The Weekly Fight: Turning Post Traumatic Stress into Post Traumatic Growth
In December of 2015, former Marine Marty Kenny received a call from his Commanding Officer, asking him to reach out to a Marine, once under his command, who had been missing for a few days. “Needless to say, he never picked up when I called him,” Kenny said. “They found his body on December 26.”
- “It’s not the first time I have lost Marines to suicide, but for some reason, this one really hit home,” Kenny continued. “He had three wonderful kids, he was married, and we never expected this. I was done. I knew I needed to do something, and I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that picking up a kettlebell and beating my body up helped me through a lot of my stuff.”
With that in mind, Kenny started The Weekly Fight, a nonprofit founded on the principle “shared struggle brings people together.” They work to reduce veteran suicide and support healthy lifestyles through weekly workouts, turning “Post Traumatic Stress into Post Traumatic Growth.”
How it works: CrossFit gyms affiliated with The Weekly Fight hold weekly free workouts, open to anyone. (Community members are welcome, Kenny says, but they ask for a small donation if the person is not a veteran, family member, or first responder.)
- Pre-COVID, there were 11 Weekly Fight gyms across three different states. Currently, there are six locations across two states.
The workouts are partner or team-based to build “that sense of camaraderie. In the past, workouts have been dedicated to veterans that lost their battles with PTSD, but now, the nonprofit dedicates WODS to veterans and first responders that are doing positive things in their community.
- On 9/11, they dedicated the workout to HEART 9/11, an organization that takes first responders who “bonded in the aftermath” and has them rebuild and recover areas that have been affected by natural disasters.
The organization: The Weekly Fight is built on three pillars: a crisis management fund, a scholarship fund, and education.
The funds: Pulling money from direct donations and competition fundraisers, The Weekly Fight supports veterans and surviving children of PTSD.
- “If there’s somebody in need, we hand out money,” Kenny says.
The Crisis Management fund is there for whatever a first responder or veteran may need, like paying electric bills or funeral expenses.
- Since its inception in 2016, The Weekly Fight has given away almost $100,000 via the Crisis fund.
The Scholarship fund benefits children who have been around any PTSD in their home. These funds go towards higher education; Kenny hopes to give away at least $20,000 this year.
Education: This pillar centers around sharing experiences and discussing trauma.
- “When you start to see that you’re not the only person, there’s not something wrong with you… you start to be able to open up more,” Kenny said.
- “I can be at The Weekly Fight, and my wife will know something’s wrong. She’ll see [a friend] and say, you need to go talk to Mark. I can go up to Mark and say, ‘I’m having a tough day,’ and he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I get it,'” Kenny continued.
- “It’s just the point of being able to be next to someone that gets it. I think, for me, the big thing that happens with Veteran and First Responder suicide is that we think there’s something wrong with us, and we start to withdrawal because we don’t want to disturb everyone else’s life with what we’re dealing with,” he added.
HaLeigh Abbott, one of the nonprofit board members, says one of their affiliates in Pottstown, PA, also runs a sobriety group. The veterans and individuals in recovery can relate to each other, she says, because “trauma is trauma.”
- “My husband has reached out to someone in that group,” Abbott said, “And asked for support. That guy’s not a veteran, but he’s sober and my husband’s sober. That helps form a bond, too.”
- “It doesn’t even matter if you served or if you didn’t,” she said. “You have something that can help.”
The bottom line: The Weekly Fight gives veterans, first responders, and their family members a “place to go where you can find someone who is going through or has gone through the same thing you have.”
- Kenny explains: “It’s not about the workout, not about the dedication, it’s about having a location where people who don’t like to communicate a lot of times, know they can find some people that are like-minded.”