Heading into their annual “WODs for Wishes” charity competition on June 13 — an event that raises money for children with life-threatening illnesses — organizer Craig Latendresse wasn’t sure what to expect.
His gym in Hamilton, Ontario is still closed due to COVID-19, and Latendresse and his partner Leanne Owen were concerned that turning it into an online Zoom competition would deter folks.
- “With the gym being closed this year due to COVID-19, we didn’t know if we’d be able to get as many participants and donations as previous years,” said Owen, who has participated in the event the last six years.
Zoom leads to a record-breaking year: To their pleasant surprise, this year’s event raised more money than any other year so far.
The event attracted more than 100 participants and raised $22,285 CAD for the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, a charitable organization that provides wishes to children facing life-threatening illnesses.
- “It turned out to be the most successful charity event to date,” Owen said.
The day kicked off with a partner competition via Zoom, which involved three workouts. After that, Latendresse completed another 21 workouts in just 12 hours. Members joined in on workouts throughout the day to provide support. The third component of the day involved a Burpee Drive-By, where people went to the gym and picked up a card, which told them how many burpees they needed to do, as well as how much money they needed to donate.
Fundraiser background: Latendresse has been hosting the fundraiser since 2013 to honor his brother Jenner, who died of liver cancer one day before his 12th birthday. Prior to his death, Jenner received a wish from the Children’s Wish Foundation — a laptop and Toronto Maple Leafs memorabilia. This gesture always stuck with Latendresse and his family, he explained.
- “Through the rest of my childhood, this was a manageable time of year, but the older I became, the harder I found it to deal with. I have had (and) continue to have many mixed emotions about celebrating my life when thinking about the life he never had and I often choose to avoid my birthday and keep things as low key as possible to focus on feeling connected to my brother,” Latendresse said.
The emotions he felt each June led Latendresse to start what has now become the WODs For Wishes fundraiser, as “a way I could do something to both honor his memory while allowing for me to feel happy during this time,” he said.
Former wish kid joins in: Members of Alchemy CrossFit were joined on June 13 by a former wish recipient — a girl named Larissa.
- “With it being an online competition…, Larissa actually got to do the competition workouts with us,” Owen said.
Larissa, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 11, had her leg amputated and now has a prosthetic leg. For her wish, she took her mother on a Mediterranean cruise. She has now been cancer-free for nine years, Owen explained.
Eclipsing their goal: The fundraising goal was $10,000, which equates to one wish for a child, Owen explained. So raising $22,285 means Alchemy CrossFit was able to raise enough for a wish for two children. Since 2013, they have raised more than $50,000.
While the money helps, generosity means more to Latendresse than anything else.
- “The more this event has grown, the more I feel connected to my immediate family, and all the families who have suffered through a situation like ours,” he said.
- He added: “It is a way to give back to an organization that made such a big difference in my brother’s comfort near the end of his life. This event allows for a much healthier expression of emotion, understanding and management of my continued grief.”
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