Fitness and philanthropy have gone hand-in-sweaty-hand since the first walkathon was held in 1968 by the American Freedom from Hunger Foundation. As the popularity of fitness fundraisers continue to soar, sociologists theorize that rather than simply writing a check, fitness philanthropists want to work hard and sweat for a worthy cause because it feels good. Studies recently published in The American Journal of Public Health show that not only does it feel good to help others, that warm fuzzy glow actually translates into stress reduction and a longer life expectancy.
If this is true, than Barry’s Bootcampers are among the healthiest people around thanks to a tradition of fitness philanthropy that goes back to the founding of Barry’s Bootcamp. Causes Barry and the team have supported include LAPride, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, even bootcampers’ personal struggles with adversity, among many others.
Last year, the slowness of traditional methods of delivering relief during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy prompted Joey Gonzalez, Barry’s Bootcamp’s COO, the New York Barry’s Bootcamp team, and New York-based Bootcampers to personally purchase and deliver desperately-needed supplies to victims displaced by the storm. (A video of the efforts is below). And this summer, Joey and company are sponsoring the annual School’s Out event at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in the Hamptons, which aims to create safe and supportive environments for LGBTQ youths to reach their full potential.
One Barry’s Bootcamp instructor in Los Angeles is taking his personal mission to the streets. Literally. How many times have you seen something in your community or neighborhood you wished you could change? Storm Newton, used to drive by an area that was strewn with litter, but he quickly got tired of looking at it. Instead of wishing and waiting for somebody to do something about it, he decided to be that somebody. So he pulled his car over and picked up all the trash at the side of the road, filling several large trash bags. He began doing other trash clean ups around the community whenever he saw them, but he quickly realized that some of the messes were too large to tackle on his own.
“I never wanted any notoriety, but I decided to enlist help through Facebook by posting some before and after pics of my cleanups. The responses and likes were overwhelming.” Many friends volunteered to join him in the next community cleanup and that’s when he realized, “Wow, this could really be something.” One of the captions on the photos he posted to Facebook was “Don’t complain, be the change,” and a movement was born when he realized he could apply his talents towards helping others.
“I’m in the fitness industry as a trainer. I’ll work people out and hope they pay it forward.”
He created a community page on Facebook called “Don’t Complain, Be The Change” with a simple goal: “To spread awareness on issues that profoundly impact our lives and to inspire people to make a difference in and around their community. We do this by helping a variety of non-profit organizations via volunteer events, fitness fundraisers and inspiration campaigns.”
This April, Don’t Complain Be the Change organized its very first fitness fundraiser at Lululemon in Studio City to benefit Safe Passage, an organization that provides extreme life makeovers for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. Aside from providing shelter, women are given the tools and support system to create a new life with dental and plastic surgery, counseling, and educational and career resources so they can live a new, independent life.
Raffle tickets were sold with the chance to win prizes such as $100 Lululemon gift certificate, a Barry’s Bootcamp gift basket and Starbucks gift basket. DJ Tendaji Lathan spun pulse-pounding music while Storm Newton led attendees through a grueling outdoor boot camp workout in the parking lot. Yoga instructor Matt Bedrosian, owner of Forward Fold yoga studio and Lululemon ambassador, led everyone through a meditative yoga class afterwards.
“It’s a cause I feel strongly about because of domestic abuse I’ve experienced within my own family.” Storm says frankly. “People think that just because I’m a good-looking, blue-eyed white boy that I haven’t hard times. But I’ve struggled too.”
His interest in philanthropy stemmed from a difficult childhood in Michigan with a father who was and still is addicted to drugs. His mother struggled to raise him and his two sisters on her own. “I had to take help care of my younger sisters throughout my childhood, so I guess it’s always been in my nature to help. I had no adult mentor. Nobody to connect to, relate to and open up to. So I struggled in school. I guess we all struggle at finding our own identity. We idolize people, whether it’s sports figures, actors or reality stars. We attempt to emulate them. But we have few actual individuals. I really wanted to grow up and be a teacher so I could be that grownup who could guide others in finding their own identity.”
But as fate would have it, Storm’s teen years modeling for Barbizon modeling company led him to move to NYC to further pursue his modeling career. “In the beginning, I knew absolutely nobody. I didn’t have a place to live, so I bummed around from couch to couch. I lived on floors. But it was an amazing time for self-discovery and I discovered I could sing.”
Pursuing his music career led him to L.A. and that same desire to bring people together and find some kind of commonality kept manifesting in the song lyrics he wrote. “After working 5 years in the music industry, I just walked away from it. I was stubborn because they wanted to turn me into a bubble gum artist.”
His childhood desire to become a teacher turned to reality when he became a fitness instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp in 2003. Witnessing and helping others become physically stronger led to unexpected spiritual and mental transformations. “As barriers break down, you gain a greater self-awareness of your abilities. People marvel, ‘Oh my gosh, I can do this. I can do more!’ “
Storm believes that this is the reason that fitness fundraisers are so popular. The fitness community is populated with people who have struggled with physical limitations, pushed past them and feel empowered. “The less limitations we have on ourselves, the more we can give to others.”
Storm and his supporters have high hopes that Don’t Complain Be The Change will grow into an official non-profit organization and make the leap from local to national. But in order for this to happen, he needs help from other like-minded individuals or businesses who want to make the change as well. His wish list includes finding a space for monthly fitness fundraisers and sponsors to help offset the costs. “Right now, public places like parks are a challenge due to permit issues and private spaces like gyms or studios are expensive and I am paying out of my own pocket for all this right now.” If you’d like to help or know somebody who can, please reach out to Don’t Complain Be the Change on Facebook and send him a message.
Currently, Storm is also trying to raise awareness about an arcane and obscure California law dating back to 1872 that states if an unmarried woman is raped by someone impersonating her boyfriend, then it isn’t really rape. As bizarre as this legal loophole sounds, a court recently overturned a rape conviction on this technicality. An amendment known as Bill AB 65 would close this legal loophole by expanding the definition of rape to include cases where a perpetrator impersonates a person’s boyfriend or girlfriend. If you are interested in helping to pass this important legislation, he is organizing a team of volunteers to petition the public at various sites throughout Los Angeles on Friday 04/19, Saturday 4/20 and/or Sunday 4/21. If you’d like to come out as a volunteer, please post on the wall at Don’t Complain Be the Change.
On June 15 from 8:45 to 10:25, Storm will be holding another fundraiser for Scott Rigsby Foundation’s Aid for Boston to support victims of the Boston Marathon who have lost a limb or mobility at Barry’s Bootcamp in Sherman Oaks. Celebrity Trainers Storm Newton and Martin George will hold an hour-long bootcamp class followed by one half hour of yoga with Stacy Martin. It will be $50 for the class and all proceeds will go to Scott Rigsby Foundation Aid for Boston. You don’t want to miss a great workout with amazing trainers and to support a great cause!
Follow Joey Gonzalez on Twitter.