SOUTHWICK – Crossfit TLA owners Leighton and Richelle King and their gym members are helping struggling veterans and raising awareness of veteran suicide.
Crossfit TLA hosted a fundraiser Monday through official22wod.com to benefit Operation Ward 57’s Service Dog Assistance Program and Honor & Courage Program. According to numerous veteran organizations, every 22 minutes a veteran takes his or her own life.
According to its website, one of the main goals of Operation Ward 57 has been to provide continued support to veterans recovering in the hospital as well as continue that support once they leave and go home for as long as they and their families are in need. “We also want to continue to give our heroes a ‘sense of purpose’ and ‘we still need you’ mentality. Our role has been to provide additional support through advocacy, education and promotion of their circumstances,” sates the site.
King said the cause hits home.
“The reason we decided this was something we wanted to support was because of my own personal relationship with this issue,” he said. “I am a Marine veteran of the Iraq war. I have battled my own personal demons as many of us do. And if there is anything I can do to help vets in need I’m going to do what I can.”
King said he was able to find ways to cope with his post-military struggles.
“I found some outlets for my own issues. The most helpful has been fitness and spreading the knowledge and passion for fitness to the world around me,” said King. “All veterans are my brothers and sisters, so we are just trying to help our family.”
One of those family members is state Sen. John C. Velis, a U.S. Army Reserve major and veteran. Velis participated in the event Monday to honor his brothers and sisters.
“Every single day we hear of more veterans who have tragically taken their own lives because they were unable to get the help they need,” said Velis. “We must do more to help those who are struggling before they get to that point and I will be advocating strongly on this issue as the new Committee Chair for Veteran Affairs.”
Velis said Monday’s event was important for all veterans and was a good workout.
“I was proud to participate alongside so many others to help raise awareness and funds for this critical cause,” he said. “A huge thank you to Leighton and the whole Crossfit TLA team for organizing, even if the workout has left me sore ever since,” Velis said.
The fundraiser includes a workout that consists of 22 exercises with each one being 22 repetitions. At minute 22 into the workout, everyone stops and take a moment of silence for those who have died in the battle of veteran suicide.
The Kings took over ownership of CrossFit TLA last March, right before the COVID shutdown. They were scared but have continued to create opportunities for those who want to get and stay fit as well as helping their community through events such as Monday’s fundraiser.
“It was terrifying because we thought that was certain doom for our community. We lost a good amount of members,” King said. “But we also gained a bunch as well. We figured how to pivot in the market to stay relevant and help fill some gaps. We are now doing much better even with all of the COVID protocols and cleaning procedures. We have an amazing coaching staff full of knowledge and passion.”
If anyone has questions or would like to set up a free info session with King, visit www.tribelifeathletics.com or find them on Facebook or Instagram.