For so many of us, when we think about CrossFit, we think about community.
Because if it’s one thing I’ve taken away from my time in CrossFit gyms, it’s that it is more than a workout or being the best you that you can be. It is even more than getting results.
What makes the CrossFit community unique are the bonds and relationships that the members create.
It’s that quiet newbie who is unsure when they step into your box for the first time, intimidated by the clank of the barbells and bumper plates. You smile at them and pass a PVC pipe their way. It’s the member who doesn’t think they belong because they don’t quite look the part, and then they discover that results don’t always match the shell on the outside. It’s that athlete during the Open who is struggling to finish and the entire gym rallies around to cheer them on with all their hearts.
That’s what was special about Custom Made CrossFit of Paradise, CA. Of the original 100 members who joined when they first opened three and a half years ago, almost all are still actively engaged - despite CMC’s business model of not requiring a commitment over 30 days. Custom Made CrossFit was doing something right and if you’ve seen any of their member posts or videos before the tragic Camp Fire that destroyed their entire community - you can see why.
The Camp Fire
On November 8, 2018 everything changed. Out of the 150 active members of Custom Made CrossFit, only three didn’t lose everything in the most deadly and destructive fire in California history to date. Here's what the aftermath looks like:
The CrossFit Community responded. Immediate relief came in the form of personal donations such as supplies, shoes, clothing and various workout gear.
CrossFit San Benito, Oakland CrossFit, Yuba City CrossFit and Roseville CrossFit all responded with gear, equipment and trailers full of goodies, including storage bins and refurbished laptops. Several others have reached out and held fundraisers, including CrossFit and CrossFit Upper Park, just last weekend.
Not to mention Jo Golden, who did 313 burpees and raised $500. And yes, you read that right. Three hundred and thirty dirty, dirty burpees for charity. Hats off.
So why are we sharing this? Everything seems to be falling into place, right? Custom Made CrossFit and their members will get back on their feet again soon. Afterall, that’s what insurance is for and surely they had insurance… right?
The Second Setback
Another thing that sets CrossFit apart is the sense of accountability. Different from going to a yoga class or at a Globo gym, is the unwritten set of standards that I feel obligated to uphold when in the presence of my fellow box members. I don’t know how to explain it other than when I’m with them, I feel accountable. It’s why I don’t count my bro-reps and I try not to whine or make excuses that anyone else can hear. And if I make a mistake I own it.
So back to the insurance: there’s a lot to be said for actually reading the fine print. If you’re an affiliate owner, consider reading what you signed and know your policy. What you sign when you first start may not be the coverage you have now. I say that because it’s important and even though you might never need to file a claim (I mean what are the chances that your gym might burn to the ground) you should probably check to see what would happen if it did. Or if you were flooded. Or a tornado.
Obviously, Custom Made CrossFit had to have had insurance, and they did. When Mishawn and Brandon Delgado sold their home to use the equity to start up their box in 2015, they did it by the book. They purchased 150K in brand new quality equipment from Rogue via an equipment loan, which they paid off this last year. They bought a fancy shmancy 8K vacuum to make sure their mats were as sanitary as they come. They did everything online through an insurance company that’s widely recommended and used by other affiliates. They had a $2 million dollar policy. Pretty solid stuff.
So when the fire destroyed everything, Mishawn reached out to her insurance company. It was taking a little longer than she’d hoped and what she was finding online when she looked up her account didn’t look good. That $2 million dollar coverage? It had dropped to 20K in personal property coverage once they’d paid off the equipment loan.
Despite the jagged edges on that little pill, Mishawn and Brandon have swallowed this news with full accountability. CrossFit HQ has reached out and even posted their GoFundMe page over and over and as of today, the owners of Custom Made CrossFit have continued to stress that they are fully accountable. It was their responsibility to know what insurance coverage they did or did not have. This story is NOT about blame.
The CrossFit Community
Brandon and Mishawn are deeply connected to their community. Not just CrossFit, but Paradise in general. They were both born and raised there. They put their heart and soul into creating something special with Custom Made CrossFit. Their members are family to them and those members are hurting right now.
The one thing they have in common is that they plan to return to Paradise and they all want to work out together again.
During a member meeting held November 17, 2018 at Basis Health and Performance in Chico, a show of hands quickly revealed that nearly every member wanted to remain. I was there. It was pretty awesome and the room erupted into applause when it happened. So what does rebuilding look like, realistically?
According to Mishawn Delgado, getting an actual place to set up in Chico is the easy part. In all likelihood they would set up for two or three years while people rebuilt in Paradise, then set up again in town. They need about $50k for equipment. The Go Fund Me page has generated about $12,300 and they’ve received a few thousand here and there from the fundraisers/WODs mentioned earlier
The 20K from insurance paid off the brand new vacuum and some of the equipment. They’re basically facing starting all over again, minus the equity in their home.
But why does Custom Made CrossFit need to rebuild, you might ask? Can’t they just join another box? There are several already in Chico...
Ask yourself this: how would you feel if you and your closest friends had all lost everything material (some of them lost family and pets) all at the same time? Think about the connections you’ve made from your CrossFit family and imagine yourself in their (borrowed) shoes. Sure, they’re trying to pick up where they’ve left off. They’re checking out other places and trying to make it work.
These are resilient, tough people. They’re survivors.
But it doesn’t feel the same to them. Many are a little depressed, quite frankly.
Mishawn and Brandon could walk away from this part of their lives. They don’t HAVE to start up again. This could be just another closed chapter that people will eventually forget. Paradise will come back in 5-10 years and these photos will be viewed every once in a while as evidence of one of the worst natural disasters in California history.
The thing is, the Delgados want to do this. Not for them, but for their members and for their community. They belong to Paradise. You can hear it in their voices and you can see it on their faces.
It’s real. It will choke you up if you see it for yourself. It’s tragic and beautiful all at the same time.
On December 23, 2018, we gathered what members were left in the area to celebrate and say goodbye to what once was a second home to many in our community. Together we stand strong thru the pain and sadness. Together we will rebuild our town. We will rise from the ashes. We are CMC STRONG.
That is the true strength of CrossFit: Community and accountability.
Custom Made CrossFit is both. I’d love to think that there are others out there who agree and that as a larger community, we can help this box get back to something beautiful again. Let’s help them get connected and back above parallel.
Every rep counts, after all.
So if you haven’t already, consider donating. Any amount will help. Because we all know that it’s not just about rebuilding a box. This is about helping the families of Custom Made CrossFit.
For the complete story and member bios, click here: Community: The True Strength of CrossFit