Non-Profit Utah Gym is Saving Lives Across the World
In 2015, CrossFit O.U.R. opened, not only to share the sport of fitness with the community of Draper, Utah, but in conjunction with its partner, non-profit organization Our Underground Railroad.
The purpose of the gym was to earn money for O.U.R., to build a community that could help spread its message, and be a home base for meetings and logistical planning.
Eight years later, CrossFit O.U.R. is thriving, with a growing community, hosting major events every year and raising awareness of child abuse and trafficking.
Some background: O.U.R. founder Tim Ballard spent over a decade as a former Homeland Security special operative, assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, where he was deployed as an undercover operative for the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team.
During his tenure with the U.S. government, he witnessed first-hand the horrors of sex trafficking, child slavery, and child exploitation. He also gained a full understanding of the challenges and roadblocks that government entities face when trying to rescue victims, investigate cases, and prosecute offenders.
In 2013, Ballard left the security of his government position, to begin a non-profit organization, Our Underground Railroad, which would allow him to continue his life’s work of rescuing children, albeit in a different capacity.
With O.U.R., Ballard was no longer bound by jurisdictional restraints, and was able to build relationships with law enforcement agencies in 48 states and many countries throughout the world. He was able to set up “after-care” support: helping children reunite with families, find alternative housing, and support in their communities. He also developed sensitivity training, helping agencies to find better ways to communicate and work with victims of abuse.
By 2015, Ballard had been dabbling in CrossFit and realized that it was not only an ideal way to stay fit, but also a great way to organize a community and earn funds. He needed space for meetings and running the day-to-day operations of O.U.R., so he began the CrossFit gym to serve these needs and as a way to earn profits for the organization.
CrossFit O.U.R. today: Currently, the gym is run by Joshua Carson and Kaleb Young. When asked what it means to them to be a part of this gym and everything it represents, Carson shared the following sentiment:
- “I’ve worked everywhere.. Doing so many things… to work in the fitness space, doing what I love to do but I also, but this allows me to give back to a bigger cause, and do more than I ever could by myself.”
And in regard to the members, they have a deep admiration and sense of pride for the gym’s mission.
- “Everything is donated… besides keeping the lights on and paying the coaches… (they’re) still getting a workout in but also doing something bigger besides that at the end of the day,” said Carson.
- “When we have pride in our gyms, and what our gym stands for, and what it’s doing for people, it’s what it’s all about. It makes us care about being here and being a part of this community so much more,” said Young.
But at times, it can all feel very heavy. While fitness is fun, the mission of the gym and what it’s trying to accomplish, is not necessarily. Young and Carson find themselves seeking a balance between the lightness of the gym, its community and competitions, and the weight of O.U.R. and the victims that it is helping.
- Young: “The weight can be easy not to feel… Hosting these workouts, having fun with people day to day… being on the fitness end of things, you can kind of close it off. But then you watch the documentaries, and sit in on the meetings – it’s easy to feel the pressure. So it’s a very fine line you have to walk.”
- Carson: “It is heavy, but we get to bring the brighter side of this all to people.”
Besides donating all profits to O.U.R., CrossFit O.U.R. hosts three main fundraisers each year.
“Get Fit, Save Kids” is their upcoming event, and is unique in that everyone, from any gym, anywhere in the world can participate. The format is similar to the Open: there will be a programmed workout that everyone will complete on the same day, in their own location. The event cost is $15 and will be held on July 29th through August 4th. Anyone interested can register online through Competition Corner.
Throughout the years, not only has CrossFit O.U.R. grown substantially, but O.U.R has been able to save thousands of lives and impact countless victims and families. Their plight continues as they carry on, rescuing and aiding victims throughout the world.
Ourrescue.org: “When we committed to this fight in 2013, we never imagined the amount of support we would receive from those determined to make a difference alongside us – shining their own light on the issue of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. For that, we will never give up fighting and will continue to go to the darkest places until this crime no longer exists. Thank you for continuing to be the light that we take into the darkness.”