Preacher Joe Klassen Pays it Forward, Provides Workout and Resources for Kids
When Joe Klassen entered CrossFit Unconquered for the first time, he couldn’t walk across the gym without a break. As a preacher, he felt that he wasn’t walking the walk, and knew he needed a change in his life. Since then, he’s lost over 130 pounds and has found an entirely new lifestyle within the CrossFit community.
In March, Klassen decided to pay this change forward.
Every Sunday evening, he and other volunteers from the gym travel to a local Section 8 housing sector–government-funded housing for low-income families–to pick up kids. They take the participants to the gym and put them through a quick workout, a sermon, small group discussions, and a meal.
Klassen says the CrossFit portion of the evening is just the “appetizer.” The real focus of every meeting is the religious discussions.
- “I laughingly tell people oftentimes that I make people do burpees until they have to sit and listen to me talk about Jesus,” Klassen said.
This program, which they call Faith Unconquered, started when a friend and colleague of Klassen’s approached him. She is an In-School Suspension (ISS) teacher and saw a problem in her school that needed intervention outside of school hours.
She knew Klassen would jump at the opportunity to give back, and the pair haven’t looked back. Plus, they’re not doing it alone–volunteers that help out every Sunday include CrossFit Unconquered coach Brian Clasing, firefighters, military members, EMTs, and teachers.
- “Truthfully, it has been a humongous deal, and it hasn’t stopped just within our gym,” Klassen said.
One success story that’s stuck out to Klassen since the program began is that of Cerinity, an eighth grader who, much like Klassen, couldn’t walk across the gym when she first started. She’s completely embraced the challenges and experiences offered in the gym and Klassen says that the impact has gone far beyond the box.
- “There’s a different level of confidence in her world now that she didn’t have when she first showed up,” Klassen said. “She’s consistently been an inspiration to those of us that come.”
Clasing remembers a specific bit of praise from a participant specifically. Having grown up in a similar situation, he’s especially connected to the program and feels the impact strongly. Since starting with the program, one participant, a 13-year-old boy, has been routinely provided for by a family in the gym. They’ve gifted him shoes, among other things, and have legitimately changed his outlook on life. Clasing says that the participant said, “I didn’t know people were nice.”
This kind of impact is exactly why Klassen started the program. Between the resources – like shoes, clothes, and meals – they’ve been able to provide for the kids, plus changes in behavior, confidence, and outlook on life, he knows the program is on the right track.
Klassen: “We care about these kids. We want them to know that God loves them beyond anything that we ever could, but also that they have great value, and taking care of their bodies shows that they believe they have great value.”