HAMMOND, La. (WAFB) - “The environment we’re living in today is toxic,” Brad McKee lamented from the corner of his gym.
In a world of protests and riots, it’s understandable if business owners are a little wary. McKee likes to think his CrossFit Hammond is a place where members can come to sweat off the day’s troubles and burn off the toxicity.
Three weeks ago, when he found two kids lurking around his parking lot, McKee decided to be the antidote.
“You could tell they were totally intrigued by what was going on in here,” he said.
So instead of shooing them away, McKee made a deal with them.
“I told them, ‘Hey look, if you come back tomorrow at 3:50 and you’re on time, and not late, I’ll let you work out, but you can’t be late,‘” he said.
The next day, 11-year-old Steve Brumfield and his friend, Chase Harrison, showed up at 2 p.m.
They were eager to get started. They did not realize how tough a CrossFit workout can be though.
“It was hard,” Brumfield said. “The next night, you were sore. It was fun though.”
The duo has been a part of the 4 p.m. class ever since. They’ve only missed one class because it was raining and they had no ride to the gym. Most days, Brumfield walks. Harrison rides his bike.
The boys do the same workout alongside the regular members. McKee is never far away to coach them or shout words of encouragement.
“If you dig a little deeper into these kids’ life,” McKee said, “and their background, and their home situation, you might find out what they really need. That’s where you become effective.”
McKee’s lessons have become about more than just exercise.
“Let me take some of this time the kids come here to teach them life lessons,” he said. “Don’t use excuses. Be on time.”
Brumfield and Harrison are already catching on.
“I learned I can accomplish more than I thought,” said Harrison.
McKee does it all for free, and his members have chipped in to get the kids the gear they need to work out.
“I can’t tell you the amount of private messages I’ve gotten saying, ‘Whatever those kids need, let me know,‘” said McKee.
So today’s lesson was about the community that has taken them in and gratitude. After today’s workout, McKee handed Brumfield and Harrison each four sweat towels, an anonymous gifts from someone in the class. He made sure the boys knew it’s the community that’s supporting them.
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” he told them. “They care about you, and they want you to succeed.”
McKee even invites the boys to swim in his family pool behind the gym.
“Man, I love having these guys here,” he said. “As long as Steve and Chase keep showing up, they’re different men a year from now. I just know the support is going to continue to come.”
McKee and his members are finding a cure for today’s toxic environment two kids at a time.
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