CrossFit Gym Raises Money to Help Victims of Human TraffickingJun 09, 2016 08:44AM ● By Kelly Cannon
By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]
It’s CrossFit for a cause. CrossFit OUR, located just off Bangerter in Draper, is a CrossFit gym that raises money for Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), a nonprofit that rescues victims from human trafficking from all over the world. Gym manager Drew Rykert owns a CrossFit gym in Saratoga Springs where OUR founder Tim Ballard attended. Ballard approached Rykert, asking if he and his wife wanted to be a part of his newly founded nonprofit that rescued women and children from human traffickers.
“Three months later, we found ourselves in Colombia rescuing children,” Rykert said.
Rykert said Ballard and his team did the groundwork for the operation. It was Rykert and his wife’s job to pose as a host and hostess of a party in Colombia where three or four groups of girls and women were brought to the party to be prostituted. Rykert and his wife were in the back of the building with the girls while Ballard and his team were in the front of the building talking to the various pimps and “Johns,” or the men who wanted to purchase the women and girls.
“Once money was exchanged, Tim signaled the local police and they were all arrested,” Rykert said. “We saw the girls go from being captives to freedom. It was eye opening and life changing.”
While Rykert and his wife are part of the jump teams that only focus on the specific operations, OUR stays with the girls to help them recover, receive resources and help them break the cycle of abuse and exploitation. Since then, Rykert has gone on another operation to Colombia and his wife has gone on to five more in South America.
Rykert believes he was approached to help with operations because of his lifestyle and the CrossFit community, since CrossFit is about being in the best possible shape, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
“They’re taking healthy individuals who can handle themselves in uncomfortable situations and someone who is comfortable leaving the country,” Rykert said.
He also explained the individuals need to have a level head in these situations because their covers can’t be blown until it is certain there is enough evidence to arrest the pimps and Johns.
“You have to put yourself in a different frame of mind. You can’t have hot heads. You have to keep your wits about you,” Rykert said. “You also have to be optimistic about life, optimistic that these girls will accept the new life we can offer them.”
Six months after his first operation, Rykert was approached by Ballard about doing a fundraiser for OUR that centered on CrossFit. CrossFit OUR held a Slave Stealer Throwdown, a CrossFit competition where CrossFit champions from around the world, including the famous Rich Froning, would compete and raise money for OUR. All the proceeds from the competition went back to OUR.
“Once the momentum was built up, the idea was how can CrossFit continue to work to help this cause,” Rykert said.
CrossFit OUR is currently working toward a 100 percent model where the for-profit business would help cover the costs for the nonprofit. Any money donated to the OUR side does not go toward the businesses side; rather, the money used from membership fees at the gym go toward helping OUR.
The gym is also used as a place where the operation members or “jump team” can work out and train. All the equipment in the gym was anonymously donated by an individual who wanted to see the 100 percent model come to fruition.
CrossFit OUR continues to do quarterly events to raise money for OUR. These include 5Ks, local CrossFit competitions, bike rides and triathlons.
The team also has a movie called “The Abolitionist,” which was screened in theaters across the country in May and showed what OUR is all about.
Rykert believes having the OUR side of the business has really drawn people to his CrossFit gym.
“It’s more than just getting a workout,” he said. “It’s a community united by a cause.”
CrossFit OUR is located at 13648 South 200 West Draper. For more information about the gym and OUR, visit http://crossfitour.com. λ