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“More Than a Workout”: The Underground PDX Helping Hundreds of Youth At-Risk in Oregon

January 21, 2024 by
Credit: The Underground PDX
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Scott Bradley recognized how challenging life was for many children and teens in Rockwood, OR, a diverse neighborhood in the Portland area known for its high rate of crime and violence, or as Bradley calls it “the most diverse and dangerous community in the state of Oregon.”

So in 2015, the pastor and CrossFit L-2 coach at 3-46 GRIT CrossFit in Gresham, OR, decided to start offering free CrossFit classes to youth, most of whom came from “rough backgrounds” with families who could never afford $200 a month for a membership.

But when COVID-19 hit, “everything stopped,” including Bradley’s youth program.

When the world reopened, Bradley decided to not only re-launch his program but to create a new gym devoted entirely to at-risk youth. 

And so The Underground PDX, a nonprofit CrossFit affiliate Bradley founded in Rockwood, was born in 2022. 

The Underground PDX started small, in a 1,000-square-foot barn, but then Bradley began lobbying politicians and applying for funding and grants to build his program. To his surprise, there was a ton of public funding available for youth violence prevention endeavors, and he soon secured two loans from the City of Gresham, one for $104,000 and one for $150,000.

He was off to the races.

The Underground PDX Today

The funding Bradley has received in the last two years, including those first two grants from the City of Gresham, has allowed him to offer his free program to more and more youth and move from the barn into a 10,000-square-foot facility. 

Further, he has been able to hire coaches, buy equipment, add a mentorship and tutoring component to the program, and ultimately expand it to a place where he’s able to make a difference in the lives of youth who really need CrossFit. 

Finally, the Underground PDX has even been able to pay for some youth in the program to take their CrossFit L-1 and become intern coaches.

Today, there are 150 kids and young adults between the ages of 12 and 24 in The Underground PDX database, and generally, 20 to 30 of them show up to the classes that are offered five days a week.

Twice a week, Bradley also opens the gym to parents and other family members, which he said has “been one of the most amazing things that is happening.”

  • “These are kids coming from pretty rough situations…so it’s awesome to see these moms, and sometimes fathers, coming in to workout with their kids,” he said.

One of the reasons Bradley said he has been able to build the program as quickly as he has in the last two years is because of the partnerships he has made with other local organizations, such as the Latino Network, the Pacific Islanders and The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO).

  • “We partner with (other organizations) so we can stay in our lane and everyone works together to work with these kids. It has been pretty amazing to see,” he said.

The Big Picture

CrossFit is, and will always be at the heart of the program, but for Bradley, the Underground PDX is about so much more than that.

  • “CrossFit is the entry point to where we build relationships and then provide support for the families…But it’s more than a workout. We’re trying to change lives,” Bradley said. 
  • “The bigger picture is to reduce violence and save lives,” he added.

It’s working, he insists, as according to Bradley, there have been zero youth deaths due to gun violence in the last year, and although he doesn’t take credit for that, he knows his gym is “part of the solution” in a community he deeply cares about. 

“That makes me really proud,” he said.

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