Diablo CrossFit Community Raises $22,000 to Pay COVID Fines, Owner Pays it Forward
Three weeks ago, gym owners in Contra Costa County, CA were told they had to return to operating strictly outdoors in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Knowing his safety standards were sound, Craig Howard, the owner of Diablo CrossFit in Pleasant Hill, CA, who has served as one of CrossFit LLC’s affiliate representatives for the state and a spokesperson for the Community Gyms Coalition, took a stand and has continued operating indoors, which he has been safely doing since September 15.
- The decision has cost him $1,750 in fines so far.
The details: Diablo CrossFit has received one fine per week for the last three weeks: The first for $250, the second for $500, and the most recent for the maximum amount of $1,000. These fines are likely to continue and could increase, Howard explained, as the county is meeting this week to vote on increasing this fine to somewhere between $10,000 to $20,000.
The latest: In an effort to help Diablo CrossFit pay their fines and stay open, Omar Gabr, a member of the gym and a dentist, started a GoFundMe campaign. Within just three days, the fundraiser hit $20,000. Shortly after, when it hit $22,350, Howard shut it down and decided to pay it forward to other struggling affiliates.
- Howard donated $10,000 of the money raised for Diablo CrossFit to launch a second GoFundMe fundraiser, which at the time of publishing, had raised $19,545 in the last nine days. The money will be distributed to affiliates in need, namely to anyone hit with fines and fees related to COVID regulations.
- “It was such a shot in the arm for us when our community raised money for us. It told me, ‘Craig, stay in the fight.’ And I want other affiliates to experience that. I want them to know that we want them to survive. We need them to survive,” said Howard, who’s own gym has lost 30 percent of its members, as well as revenue from specialty programs he’s no longer running, since the start of the pandemic.
One big thing: Since September 15, Diablo CrossFit has had 11,000 unique member visits with zero reported cases of COVID-19, according to Howard.
- Diablo CrossFit is housed in a spacious 12,000 square foot facility, offers significant air flow and even a negative air pressure ventilation system designed to suck out contaminated air.
- “We’re safe. We’re not the source of spreading. It’s tragic what’s happening. We have become a target and we’re not the source,” Howard said.
- On top of this, California is on a color-tiered system, and although the state has labeled Pleasant Hill as a red zone — meaning gyms would be allowed to operate indoors — the county “went above the state’s head,” Howard said, and put Contra Costa county in the more severe purple tier.
The bottom line: Between the Greg Glassman scandal and the worldwide pandemic, 2020 has been a devastating year for affiliate owners. Howard is hoping to ease the burden, even if just a little bit, through generous donations that continue to trickle in.
- Howard’s next plan is to put up an application where owners can apply, “but sometimes people can be too humble to apply,” he said. So he will also rely on his network of gym owner friends to steer him in the direction of anyone in need.
- “I’m still not quite sure the logistics of it all. But here’s what I know: Affiliates are hurting. They’re hurting and I wanted to take action right away to get cash in the hands of affiliates now so they can continue to be in the community through 2021,” he said. v