Pete Downing, a Citrix Principal Product Manager based in Bedford, has been hooked on CrossFit for several years. He works out side by side with Boston firefighters and when two of them died in service, Pete accepted the challenge – with very short notice – to put together a fundraiser to support the firemen’s families. The local news even covered the amazing initiative – Watch the video coverage! We talked to Pete about his efforts.

How long have you been a member of this gym?
I have been a member of CrossFit Florian since January 2012 and been hooked on CrossFit since! CrossFit is about community as well as fitness and that is what makes it unique.

What inspired you to take the lead on this project/fundraiser?
I run a similar fundraiser for another event we do in the summer and the owners of the gym like the success we had, so they asked me to run this fundraising effort. I was only given four days to do it! The real reason I did it, Firefighter Mike Kennedy was a member of our gym and a bulk of the member are firemen from Boston. I did it for them because they lost a brother and I respect what they do. The owners of the gym are Boston firefighters as well. I knew I could do it and make a big impact!

How has wellness/fitness made an impact on you?
CrossFit is different all the time and the community around it is the core reason why I have stuck with it for as long as I have. I have personally lost over 50 pounds and I am the fittest I have ever been!

Can you tell us a little about the organization you chose to help?
CrossFit Florian was focused on making money for the “Lieutenant Walsh – Firefighter Kennedy Memorial Fund.” This fund was setup by the Boston Firefighters Credit Union to support the families of LT Ed Walsh and FF Michael Kennedy who tragically died fighting a fire in Boston on April 3, 2014. The money raised will assist the victims’ families. LT Walsh left behind three children under the age of 10 years old and FF Kennedy’s family has publicly asked that all funds to the Walsh family.

How did you find out about this organization and volunteer opportunity?
The CrossFit community has a lot of first responders so I was made aware of the organization through my gym, but the media played a big part as well. From there, since FF Mike Kennedy was a member, the owners of my gym wanted to pay tribute. I was pulled in to get involved and we had a great event!

Can you tell us more about what you did to help them?
I received a call on the evening of Monday, April 29, 2014 and one of the owners asked if I could help and I said yes. I turned to social media and contacts to pull together donation items for a silent auction and raffle items. That honestly was the easy part! We had approximately 75 donated items ranging from gift cards to local restaurants to prize packs from the various CrossFit apparel companies to sports tickets and we even had a local business donate a grill! After pulling and organizing the donated items, I spend a bulk of my Friday night and Saturday making description signs for each of the items. Another member thankfully called me and assisted me with some of the load and helped me get signs printed. I helped setup on Saturday. We had the event on Sunday (April 6, 2014) and I arrived at 6:30 am and left right before 8:00 pm. I also set up the ‘workout of the day’(a staple of the CrossFit system) to pay tribute and then spent the day selling raffle tickets and answering questions about the items. At 6:00 pm, we closed the auction and raffle to begin giving out the prizes to the winners. The gym raised approximately $26,000 (the money is still coming in!) and my efforts personally contributed $14,350.

What does volunteering mean to you?
Volunteering to me is giving back. Whether it is to people in need, for a cause or to help something or someone, we should always give back.

Why is it important for Citrix to allow employees to volunteer?
Volunteering give an employee a chance to make an impact doing something they believe in or apply a skill they have and help someone or something. The product of that is a great image for the company.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Everything in CrossFit has meaning (most of the time). We did what is called a ‘workout of the day’ to pay tribute to the fallen firemen. The name of the workout was ‘Dork’ which was FF Mike Kennedy’s nickname. The work out consisted of:

AMRAP-20.14 (As Many Rep as Possible in 20 minutes and 14 seconds)

  • 33 Calorie Row on an erg
  • 15 Deadlifts 225/155
  • 4 Rope Climbs (yes, like in gym class back in the day)

The meaning…

  • 20.14 is for the year 2014
  • 33 is for Engine 33
  • 15 is for Ladder 15
  • 4 is for district 4

The ‘movements’ or exercises were all FF Kennedy’s favorites.