CrossFit, costumes and canines come together

By Akanksha Kar and Andrea Keckley

In a crowded gym filled with the sounds of cheering people, barking dogs and blaring music, a man in eccentric, Halloween-themed face paint lifted a dumbell above his head.

Festive decor, furry friends and hardcore fitness may seem like an odd combination. But they went great together Saturday at the Crossfit South Shore L.I. gym in Bohemia for the Second Annual Howl-O-Ween Throwdown.

The 58 teams of two who put their CrossFit skills to the test during saturday’s competition didn’t only come for the workout. Proceeds from this event go towards Last Chance Animal Rescue (LCAR), a nonprofit organization that saves the lives of animals by moving them from kill shelters to no-kill shelters, shouldering the costs that come with doing so.

The event ultimately raised over $12,500 for the cause.

“I have always been an animal lover,” Stephen Boyle, one of the competitors, said. “This is a great cause, and the owners of the gym are huge supporters of it. And we came to this for the dogs, and the gym and the whole community.”

The competition had four divisions. Each team of two paid $70 per ticket, with 100 percent of the proceeds going towards the dog their division was sponsoring. Raffle tickets for baskets were also sold, with 100 percent of those proceeds going towards LCAR.

Last year, Crossfit South Shore L.I. hosted the event as an in-house throwdown. But this year, they decided to expand.

“We were so successful last year, that we decided to now open up to all the CrossFits on Long Island and incorporate a Halloween component also.” Tara Krieger, who co-owns Crossfit South Shore L.I. with her boyfriend, Doug Acker, said.

Krieger has been volunteering at LCAR for four years.

“I came out to support the event,” Tricia O’brien, one of the competitors, said. “It’s for a good cause, I love CrossFit, [we’re] surrounded by good people.”

LCAR was founded by Whitney Knowlson in 2008. Their Our Adoption Program has found homes for over 10,000 cats and dogs since December of 2008, and their Middle Mutts Program has saved over 15,000 cats and dogs since March of 2011, according to their website.

The Howl-O-Ween Throwdown is reflective of a larger tendency to use CrossFit for public-spirited purposes. The CrossFit Foundation was created to use education, research, philanthropy, and advocacy as means of improving health and fitness, according to their website. The foundation works with their affiliates and the CrossFit community. They have two programs: the CrossFit Community Health Fund and the CrossFit Research and Policy Fund.

“Anytime we can get athletes to compete for a good cause, especially for the dogs, we’re ready to come out,” Ryan Peterson, a coach at CrossFit Jetty in Oceanside who had four athletes from his gym competing in the event, said.

The high intensity fitness regimen known as CrossFit has gained popularity over the last few years, with 13,000 affiliates across the world, according to their website. The workout typically combines reflects exercises such as weightlifting, gymnastics and running, also according to the website.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Boyle said. “We just come and have a good time. It’s always a challenge. You always push yourself more to do better every time”