Vermont Gym Affiliates with The Phoenix, Connects with Neighboring Addiction Recovery Center

April 14, 2021 by
Credit: Courtesy of Lupi LaRoe
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On May 1, CrossFit RisingStar in Rutland, VT, will hold their first sober fitness class as an affiliate of The Phoenix, a non-profit that provides fitness opportunities to those in recovery from substance use disorder. 

The big picture: CrossFit RisingStar shares an alleyway with West Ridge Center, an addiction recovery clinic. This, as does its location in Vermont, known as the “Heroin Capital of America,” makes the affiliate an ideal location to become a Phoenix partner. 

  • CrossFit RisingStar is the third Phoenix-affiliated gym in Vermont. 

The gym’s partnership with The Phoenix follows on the heels of a fundraiser started by owner Rob DiTursi in December to raise money in support of the sober fitness program and to fund a mural painted in the alleyway shared by CrossFit RisingStar and West Ridge Center. 

  • To date, the campaign has raised just over $11,000. DiTurisi plans to use these funds as a cushion, so the gym is “not starved for cash when the momentum happens.”
  • “Am I going to suddenly need a bunch of eight-pound medicine balls? I might. Am I going to need, you know, different, smaller kettlebells? Different bigger kettlebells? I want to be able to have that [money] there, have that on the ready,” he explains. 
  • Rutland Regional Medical Center, owner of West Ridge Center, was the fundraiser’s first donor. DiTursi, who has already started creating a relationship with his neighbor, believes that a positive relationship between the two is “vital for success of the program.”

Behind the program: Becoming a part of an organization like The Phoenix has always been something that DiTursi wanted to do, especially after he opened a gym next to a recovery clinic. 

  • “CrossFit saved my life. Not from addiction or anything like that, but just dug me out of a hole in my life,” DiTursi says. “I knew once I started doing what I wanted to do, which was to open a gym, I wanted to help people like it helped me, and the best piece of real estate happened to be right next to a methadone clinic.”
  • Before signing the lease for his affiliate, DiTursi says he checked out the clinic, sitting in the parking lot and watching hundreds of people walk through its doors. “I might as well have been in a regular supermarket parking lot,” he says. “They were everybody, from every walk of life.”

Fast forward a few months, and DiTursi connected with LaRoe, a local muralist. 

  • “I’m outside my alleyway, rowing or something like that, I’m looking at this white wall, seeing people come out of the clinic, just turning and going,” DiTursi says. “I was like, ‘This is where it starts.’”

The mural: DiTursi gave LaRoe a simple prompt: “inspire people.” 

  • LaRoe translated DiTursi’s words into a portrait of a street-tough kid with an “androgynous and resilient countenance,” designed to evoke different responses from different people. 
  • “For me, she resonates as a young version of myself; a somewhat troubled kid. But to someone else, she could represent any number of things, hopefully, a story that fits their life and helps to inspire them to find the pathway out of addiction,” LaRoe explains.
  • “It was so interesting to see,” DiTursi says, touching on the mural process. “As people were coming out [of the recovery clinic] they were stopping and saying ‘Wow, we love what you’re doing, and thank you.’

The details: DiTursi plans to lead the first few Saturday sober fitness classes, with help from a member that eventually, he hopes to hand the program off to. This member, who will earn his L1 in mid-April, came to CrossFit RisingStar fresh out of recovery. 

  • The classes will be CrossFit-focused and open to all levels. 
  • “For that reason,” DiTursi says, “The class structure is a little different. The classes are about an hour-and-a-half long, and… basically, the beginning, say 20 minutes of that class will be going over the basics – very much in detail – of whatever it is that we’re working on.”
  • The cost for the class, like all programs run through The Phoenix, is 48 hours of sobriety. 
  • To become a part of The Phoenix, DiTursi went through an online training with the organization. As soon as CrossFit RisingStar has its first class, all of their sober fitness courses can be found (and registered for) online on The Phoenix website

DiTursi says that he’s already had plenty of interest from folks in other areas – yoga and visual arts, to name a few – to get involved with his program in the future. But for now, he’s focused on CrossFit, hoping to build up a core group of attendees. 

Moving forward: DiTursi says his main problem right now is trying to control the momentum. “You know,” he says, “People want to start [the program] now.” 

  • As he waits for May 1 to roll around, DiTursi plans to keep fundraising

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