CrossFit event raises funds to fight addiction

About 50 athletes competed on teams of two to raise awareness surrounding drug and alcohol addiction

By Lea Skene
Reading Eagle

BOYERTOWN, Pa. — Healthy addiction was on display Saturday morning at CrossFit Fidelity in Boyertown.

About 50 athletes competed on teams of two - sweat dripping, muscles straining and high-fives all around - to raise awareness surrounding drug and alcohol addiction.

They performed a variety of exercises, from weights to pullups to cardio, all mainstays of the strength and conditioning program whose popularity has ballooned over the past decade.

For the second year in a row, CrossFit Fidelity, 400 E. Second St., hosted a competition raising money for Brendan's Band, an organization based in Boyertown that helps people experiencing addiction find the resources to start recovery. The Wellness Council of Boyertown co-sponsored the event with CrossFit.

Jill Vincent, executive director of the council, said stigmas associated with addiction sometimes prevent people from seeking help, particularly in smaller communities where resources seem less readily available.

In addition to rehabilitation programs and other counseling services, Vincent said connecting people to healthier lifestyle choices often means the difference between relapse and recovery. Crossfit is a perfect example, she said.

Brittany Yilmaz, who owns CrossFit Fidelity along with her husband, Matt Chambers, said she often meets people recovering from substance abuse problems who gravitate toward the intense physical workout and supportive community environment that Crossfit provides. Several participants in the competition Saturday said the classes are way more intense than your average trip to the gym.

"One reason so many people use it to get away from drugs and alcohol is because it's community-based and also a really intense workout, which produces similar reactions in your brain (as drugs) and helps people build self-esteem," Yilmaz said. "You basically get that same high without those negative consequences, which makes it so much more powerful than an addiction."

Pat Erb founded Brendan's Band after her grandson, Brendan Traylor, died of a drug overdose three years ago at age 18. He had started using heroin only months earlier and returned from rehab just two weeks before his death.

Erb said she and her family were shocked to discover the extent of the heroin epidemic within their community.

"We were blindsided by the fact that this was on every corner," she said. "I think where we went wrong is we educated the children (about the dangers of drug use) but we didn't educate ourselves."

Simple actions such as disposing of unused prescription drugs and recognizing early signs of addiction could help save lives, she said.

Erb has submitted paperwork for nonprofit status.

She eventually plans to help cover costs for organized activities - gym memberships and other healthy outlets - in addition to rehab programs, which could help steer people away from the path her grandson took.

Copyright 2017 Reading Eagle

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