They’re using CrossFit to go cross-country.
Jordan Suarez and his friend Aidan Malinowski, both SUNY Cortland students who are avid CrossFit participants, are planning to visit a gym in each state starting May 17.
The reasoning isn’t a vacation by any means — they’re hosting a fundraiser that will help raise money to go towards the Wounded Warrior Project.
“We both have veterans in our family,” Malinowski said. “And we both are into CrossFit — it’s been a huge part of our lives, especially this past year with the pandemic and quarantine.”
The plan is starting this week, the duo will be going to one CrossFit affiliate gym in every state in the U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). By doing workouts at each place, they will ask fellow CrossFit members for donations and plan on spreading awareness about the nonprofit that has helped saved thousands of lives.
In just two months leading up to their travels, they have already raised almost $6,000.
“We really just want to spread the awareness,” Malinowski said. “One big thing that stood out to me is that a $20 donation to Wounded Warriors gets them a one-hour session of PTSD treatment, which I think is amazing.”
Suarez said they will kick off their trip at the Port Jefferson Station location and then take the ferry up to Connecticut. The goal is to be back home by June 14.
“Wounded Warriors helps out any veterans that have been hurt, whether it’s physically or mentally during their time in the military,” he said. “It’s just a great organization that gets them the necessary resources to help them recover.”
The two Port Jefferson locals teamed up with the foundation about three months ago. That’s when they were introduced to Jeremiah Pauley, currently in California, who is a spokesperson for WWP.
Pauley deployed to Iraq in 2006 as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. Four months into the deployment, his team had cleared a house in the city of Tal Afar, and just as they left the house to go back outside enemy forces detonated an improvised explosive device. Shrapnel shredded through Pauley’s right arm, and if it weren’t for the immediate treatment he received from his team’s medic, he may not have survived.
Later on, he found out that one of his soldiers died in the attack. Pauley was overcome with survivors’ guilt and PTSD.
For years, he struggled with depression and he almost took his own life as a result. He received a call from WWP who invited him to a multi-day cycling event, Soldier Ride.
Utilizing the services from WWP, his recovery progressed, and he eventually took a job working with the nonprofit.
Pauley said he, too, is an avid CrossFit enthusiast, so when he got a call from two young men on the East coast looking to fundraise using the gyms, he was completely on board.
“They submitted a request to do a fundraiser with the organization so that the money can be tracked,” he said. “And they had this crazy idea that they wanted to go to all the 48 lower states and visit a CrossFit box in each state.”
Pauley said he thought it was the “perfect trifecta of ideas” combining working out, friends and family and a good cause.
The money that Suarez and Malinowski will raise will help go to services to help veterans like Pauley.
“All of our programs and services that we offer to warriors and their family members are absolutely free,” he said. “We never ask a warrior for a penny — ever — and we have a variety of programs and services that we offer.”
Pauley said he is excited to meet the guys from Port Jefferson when they hit the gym by him in a few weeks.
“It’s going to be a great event,” he said.