leadership Camp succeed, but also have the enormous impact on the kids that it does.
When describing the food at Camp, one of the campers mentioned that he had gained ten pounds in the first few days because he was eating three healthy and balanced meals a day. He enjoyed the food so much that he always went back for second helpings. The food fueled him for every workout during Camp, and he slept incredibly well because he had a full stomach and wasn’t hungry.
Investing In These Kids Is An Investment In The Future Success Of Our Communities
Sponsors like Snap Kitchen realize that by helping to change the habits of these kids early in their lives, they can play a part in serving underserved communities.
These kids are the future of their communities.
And by placing them in the best position to succeed, everyone can come out ahead.
“It was incredible to be a part of the Leadership Camp. You could tell the kids took it seriously and really look to the coaches and fellow attendees for guidance both at Camp and also in their everyday lives while at their respective Local Clubs.”
“We are just hoping to add to their toolkit by providing them with an education of what healthy eating looks and feels like so that they can apply it to their lives at home, and in the future,” Lana added.
Rewards Come From Unexpected Places In Unexpected Ways
“I felt so energized being around the kids. Watching how they were so locked into everything they were learning, and the immense growth they experienced as people over the course of Camp. It was such an unexpected reward.” - Beth
You never know what you may get out of giving back.
And you, too, can get involved.
Donations and sponsorships do not always come in the form of money.
If you don’t have money, you could donate time.
If you don’t have time, you could donate food.
Whatever it is, every little bit helps.
Every little bit adds up to a major difference in the lives of these at-risk teens who have the ability to turn around and take their leadership skills back into their communities to make a huge difference.
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.”
Steve’s Club athletes from across the country recently gathered at a National Guard training base in Fort Indiantown, PA, for the third annual Summer Leadership Camp. The week-long event challenged 25 young men and women with exercises in team building, leadership and personal development.
Organized by Steve’s Club National Program, the camp gives the leaders of Local Clubs the opportunity to meet other athletes from the program. This year there were athletes from Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Guest coaches came to speak with the kids about a variety of topics including self acceptance, leadership, mental toughness, goal setting, team building, public speaking, injury prevention, nutrition and cooking basics.
A long-time supporter of Steve’s Club, Austin Malleolo attended camp for the third year with fellow CrossFit Games athletes Spencer Hendel and James Hobart.
Other CrossFit seminar staff members volunteered including Jennifer Hunter-Marshall and Aimee Lyons, who is also a leader of Steve’s Club King of Prussia.
Daily WODS, yoga, Olympic lifting, running and gymnastics clinics were included in the programming to challenge the athletes physically and test their mental fortitude.
The athletes completed a challenging group obstacle course while keeping a raw egg intact as they moved through the course in silence. Group members used non-verbal communication and teamwork to help each other complete the obstacles.
Also on the agenda was hiking with group sandbag carries. Many had never been hiking before.
Numerous attendees cited the Leadership Reaction Course as the highlight of their week. This unique course is designed to challenge each athlete while promoting teamwork and efficient problem solving. A leader of each group was selected at random for each task and given instructions, and he or she would lead the group through the challenge. The task pictured below was to get all team members and the box across to the other side using only the planks of wood and rope provided.
Throughout the week athletes and camp guests were asked to share a quote for our ‘Wall of Inspiration’.
From the Inspiration Wall:
“If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” – unknown
“Who are you not to be successful, your playing small serves no one!” - Nelson Mandela (chosen by Ray from Camden)
“Everything gets better in time…just be patient. I promise you that, because I went through it.” (chosen by Eddie from NYC)
“Today I am going to do what you won’t, so tomorrow I can do what you can’t.” (chosen by Coach Spencer Hendel)
“What the mind can conceive the body can achieve.” (chosen by Coach Aimee Lyons)
“Do or do not there is no try.” - Yoda (chosen by Coach Jennifer Hunter-Marshall)
“Dare to be great!” - Coach Steve Liberati
The evenings of camp gave kids and coaches an opportunity to share stories with the group, offering them an outlet to get to know each other on a personal level. They connected while empathizing over similar struggles. Through this vulnerability, inspiration blossomed.
“These kids are great examples of perseverance,” said Coach Kelly from Kelly’s Champions. “Listening to their testimonials has been inspiring, and makes me want to be a better Coach, mentor and father to my own children.”
“The kids grow and transform from the beginning of camp to the end,” said Coach LeAnn from Team Fearless. “They’ve completed obstacles, faced challenges and overcome them – together. The resilience and courage they’ve shown to face the physical and emotional challenges at camp has inspired me. The strength it took for them to open up and tell their stories is amazing and humbling.”
The last day and evening of camp was all about FUN. There was a picnic BBQ at Memorial Lake complete with volleyball, kayaking and games, as well as a campfire with s’mores.
Before the kids boarded the vans for home, one last inspirational quote was read.
“In the present day when cynicism and aloof detachment are considered the cool trend, this quote by Teddy Roosevelt reminds us that glory and honor come to those who spend themselves in a worthy and just cause,” said former camp coach Abe, in a message sent from overseas where he is serving as a Marine.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
- Theodore Roosevelt
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).